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Meet the solicitor who's changing the power balance in finding legal help

A new website, set up by a Cork solicitor, could be a gamechanging way of finding legal help.

Image: Gavel and book via Shutterstock

WHEN SEARCHING FOR a solicitor, people can sometimes find the experience overwhelming or intimidating.

Some might think that a system where a person has to approach the solicitor with their query themselves could lead to a power imbalance – but one person who wants to bring an end to this is himself a solicitor.

Dave Reilly is a practicing solicitor in west Cork, and came up with the idea for a service to help people anonymously search for legal help while he was doing a tender for legal services.

“When you’re doing a tender like that they ask you your background experience, how much you charge – every question you imagine. By the time you are done with the tender, they know everything about you. It struck me – shouldn’t everyone be able to find this information quickly and esaily without having to trawl around solicitors’ offices?”

He believed this could be done anonymously, given the sensitivities around needing a solicitor for legal cases.

Soon, with the help of an Irish software company, SolveMyLegal.com was set up by Reilly, Tom Murray, an accountant, and Andrew Doyle, an IT specialist.

How it works

The solicitors are not openly bidding with each other on SolveMyLegal.com, and all communication is done privately. The solicitors are charged a flat fee to be included, while those searching on the site – whether businesses or individuals – can do so for free. If you need to look up services, you can apply for more information from your solicitor as well as a quote. You can then pick a quote and decide who suits you.

Reilly said that most people are posting their legal requests late in the evening between 9 and 10pm, showing that convenience and privacy is a big factor. He has seen many people use the site for family law issues, while conveyancing has picked up and the area of wills is consistent.

Reilly maintains that it is not just cost that people are curious about when it comes to solicitors – it’s also experience and whether it is easy to strike up a good relationship.

Asked if he thinks that people are not informed about finding solicitors, he said: “I don’t think that they’re not particularly well informed – it’s just hard to get informed. It’s hard to get properly informed. There’s also a barrier there.”

People might still be shy to say to a solicitor ‘how many years are you qualified?’ Even we ourselves would be shy. This way you can totally and quietly and anonymously take a look at their background and find that out.

Balance of Power

Reilly said that he believes – even as a solicitor himself – that the site “pushes the balance of power into the hands of the public”.

“I’ll be honest with you – I was surprised at how well they embraced it,” he said of his fellow solicitors. “It comes down to one thing – they are running a business, they want new business.”

The site is also “a huge leveller when it comes to transparency in legal fees”, said Reilly.

Setting up his own website, particularly one that is a gamechanger for solicitors and their potential clients, means that Reilly is putting his own name on the line, as he readily admitted.

But he said that he would not put together a service “if I didn’t feel it was everything I said it would be”.

Though he is ‘crossing the rubicon’, he wants to make the process of finding a solicitor more egalitarian, and make it easier for people who might have a legal issue that is sensitive. This is particularly in the case of drunk driving or family law cases.

The site has proved so successful that plans are underway for SolveMyAccounting, a similar service but for accountants.

The bottom line with the site is putting the power back into the people’s hands, Reilly told TheJournal.ie: “They might be very scared and feeling very vulnerable. It is much easier to ask solicitors anonymously through the internet ‘how can you help me?’.”

Read: Call for limit on free legal aid for repeat offenders>

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