To participate in Rocket Lawyer's On Call program, attorneys must have up-to-date malpractice insurance and no State Bar disciplinary record, and agree to its terms of service. The free program requires attorneys to offer discounted rates to their new clients - 40 percent off their standard hourly fee or $125 per hour, whichever is greater. It also requests that the lawyers (gasp) list their regular hourly fee on the website.
"Having lawyers publish their fees online has added a ton of price transparency to the market," says founder Charley Moore. "That's one of the innovations I'm very proud of, and there was a lot of skepticism at first when we did it. We now have someone on the network who [offers to handle] a divorce for $250, complete." On Call matches attorneys with users who have specific legal questions or issues. Some attorneys have found the program to be a valuable lead generator.
"It's been a tremendous boon to my business," says Mark A. Ruiz, a general practice attorney in Redwood City (who, for the record, normally charges $300 for an hour of his time, but $180 an hour for Rocket Lawyer members). "Right now, Rocket Lawyer is almost a third of my business. I personally am a big fan of the model where clients do some of the work themselves and then they have an attorney do other things."Ruiz says he handles a wide variety of cases through Rocket Lawyer; half of them involve preparing and reviewing legal documents such as trusts or deeds, and the remainder either civil litigation or bankruptcy. His clientele is about equally divided between individuals and small businesses.
Irvine-based IP attorney Michael A. Shimokaji ($550/hour; $330/hour through Rocket Lawyer) has been an On Call lawyer for more than two years. He says the work doesn't represent a significant portion of his overall business, "[b]ut it is helpful. I don't have to do any work in terms of marketing. And the referrals you get typically have very specific issues that they want addressed, as opposed to general questions about patent protection." Some lawyers say the reduced fees On Call mandates aren't popular with their bosses."My managing attorney at the time wasn't so keen about offering a discount [to Rocket Lawyer members]," says Joanna de Vos, ($300/hour; $180 through Rocket Lawyer) a San Diego--based attorney who signed up for the On Call program in 2011. "But he allowed me to do it anyway. I think it's a good platform, but it's not going to pay the bills. It's going to supplement your income and raise your profile." Other On Call lawyers are still waiting for the rocket to launch.
"I think it's a promising service, but we haven't seen much from it," says Alphonse F. Provinziano, a Beverly Hills attorney ($282/hour; $171/hour through Rocket Lawyer), also On Call since 2011. "We've gotten a trickle of calls as a result of Rocket Lawyer, but nothing very sizable."
Mark A. Ruiz
Joanna de Vos