Controversies in the U.S. with attorney finder websites

Michael CarabashI get asked a lot when I’m going to expand Dynamic Legal Forms to the U.S. My response is: slowly, but surely, we’re making our way there. We’re trying to get things right here at home (in Toronto) and then expand across other Canadian and U.S. cities. Why, just yesterday, we put things in place to expand to Los Angeles under the leadership of L.A. real estate lawyer Joe Abdelkerim. With these things all said and done, it’s worth mentioning what has happened with established American attorney-finder websites. I came across two of them: LegalMatch and Casepost. While both have been around for a long time, they’ve received considerable negative press in recent years.

LegalMatch has been around for over a decade. It is a nice-looking website and has a library and an attorney matching service. LegalMatch operates in all 50 states and is based in San Francisco, California. According to Wikipedia, LegalMatch has experienced some negative setbacks with scandals and competitive rivalries:

In 2004, Dmitry Shubov, the founder and then CEO of LegalMatch, plead guilty to illegally accessing the voicemail system of a competitor, Casepost, and was subsequently fined $5000, sentenced to two years probation and disbarred. LegalMatch and CasePost then settled their fight and issued a joint press release to that effect. As he was indicted, Shubov resigned as CEO in May 2004. Donny Randal (Randy) Wells was appointed as the interim CEO of LegalMatch. In June of 2005 Wells was fired from LegalMatch and was replaced by Laurie Ziffrin. Wells alleged that Shubov, still the majority shareholder, was running company behind the scenes and LegalMatch was “trying to convince the public that a convicted felon doesn’t run the company.” On August 1, 2005, Wells joined CasePost as their new CEO. LegalMatch sued Casepost in January 2006 alleging they recruited LegalMatch’s employees and stole trade secrets.

On Kevin O’Keefe’s Blog “Real Lawyers Have Blogs“, Kevin discusses these events and also talks about LegalMatch’s aggressive sales practices:

Lawyer gets call to pay $60,000 for 3 year deal with 10% off if pay up front and another 5% off if payment is wired that day. When lawyer asks for trial period and references from lawyers who have found success with LegalMatch, he gets call back that the company has found another lawyer to take the spot but the lawyer can pay $500 to be waitlisted. Lawyer asked sales person “do you think I just fell off the turnip truck?”

Finally, there are a few blogs and forums where people describe their [not so great] experiences with LegalMatch:

Casepost is a legal matching service that helps clients find attorneys. It also has a financing service that helps lawyers grow teir practice, an online documentation preparation centre, and even a program to help attorneys collec their account receivables.

As with LegalMatch, Casepost has received some negative feedback. Here are some excerpts from somone named David who posted on February 26, 2006 on Counsel.Net’s forum:

If you talk to casepost, don’t just believe their sales people, after all, they’re sales people.

I’d also question casepost’s viability as a company based on recent and apparently outstanding Tax Liens and Judgments from the IRS and suing attorneys I found in their public record in their home jurisdiction. Based on this information, I’m not surprised that they can’t afford to advertise and I wouldn’t be surprised if they declare bankruptcy some time soon.

Here’s a summary. You can verify things yourself, it’s all public record.

Casepost has the following Tax Liens:
Federal: $71,859.00, entered 5/3/05.
State: $5,930.00, entered 8/12/05.
County: $117.00, entered 1/11/05.

Casepost has been sued by the following attorneys in CA. I’ve listed amounts are listed if known. Brent Jex, $3,025.00, judgment entered 12/13/05 Thomas E Ladegaard, filed 12/29/04. unknown resolution.
Marc A. Bronstein, $2,160.00, judgment entered 6/13/05 Jay S. Belshaw, $6,599.00, judgment entered 9/12/05. Gregory L. Bosse, filed 6/3/05. Orange County 05CL03468 Chris Ayers, filed 5/11/05. Orange County 05WL02485 Mel S. Martin, filed 5/24/05 Orange Count, got judgment lien on 8/2/05.

Here’s another post by someone named John on January 8, 2008:

Is Casepost dead? My wife uses this site for leads, but hasn’t
received anything in over a month. I tried going to their website
today and it appears to be defunct. Any insights are appreciated.

Here’s a reply from Linda on that same day:

I’m also one of their attorneys and haven’t been able to access the site for at least 2-3 days. I tried contacting them, but got no response. I think they may be out of business. What a waste of money.

For a detailed commentary about the ongoing disputes these rivals have caused for one another, just check out Itir Yakar’s article entitled “Legal Fights, Suits Flare Up Between Legal Service Firms — Online Attorney Matchers Squabble Over Turf” which appeared in the San Fransisco Daily Journal (January 17, 2006).

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