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Eddie Signaigo, a local litigation attorney, is launching a technology startup that he hopes will bring legal services into the millennial age. The new startup, called ProQuo LLC, is basically an online marketplace where users can hire attorneys for one-off projects, with services like “business formation” and “patent litigation” available on demand.
“Law has been done the same way for a long time,” said Signaigo, founder and CEO at ProQuo. “A lot of that has to do with traditionalism, but for whatever reason the legal field is also slow to adopt new technology.”
Most people know that LegalZoom.com Inc. has already disrupted the legal field in a big way, with do-it-yourself services available on its website. The Austin, Tex- as-based startup was sold for $200 million back in 2014, and LegalZoom continues to be extremely popular with users who need legal help but are tight on cash. LegalZoom has its drawbacks, though, most notably the likelihood that people will make costly mistakes when handling legal matters without the help of an attorney. Local startup founder Cody Barbo, CEO of Industry Careers Inc., said he used LegalZoom when forming his first venture, and later regretted it.
“I don’t recommend (LegalZoom),” Barbo said in an email. “I see most first time founders making mistakes when it comes to legal, and these can really come back to bite you later on.”
ProQuo is eyeing the startup community as a promising target market.
“There’s a lot of startups and entrepreneurs who don’t have the budget for a big law firm,” Signaigo said. “They don’t have $200,000 to prosecute their patents, but they still have all of the same needs.”
Through ProQuo’s platform, users can submit a “project” (i.e. an overview of the work they need to be done) to the marketplace. ProQuo will then tell the customer exactly what services they need, and create a customized package for attorneys to bid on. ProQuo takes 10 percent of the total invoice on the project.
Hadi Harp, an attorney in Los Angeles who came across ProQuo at a network- ing event, said the model is particularly intriguing for lawyers. “Not only does it provide you with a client, but you can see the client’s expectations ahead of time,” said Harp, principal attorney at Harp Law. “It saves time. When a client calls for a consultation, we have to ask them tons of questions to make sure we’re a good fit for what the client needs.”
With ProQuo, if an attorney knows they’re not a good fit for a project, they simply don’t bid.
ProQuo’s model is meant to cater to the on-demand nature of young and increasingly tech-savvy business professionals. Signaigo said his intent was to target this demographic on the client side, but Harp added that tech savvy and young attorneys will also be the first-adopters on the legal side.
“The legal market and landscape has changed a lot in the last few years,” Hadi Harp said.
The model is shifting from traditional law firms to more freelance lawyers, as there are many entrepreneurial young lawyers entering the field. It’s generational, Harp said. Younger attorneys want freedom and flexibility around their careers.
Early in the Game
ProQuo is still a baby in the startup world, just officially launching last month. In the few weeks since launch, ProQuo has signed up about 30 attorneys and has farmed out six active projects. For this model to succeed, it’s likely that the startup will have to get a strong user base on the client side. Signaigo said if the clients are there, attorneys will follow. He’s targeting clients primarily through social media — a particular expertise of the company as ProQuo’s Chief Marketing Officer, Joseph Ortega, is also founder and CEO of EyeViz Media, a social media marketing company. Signaigo said, he expects this is just the first iteration of ProQuo, as the startup will adjust as more users come on board.
Competition in Silicon Valley
It’s important to note that ProQuo is not the only company with an idea to have an online marketplace for legal services. Silicon Valley-based UpCounsel recently landed $10 million in venture capital for a very similar concept. Signaigo said ProQuo can compete with UpCounsel by offering more personalized options.
“You can actually call and talk to real people instead of going through a machine,” Signaigo said. But that, of course, will require more resources.