Silicon Valley startup Law Pivot announced new funding and a new recommendation feature for its Quora-like Q&A service that aims to democratize access to quality legal advice. According to Nitin Gupta, Law Pivot co-founder and VP of business development, the new recommendation feature will add value to the service by helping companies target their queries to lawyers that best match their needs. Even before today’s news, though, Law Pivot has defied the odds by gaining traction in a notoriously technology-resistant profession.
Law Pivot targets technology startups without large legal budgets by letting them pose questions via the web service, which are then answered by Law Pivot’s stable of qualified lawyers. It all sounds great, although Gupta himself — a former lawyer — acknowledges that the legal industry is typically among the last to adopt new technologies. An ongoing shift away from the traditional billable-hours model was accelerated by the economic downturn, however, and now Gupta says “[L]aw firms are realizing that they have to change their ways.”
According to Gupta, Law Pivot has attracted participation from many skilled attorneys, including senior partners at large firms. He attributes the interest to the fact that Law Pivot allows lawyers to expose themselves to new clients more efficiently, as opposed to traditional methods such as attending networking events or doing speaking engagements. Many lawyers have begun to drum up new business by answering questions on Quora and LinkedIn, he says, but Law Pivot gives them the opportunity to do so in a confidential, controlled manner. And when Law Pivot ultimately starts charging for the service, the attorneys will get paid, too.
In this case, what’s good for lawyers is also good for startups. Customers, which include Ooyala and TweetSwirl, can get multiple answers to their questions for a fraction of the price it normally would cost and can establish long-term relationships with an attorney without the legwork normally associated with finding legal counsel.
I asked Gupta about a handful of ethical considerations — including conflict of interest and malpractice liability — that could negatively affect the quality of Law Pivot’s service, but he didn’t seem too concerned. He explained that attorneys understand the rules around concerns, and know that they need to take the appropriate steps to mitigate them, just like they would with in-person client consultations. Another issue that could arise revolves around payment for attorneys, as it’s possible they won’t prioritize Law Pivot questions when more-pressing or higher-paying work awaits with actual clients. For now, though, Gupta says everybody seems happy with the arrangement.
In addition to the recommendation features, Law Pivot announced $200,000 in additional funding, bringing its total to $600,000. The new money comes from Google Ventures and a handful of angel investors.
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