Michael Chasin and Aaron George were fellow students at Loyola Law School when they took a look at the industry they were about to enter and noticed a problem.
“We saw so many of our friends struggling to find employment,” Chasin said, “yet there were clients sitting out there who didn’t know how to find lawyers. It didn’t make sense.”
Instead of practicing law, the two decided to start a business that would connect consumers with attorneys. George, now 27, dropped out of law school after his second year; Chasin, 26, finished out his degree last year but didn’t sit for the bar.
The result is LawKick.com, a website that launched last year and opened to the wider public this month.
Consumers looking for an attorney can go to the website and select the type of attorney they need, ranging from patent infringement to DUI. They fill out a form with basic facts about their potential case and the information is then emailed to attorneys that have signed up on the website. The attorneys email back with price quotes, then the consumer can choose an attorney and proceed with a hire.
Chasin said using the website, aimed mostly at individuals and small businesses, is much easier than searching for lawyers on Google and providing them with the same information over and over. LawKick is operating as a free service for both consumers and attorneys, and has received about $250,000 in angel investments. Chasin and George want to keep it free for consumers, but might eventually take a fee from attorneys who use the service and charge for the use of direct-payment services.
So far, about 175 attorneys in the L.A. area have signed up, most of them solo practitioners or from smaller firms. The company plans to expand to other cities and has already signed up an additional 50 attorneys in other areas.
“We’re dealing with a very old profession that is desperately in need of innovation,” Chasin said. “What we want to do is revolutionize the way legal services are sought after and provided.”
Sherman Oaks firm Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, which specializes in working with L.A. technology companies, has launched a business litigation practice with the addition of high-stakes trial lawyer Michael A. Sherman from Bingham McCutchen.
The firm has handled corporate work for tech companies and startups since the early 2000s, and is now seeing rapid growth due to the local tech explosion of the last several years.
Managing Partner Scott Alderton, 55, said the move into business litigation was not only a sign of the growth of his firm but of the wider tech industry in Los Angeles. Just last month, the Santa Monica office of Silicon Valley’s Cooley, another firm specializing in tech startups, added its first litigation partner.
“It’s reflective of the maturation process of the emerging growth and technology market in Los Angeles,” Alderton said. “These disputes are a natural part of the evolutionary process of a company’s growth, and these companies that are spawned and growing in the L.A. market are having a need for litigation services.”
Sherman’s move marks another big departure for Boston’s Bingham, which lost trial lawyer Marshall Grossman in January to Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe’s downtown L.A. office. Bingham now lists 76 attorneys in Los Angeles County on its website, down from 110 in 2010.
Though he said he “learned at the knee” of Grossman, Sherman, 57, said his move was unrelated to his former mentor’s departure and that he just wanted to go to a smaller firm.
He said his book of business was worth several million dollars annually.
“Los Angeles is a middle-market town and large law firms – and this is not directed at Bingham but at all large law firms – are not as nimble and not as equipped to compete in the middle market,” Sherman said. “My billing rate had gotten up to $1,000 an hour and now I’m about 40 percent off that.”
Another midmarket firm that has been hiring aggressively is Buchalter Nemer. The downtown L.A. firm recently added Mike Newhouse and Ruth L. Seroussi, principals of Century City litigation boutique Newhouse Seroussi.
Newhouse and Seroussi, who are married, co-founded their firm in 2009 in part because they wanted to start a family and needed more flexible hours. Newhouse, 39, is a business litigator; Seroussi, 43, is a labor and employment attorney who previously worked at Buchalter. The two built up business to the point where they needed a larger fleet of support attorneys to service clients.
“Either we were going to get a lot bigger quickly or we would have to move to another firm,” Seroussi said.
Newhouse said Buchalter was appealing because of the strength of its attorneys, flexible rates and flexibility with Seroussi’s hours in allowing her to work some days from home.
Joining them in the move is attorney Suzanne Henry.
Their combined book of business was about $2.5 million last year, Newhouse said.
Buchalter now has 84 attorneys in Los Angeles, up from 76 at the beginning of last year. The firm switched chief executives about 18 months ago and new management has made a recruiting push, said Richard P. Ormond, the firm’s lateral hiring chair.
Staff reporter Alfred Lee can be reached at email@example.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 221.
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