CHICAGO – Not everyone who wants a lawyer can find one.
Chicago-based UpRight Law is a nationwide online law firm that noticed the underserved market and now uses modern online technology to connect prospective clients to legal counsel.
"We started UpRight Law with the mission of providing millions of hardworking Americans with greater access to justice," UpRight Law Managing Partner Kevin Chern said during a Cook County Record email interview. "The 'justice gap' has rightly received a lot attention from the legal community and the media, but my business partner at Total Attorneys, Ed Scanlan, and I got a front-row seat of the problem.
Upright Law evolved from Total Attorneys, which provides law practice management solutions for attorneys and small firms.
"At Total Attorneys, we generated consumer inquiries to hire lawyers," Chern said. "We literally found hundreds of thousands of people looking to access the justice system each year. While we were able to connect many consumers with attorneys, 40 percent of those fell through the cracks."
That gave Scanlan and Chern the idea to open a different kind of law firm, one that would allow their consumers to access high-quality and affordable legal services while connecting them with UpRight’s partner attorneys at no additional overhead costs.
"We knew this would be a win-win for both groups, and the last three years have borne that out," Chern said.
Founded in 2013, UpRight Law partners with 350 lawyers across the country and employs about 150 to connect those attorneys with thousands of prospective clients. Anyone who wants to use UpRight Law's services to find an attorney can call the company's toll-free number or enter their ZIP code on the firm's website to kick off the process.
It's not how our grandparents would have chosen an attorney, and Chern said it can take some getting used to.
"Admittedly, adapting to change can be challenging for any organization, particularly when shutting down our brick-and-mortar offices in favor of the national, online virtual law firm model," Chern said. "But today, I can say that going virtual has been a huge win-win for consumers and attorneys. We’ve created a seamless and great experience for both the clients consuming the services as well as the lawyers providing them."
UpRight research indicates that, given a choice, consumers prefer to meet with attorneys over the phone or videoconferencing apps like FaceTime or Skype, instead of through office appointments during typical 9-to-5 business hours.
"Office visits involve things like taking off work, making childcare arrangements, driving long distances for those living in rural communities, and spending money on gas, parking or rental cars, at a time when the consumer is already facing financial hardship," Chern said.
Chern added that visiting an attorney's office can be intimidating for prospective clients who have never before accessed legal services.
"That can create a psychological obstacle for someone who really needs help," he said. "So the UpRight model of bringing the law office to the living room has been a huge hit with consumers."