State Bar of Arizona launches website that offers a new way to find a lawyer

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The State Bar of Arizona has set up a free eHarmony-like matching service to pair consumers with a lawyer who best suits their issue and price point.

CEO of State Bar of Arizona John Phelps explains that in the past they had an online directory of lawyers and before that it was a paper directory. He says it’s ironic that the one thing the public associates with his organization – bringing together consumers and lawyers – was the one thing they haven’t been doing well.

“[The online directory was] really a scavenger hunt for consumers,” Phelps says. “In today’s world where there’s so much coming to consumers online and a lot of confusion on what’s legitimate and what’s not, our goal was to provide a safe harbor and use mobile technology to really help consumers match up with lawyers here in Arizona.”

The Find-A-Lawyer platform is similar to that of an online dating service. The consumer is brought to an online menu where they can enter their legal problem in non-legalese. The issue will be sent to lawyers who specialize on that type of problem. The lawyer and consumer won’t see each other until a match is made. Consumers can view different lawyers’ profiles and see their photo, background, schooling and the like. The site was made to be as transparent as possible.

“It’s designed to increase the chances of getting a good match,” Phelps says. “This is a platform that’s very much like those online applications, and is something that consumers are already comfortable with.”

Lawyers can post their fee schedule and a breakdown on how they charge. Consumers can filter their matches by setting a limit on how much they are willing to pay.

“One of the things we have learned over the years is that it’s no surprise that many folks who are living at or below the poverty line have legal needs that go unmet,” Phelps says. “There’s an awful amount of people above that who also have trouble finding lawyers at the right price point and navigating the system.”

Once the consumer chooses a lawyer and the match is made, the Bar takes a backseat. From that point, they leave it up to the consumer and lawyer to negotiate the arrangement.

The service is free to all consumers, and lawyers have to pay an annual fee of $300 to use the site. One benefit, Phelps says, is that they aren’t limited to how many clients they can be matched with through the service. Lawyers won’t have to spend as much time trying to market themselves to the community, and they won’t have to compete as much with online national companies that offer legal services.

“We really can’t vouch for the lawyers who are on those [online national] systems,” Phelps says. “We can vouch for every attorney who is in our system. It’s a much better deal than other online services offered to out lawyers… This is going to be a great boon to their market.”

The Find-A Lawyer platform was launched on Tuesday and is ready to be of use to consumers and lawyers. It can be found at AZBar.org.

TED SIMONS: IT'S A WEBSITE THAT'S DESIGNED TO CONNECT CONSUMERS LOOKING FOR LEGAL COUNSEL WITH INTERESTED OPPORTUNITY AND MORE WITH THE CEO JOHN PHELPS GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN

JOHN PHELPS: GREAT TO BE HERE AGAIN TED.

TED SIMONS: FIND A LAWYER, IT IS ONLINE CORRECT?

JOHN PHELPS: IT WENT LIVE TODAY.

TED SIMONS: TALK TO US ABOUT IT.

JOHN PHELPS: YOU KNOW, IT IS A LITTLE IRONIC BUT THE ONE THING THAT MOST MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC HERE IN ARIZONA THINK THAT THE STATE BAR DOES IS THE ONE THING THAT WE HAVE NOT BEEN DOING FOR YEARS. THAT IS TO HELP CONSUMERS FIND A LAWYER AND SO IN THE PAST WE'VE HAD A DIRECTORY, AN ONLINE DIRECTORY IN THE OLD DAYS WE HAD A PAPER DIRECTORY BUT THAT IS REALLY A SCAVENGER HUNT FOR CONSUMERS. IN TODAY'S WORLD WHERE THERE IS SO MUCH COMING TO CONSUMERS ONLINE AND A LOT OF CONFUSION ABOUT WHAT'S LEGITIMATE AND WHAT'S NOT OUR GOAL WAS TO PROVIDE A SAFE HARBOR AND USE TECHNOLOGY MOBILE TECHNOLOGY TO REALLY HELP CONSUMERS MATCH UP WITH LAWYERS HERE IN ARIZONA.

