The law exists to help and protect people. Sadly, too many Australians ignore their legal problems and allow their legal rights to be violated, whether by employers, business partners, corporations, or even friends and family.
This is because for far too long, access to justice and to lawyers has been difficult.
People are scared of lawyers, worried about the costs involved when enforcing their legal rights, or simply don’t know how to go about getting the right advice.
Given that access to justice is a basic human right, the difficulties in obtaining legal help need to be alleviated.
I had an idea to ‘fix’ these problems. The platform – in my head - was going to become the ‘Google for legal problems’.
As crazy as it sounds, I was confident I could pull it off: I’m a lawyer with advanced understanding about the legal industry (I’m currently a PhD student examining the future of legal practice), and also experienced in creating legal technology (I played a lead role in the development of the Supreme Court of Victoria’s online case management platform).
My product, when it works, will completely transform and modernise legal services.
However, I knew that what I was about to do would be one of my greatest challenges yet. Indeed, my peers thought I was crazy. Who am I to challenge an industry so engrained in their ways, and one that celebrates archaic processes?
The challenges before me were great, so much so that my colleagues and business mentors deemed it nothing short of impossible.
I was supposedly entering a David and Goliath battle, but one that will never see David prevailing.
The gavel had already been struck against me. I could not accept such views: my idea made so much sense to me that these dire warnings did not unnerve me.
After all, even the once great Roman Empire, which had a 500 year run as the world’s greatest superpower, crumbled to a heap.
So whether others wanted to join my battle or not, I was ready and determined to transform and modernise legal services - and make legal help available to all - through the creation of LawAdvisor.
What is LawAdvisor?
LawAdvisor is an online platform that is focused on breaking down the barriers that prevent many people from understanding, protecting and enforcing their legal rights by increasing:
1. Access to lawyers and their advice by enabling people to get answers to their simple legal problems from qualified lawyers for free. If they want further advice, or require further assistance, they can get no-obligation fee estimates from a number of lawyers with the right expertise;
2. The transparency of legal services by allowing people to evaluate the skills and expertise of lawyers, and to easily compare different options to address their legal problems along with their relative costs; and
3. Efficiency in legal practice by supplying access to a cloud-based practice management platform that allows clients and their lawyers to work anytime, anywhere.
With LawAdvisor, people will no longer have to search the internet for advice of unknown reliability, or struggle to make sense of complex legal jargon. LawAdvisor allows anyone to learn about the law and to get practical and trustworthy information and advice when they need it most.
A risky venture
I developed an ‘all-in’ mindset and was certain I could revolutionise legal services through LawAdvisor. I had quit my full-time employment and deferred my PhD in order to turn my idea into a fully functional product.
Despite the high chances of failure, I was never going to accept not trying. To succeed in transforming such a traditional and process driven industry, I knew I needed to do things properly. I could not develop the system and make an impact on a shoe-string budget.
Not only did I need considerable investment to get LawAdvisor off of the ground, but I needed credible lawyers on my team that could act as change-leaders and spur other lawyers to embrace the concept and philosophy behind LawAdvisor: that is, to offer legal information for free, and help Australians better understand all the available pathways and costs involved when pursuing any legal claims.
Furthermore, even if I solved this problem – that is, getting lawyers to embrace the concept – I also needed LawAdvisor to appeal to the public.
I needed to educate people that not all lawyers are scary or charge exorbitant fees. LawAdvisor needed to communicate that lawyers are ready to help people again.
Luckily for me, many people have joined my battle to transform the law, including investors. I have been very fortunate in being able to attract a number of investors and raise significant investment based on my idea.
I was even in a position to reject a further $2 million investment offer, as I was confident I had enough in the kitty to develop a quality product.
Since launching, we have been inundated with further investment offers, and have also been approached by members of the public via our Facebook page who wanted to provide us with donations because they believed in what we were trying to achieve.
Indeed, the reception we have received has been overwhelming.
Since we officially launched on July 14th 2015:
• LawAdvisor had been featured in a number of national publications and on television;
• LawAdvisor’s Facebook page has attracted over 7,500 fans;
• over 240 lawyers have registered onto the platform;
• 614 clients have signed-up;
• over 100 questions have been asked; and
• over 80 per cent of questions have been answered by lawyers.
Although we are a long way from completely transforming the legal industry, the take-up we have achieved so far is promising.
I could not have achieved this without my rock-solid team of very talented, driven and exceptionally gifted individuals who share my vision in providing everyone with access to legal help.
In time, we all hope that through LawAdvisor, the law will no longer be seen as a mythical creature. Rather, it should be widely accessible and be used for its intended purpose: to help and protect people.
Brennan Ong is the director and founder of LawAdvisor.
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