Matthew Horn, Esq. is the President and Co-Founder of Legal Services Link, a leading online platform connecting those with legal needs with attorneys interested in satisfying those needs—at the click of a button. He holds a BS in Accounting from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a JD from The John Marshall Law School.
How did you get into the industry?
I started Legal Services Link around the time that my wife and I were having our first child. I was looking to get a comprehensive estate plan in place before he was born, and was struggling to find a reasonably priced attorney to help me. The irony of the situation is that I am an attorney and am surrounded by attorneys—just not estates and trusts attorneys. Like everyone looking to hire an attorney, I first tried to get a referral, but only got one referral, and that attorney quoted me an absurd amount to prepare my estate plan. So what did I do? I did what everyone does whenever they need to find something, and I jumped on Google. After hours of sorting through law firm websites and calling and emailing a few attorneys that either didn’t get back to me or weren’t interested in helping me, I thought to myself—there has to be a better way to do this. Which is how Legal Services Link was conceived.
Any emerging industry trends?
The main source of my frustration in finding an attorney was due to the legal industry’s failure to keep pace with technological innovation, making it difficult for those with legal needs to connect with and hire the right attorney. This is a major trend in the industry. Fortunately, the legal industry has other industries to observe and follow—most notably, those that have adopted platforms (see Uber, AirBnb, Lending Tree, Match.com, etc.) that allow those with needs to quickly and easily connect with service providers capable of satisfying those needs.
The other industry trends making the legal industry ripe for a platform like Legal Services Link are the oversupply of attorneys—especially young attorneys, many of whom can’t get good jobs or build a large enough client base to maintain successful practices—and the legal industry’s inability to satisfy the legal needs of many in lower and moderate incomes. This latter trend is often referred to as the “justice gap,” which is widely recognized as one of the largest shortcomings of the profession. Oddly enough, this oversupply of attorneys and this undersupply of affordable, accessible legal services is the result of the industry’s failure to innovate, which has made it difficult—if not impossible—for those with legal needs to connect with attorneys interested in satisfying those needs.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
As noted, Legal Services Link aims to overcome many of the challenges currently faced in legal industry.. Specifically, Legal Services Link’s platform allows those with legal needs to post short summaries of their needs to the site, which are automatically emailed to all attorneys on the platform capable of satisfying those needs. Attorneys receive the client postings, and if they are interested in the work, submit short applications to the client outlining the attorneys’ rates, availability, etc. At the end of the day, clients end up with a short list of applications from attorneys that know what their legal needs are AND are interested in satisfying those needs. On the attorney side, the transaction is equally as efficient, with clients effectively coming to attorneys, allowing attorneys to build their practices quickly and inexpensively, from their comfort of their home or office. No more searching, no more time, no more hassle—attorneys come to clients and clients come attorneys.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
As outlined above, my own difficulty hiring an attorney—despite being an attorney—really inspired the concept, and I identified the platform model used by Uber, AirBnb, HomeAdvisor, and others as the solution to my problem. Like those other platforms mentioned, I believe the future of the platform is that it will be the “go to” website for anyone with legal needs—consumer or business—and for those attorneys interested in obtaining new clients, building their practices, and making more money.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
We are rolling out our app in the next month or so, and we expect a lot of people to use that—especially attorneys. We also expect to see explosive, exponential growth both in our client and attorney base over the next eighteen to twenty-four months, eventually becoming a household name, just as the companies and sites discussed above.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
The first thing that we knew we needed to do to make the platform a success was get the legal industry to buy into the idea. The legal profession is a traditional, skeptical, and heavily regulated profession, so we knew this would be no easy task. We’ve tried to tackle this obstacle by ensuring that the platform, as built, complied with all regulations governing the profession, and simultaneously, we reached out to attorneys and bar associations to have an honest, transparent discussion with them about the platform and our intentions for it.
Equally as important, we hired a full time marketing and PR team to help us market the site to clients and attorneys and get the word out. We did this somewhat begrudgingly after recognizing that it didn’t matter that we had this wonderful product, if no one else knew about it.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
The most difficult moments in the business were the first few months after our “launch.” As indicated, we assumed that since we had this wonderful product, news of our platform would pass by word of mouth and we would get users and experience growth right off the bat. We were wrong. It was in those first few months, where the platform was “live” and no one was using it, that we began questioning our idea and what we had built. Fortunately, we finally realized that we were missing the active marketing component, which helped the site take off, restoring our confidence in the platform and the business. We learned a few things from this: first, that you can’t run an online business with a marketing team and plan; and second, that patience is a necessary evil when launching and operating a start-up.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
The platform is all about convenience and seamlessly connecting those with legal needs with attorneys capable of satisfying those needs. To that end, the ideal experience for clients is that they post their legal needs to the site, receive applications from attorneys interested in satisfying those needs, are impressed with one or more of the applications, hire an attorney from our network, and have a successful experience with that attorney. The ideal experience for attorneys is that they use the platform to obtain new clients and build their practice quickly and inexpensively from the comfort of their office or home.
How do you motivate others?
I don’t think there’s any secret to it--I think one of the best things a leader can do is to lead by example—work hard, come up with good ideas, solve problems, treat people with respect, and be a good person. My experience is that people generally respect those traits and will follow people they respect—be it their parents, their supervisor, etc.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Just do it. (Seriously, Nike is on to something). At some point, people need to stop talking, stop posting, stop tweeting, stop thinking, stop preparing, and just do it. This applies whether you are starting your own company, trying to meet a deadline for an employer, or trying to better your personal life. Stop talking, and start doing. Make no mistake, I am guilty of procrastinating too, but I’m trying to cut back.