My Big Idea A website where you can check out any prospective solicitors before hiring
THE legal profession has long been accused of being anti-competitive but 45-year-old Clonakilty solicitor Dave Reilly says lawyers are jumping at the chance to provide competitive, transparent bids for legal services.
The father of one has just launched SolveMyLegal.com, where individuals and businesses can invite bids for legal assistance from solicitors.
"The idea came to me when I was bidding for a legal tender from a university. By the time I was finished, they knew everything about me in terms of my background and what I charge for all types of services.
"I realised that normal people and companies should have access to this kind of information about their prospective solicitor too.
"I specialise in technology law, so I deal with software developers every day. One of my previous clients, Murrion in Cork, actually developed the software for me.
"I went into business with two others and after a year and a half's work we are live with a solid software product.
"Using SolveMyLegal.com, people can post details about their problem and interested solicitors can bid for the business.
"Getting a low price isn't the only aim – you also get information on the solicitor's experience and background.
"Lawyers are already obliged to provide a quote or an hourly rate but it's difficult to get a picture of how competitive your lawyer is compared to the general market, because that means going from office to office, which takes days. This cuts all that out and opens up the market.
"It's all anonymous until you have selected your solicitor, at which point contact details are shared between the two.
"Given the sensitivity of legal issues, especially those relating to family law, ensuring anonymity was important.
"We make our profit from an annual subscription charged to the solicitors that use the site. We have expanded solely from self-funding and investment by friends, not through grants.
"We expect to be profitable quite soon after we launch, but every penny will be ploughed back into marketing, particularly Google's advertising service AdWords.
"There is lots of room for expansion. The current model is only open to the Republic of Ireland but it has been designed ready to work in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. We are also planning a similar service for accountants, called SolveMyAccounting.com. The names have been trademarked but patenting software is tricky and very expensive – but we are looking into it.
"Law is a conservative profession so I was surprised by how open and enthused solicitors have been about the idea.
"One told me that in the current climate, anything that can generate business is welcome.
"And given that the troika have been pushing the reform of Ireland's legal profession, a service that brings transparency to the sector can only be a good thing'.