In the eyes of two lawyer-led, technology-driven startups, bar associations have a couple of powerful but underutilized assets that can boost the fortunes of the associations—and their members—with a click, tap, or touch of a screen: credibility and accurate information.
“We’re helping bar associations harness their credibility as a member benefit,” says Bob Aicher, president/CEO and cofounder of CloudLawyers (formerly Zeekbeek), which has partnerships with the ABA and several state bars.
“Bar associations are at the nexus of legal need in a lot of communities,” says Scott Kelly, president of Community.lawyer, which is working with about two dozen state and local bars.
The growth of these startups, along with the emergence and growth of similar Internet-based programs, are good indicators that more bars are embracing evolving technology to develop and hone online lawyer-finder portals—both for individual lawyer promotion and for bar-run LRS/LRIS lawyer referral, according to Aicher, Kelly and others. Although many of these efforts were borne out of industry frustration with for-profit services like Avvo and LegalZoom, more bars are seeing a growing member benefit from developing and expanding portals that are adapting to the changing ways that the public finds and chooses lawyers in today’s legal marketplace.
It should be noted that this is by no means an entirely new concept. Many metropolitan bars and other local bars have had successful lawyer-finder tools for years—perhaps as a natural complement to LRS/LRIS. One such example is the Columbus Bar Association, whose Columbus Find a Lawyer portal debuted in 2007 (under a different name). The CBA licenses its technology for use by other metro bars; currently, the following bar associations operate lawyer-finder portals via this arrangement: the Dayton (Ohio) Bar Association, the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Bar Association, the Macomb County (Mich.) Bar Association, the Cincinnati Bar Association, the Jacksonville (Fla.) Bar Association, and the Allegheny County (Pa.) Bar Association.
Among state bars, two well-known models are Euclid Technology's Licensed Lawyer partnership with the Utah State Bar, and the New York State Bar Association's online LRIS portal, which is powered by Legal.io. In recent years, there seems to be burgeoning interest among state bars (both voluntary and unified), as they seek innovative ways to make accessing legal services less fragmented and more seamless for consumers and lawyers alike.