TED SIMONS: SO I AM LOOKING, I AM A CONSUMER AND LOOKING FOR AN ATTORNEY TO HELP ME WITH SOME SORT OF CONTRACT CASE AND USE THAT AS AN EXAMPLE WHAT DO I DO?

JOHN PHELPS: YOU GO ONLINE AND CLICK ON THE FIND A LAWYER BUTTON AND IT WILL TAKE YOU TO A MENU WHERE YOU CAN FILL OUT YOUR LEGAL PROBLEM AND IT'S IN NON LEGALEESE AND TRIED TO MAKE IT EASY AND THAT PROBLEM OR ISSUE WILL GO OUT TO LAWYERS WHOSE PROFILE MATCHES THAT PARTICULAR KIND OF PROBLEM AND THE LAWYER WON'T SEE THE CONSUMER AND THE CONSUMER WON'T SEE THE LAWYER UNTIL THERE IS AN ACTUAL MATCH. AND THEN THE CONSUMER WILL GET OPTIONS AND SO IT'S KIND OF LIKE FOR MANY OF YOUR VIEWERS THAT MIGHT BE FAMILIAR WITH LENDING TREE OR E-HARMONY AND I DON'T KNOW IF YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH E-HARMONY.

TED SIMONS: IT IS A DATING THING.

JOHN PHELPS: IT IS A DATING THING AND DESIGNED TO INCREASE THE CHANCES OF GETTING A GOOD MATCH AND SO THIS IS A PLATFORM THAT IS VERY MUCH LIKE THOSE ONLINE APPLICATIONS AND SOMETHING THAT A LOT OF CONSUMERS ARE ALREADY COMFORTABLE.

TED SIMONS: THIS INCLUDES PRICING CORRECT.

JOHN PHELPS: IT DOES SO A LAWYER CAN PUT HIS OR HER FEE SCHEDULE OR HOW THEY CHARGE FEES AND THERE IS A WHOLE RANGE AND FOR CONSUMERS THEY CAN LET THE LAWYER KNOW WHAT THEY ARE WILLING TO PAY AND SO IT COVERS THE FULL SPECTRUM FROM PRO BONO TO FULL PAYING CLIENTS. ONE OF THE THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED OVER THE YEARS IS THAT CERTAINLY IT'S NO SURPRISE THAT MANY FOLKS THAT ARE LIVING AT OR BELOW THE POVERTY LINE HAVE LEGAL NEEDS THAT GO UNMET AND THERE IS AN AWFUL LOT OF PEOPLE ABOVE THAT, THAT ALSO HAVE TROUBLE FINDING LAWYERS AT THE RIGHT PRICE POINT AND NAVIGATING THE SYSTEM.

TED SIMONS: SO I HAVE GONE ONLINE HERE AND I HAVE THREE ATTORNEYS NOW WHO ARE INTERESTED IN MY CASE, DO I HAVE TO RESEARCH EACH ONE OF THESE?

JOHN PHELPS: NO AND THAT IS A REALLY COOL THING ABOUT THIS APPLICATION SO I KNOW I'M TALKING ABOUT OTHER SIMILAR APPLICATIONS, BUT IF YOU USE UBER, IF YOU ARE THE VIEWERS USE UBER YOU GET A DRIVER PROFILE. OUR PROFILES ARE REALLY PROVIDE A LOT OF INFORMATION. SO THE ATTORNEY CAN HAVE HIS OR HER PICTURE THERE, THEIR BACKGROUND, THEIR SCHOOLING, WHETHER THEY HAVE BEEN SUBJECT TO ANY DISCIPLINE, THE BAR UPLOADS THAT INFORMATION SO IT'S COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT. THE FIRM'S WEBSITE, THE KINDS OF PRACTICE AND EXPERIENCE THAT THE PARTICULAR LAWYER HAS SO THE CONSUMER GETS TO PICK FROM ANYBODY THAT'S ANSWERED THEIR APPLICATION SO TO SPEAK AND THEN ONCE THEY CLICK ON THE LAWYER THAT THEY WOULD LIKE TO DO BUSINESS WITH THE MATCH IS MADE, THE BAR BACKS AWAY AND THEN THEY NEGOTIATE THE ARRANGEMENT.

