Finding a lawyer can really be a monumental task if you don’t know where to look or who to ask. And the challenge escalates when you need to figure out which of the approximately 17,000 lawyers and over 7,000 legal firms located in Peninsular Malaysia is able to match both your legal and budgeting needs.
Most of the time, the general public can only find lawyers either through word-of-mouth or referrals from bankers and property agents.
This is due to lawyers having very limited marketing means as strict publicity rules govern the legal profession. You potentially risk getting a lawyer who doesn’t quite tick any boxes despite being recommended by so-and-so. This an all too familiar and frustrating experience shared by Loo Soo Yi, co-founder and CEO of CanLaw.
The Business Of Opening Access To Justice
CanLaw is an innovative legal-tech startup dedicated to removing the challenges of the lawyer-discovery process between clients and lawyers. The mission of the business model is to create a less time-consuming solution that could help anyone and any business find the right lawyers for the right price and provide lawyers a legal means of connecting with potential clients.
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Best of all their services are free for both clients and lawyers thanks to their funders from Cradle and Brickfields Asia College. CanLaw is currently seeking the Malaysian Bar Council’s approval to charge a monthly nominal administrative fee to lawyers for using their lawyer-discovery platform.
Using The Platform
With CanLaw, clients are able to submit their legal issues, get and compare up to 5 legal fee quotes and, evaluate legal experience and background before engaging a lawyer of their choice. According to their website, you can get three to five quotes within two working days.
The platform also allows the client to anonymously chat directly with the lawyer before booking an appointment.
CanLaw’s target market isn’t just individual users; they also want to work with corporate entities, SMEs and startups who are often on a lookout for lawyers who could better suit their legal needs and circumstances.
What About The Lawyers?
Similarly for lawyers and law firms, CanLaw functions as a management tool and as a gateway to connect to potential clients. The lawyer-discovery platform sets itself apart from typical legal directories by ensuring that all lawyers and law firms using their services are verified by the Malaysian Bar Council and the CanLaw team.
This verification process ensures that only practising lawyers with valid practising certificates are qualified to join its growing list of partner lawyers.
CanLaw processes prevent legal touting and comply with Malaysian Bar Council’s regulations by ensuring the platform allow their clients to engage with lawyers only and not vice-versa. Touting is an illegal method of publicising services for a fee.
The Legal Tech Industry In Malaysia
As of March 2017, CanLaw has rolled out a range of new services and features based on feedback from their clients and beta-tested lawyers. Future features to be added to the platform include a ratings and reviews function for clients to leave feedback on how their legal engagements and encourage transparency into the lawyer-discovery process.
Beyond the lawyer-discovery platform, CanLaw also runs an news site called The CanLaw Report aimed at educating the public about the latest laws and legal news.
There has been some activity among legal-tech startups in Malaysia, with BurgieLaw also offering similar services, and the expansion of Singapore-based LawCanvas to Malaysia. The local legal industry which is still heavily reliant on manual and paper-based practices seems ripe for disruption.
Internationally, legal-tech startups operating in emerging categories such as electronic discovery, law practice management, and online legal services have been gaining traction and attracting investors. Y Combinator—a giant startup incubator in Silicon Valley that has invested in the likes of Dropbox and Airbnb—focused many of its legal-tech investments in startups that offer alternatives to traditional legal services.
However, CanLaw is very clear on their place in the legal scene in Malaysia.
“It is important to note that CanLaw is not here to disrupt the industry,” the team stated outright.
According to them, they spoke with lawyers who had the impression that legal-tech is all about disrupting the industry and the livelihood of lawyers. The team explained, “This is only true for some legal-tech startups, whose business model is premised on directly competing with lawyers.”
“CanLaw on the other hand, seeks only to help lawyers improve their services. We are dedicated to reducing friction in the lawyer discovery process and this is something we are working towards educating lawyers on. We’d like to see ourselves more as an innovator, enhancer or enabler of the legal industry, rather than a disruptor.”
Feature Image Credit: CanLaw Asia