TED SIMONS: SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD DEAL FOR CONSUMERS. IF IT IS STREAMLINED AND MAKES THINGS EASY TO UNDERSTAND HOW THIS IS A GOOD DEAL FOR ATTORNEYS?

JOHN PHELPS: FIRST, I AGREE WITH YOU IT IS A GREAT DEAL FOR CONSUMERS VERY FREE, NO CHARGE AND YOU KNOW IT IS A FULL SPECTRUM OF PRACTICE AREAS COVERED. FOR LAWYERS WE KNOW THAT A LOT OF LAWYERS SPEND A LOT OF TIME TRYING TO MARKET TO THE COMMUNITY AND THEY'RE COMPETING WITH SOME ONLINE SERVICES THAT AREN'T FROM ARIZONA, SOME OF THOSE ARE NATIONAL COMPANIES AND CORPORATIONS AND WE REALLY CAN'T VOUCH FOR THE LAWYERS THAT ARE ON THOSE SYSTEMS, I'M NOT SAYING THEY ARE BAD LAWYERS BUT WE CAN'T VOUCH THAT THEY ARE ARIZONA ATTORNEYS IN GOOD STANDING AT THE BAR. WE CAN VOUCH FOR EVERY ATTORNEY THAT IS ON OUR SYSTEM SO WE ARE PROVIDING A SAFE HARBOR FOR OUR LAWYERS TO CONNECT WITH CONSUMERS AND IT'S A MUCH BETTER DEAL THAN WHAT SOME OF THE ONLINE SERVICES ARE OFFERING TO OUR LAWYERS. WE CHARGE, IF YOU ARE GOING TO GET PAYING CLIENTS, OUR LAWYERS WILL PAY A ONE TIME SUBSCRIPTION FEE OF 300 A YEAR AND THAT THERE IS NO LIMIT TO THE NUMBER OF POTENTIAL CASES SO WE THINK ESPECIALLY FOR SMALL AND SOLO FIRM LAWYERS THIS IS GOING TO BE A GREAT BOOM TO THEIR MARKET

TED SIMONS: I MEAN IT'S A NEW WAY OF ADVERTISING

JOHN PHELPS: COMPLETELY NEW. IT'S DISRUPTED AND IT'S EXCITING AND WE LAUNCHED TODAY. THERE ARE ALWAYS A FEW LITTLE GLITCHES WITH TECHNOLOGY BUT SO FAR SO GOOD.

TED SIMONS: AZ BAR.ORG

JOHN PHELPS: THAT IS IT.

TED SIMONS: MY CONTRACT CASE OKAY I PRESSED X I AM WILLING TO PAY X THIS THING IS DRAGGING ON FOREVER. THIS LAWYER, HE HAS BEEN WORKING THIS THING AND STILL THE SAME PRICE?

JOHN PHELPS: WELL, THAT IS UP TO THE LAWYER AND THE CONSUMER. SO WE ARE NOT GOING TO MODERATE OR MANAGE THAT RELATIONSHIP. ONCE THE MATCH IS MADE, THE BAR BACKS AWAY. NOW, IF FOR SOME REASON THAT ARRANGEMENT GOES BAD, PART OF OUR RESPONSIBILITY AS YOU KNOW AS THE STATE BAR IS TO HANDLE COMPLAINTS AGAINST LAWYERS SO AGAIN THIS PROVIDES A SAFE HARBOR FOR THE CONSUMER, THE CONSUMER CAN ALWAYS COME BACK TO US BUT I HAVE TO SAY WE HAVE SOME OF THE BEST LAWYERS IN THE COUNTRY AND WE ARE REALLY EXCITED TO PROVIDE THIS OPPORTUNITY FOR BOTH THE CONSUMER AND THE LAWYER

TED SIMONS: AZ BARORG GO FIND YOURSELF A LAWYER.

JOHN PHELPS: ABSOLUTELY.

TED SIMONS: ALL RIGHT JOHN PHELPS ARIZONA STATE BAR CEO GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE

JOHN PHELPS: THANK YOU VERY MUCH TED.

John Phelps: CEO, State Bar of Arizona

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