I had never heard of an online marketplace called “LawyerScholar,” which offered college students and job seekers a simple way to compare legal fees and court cases.
The site was launched last year by an Austin, Texas, lawyer, David Siegel, and it had become a hotbed for students and employers seeking to compare and compare legal costs in the industry.
When I got a call from Siegel on my answering machine to ask about his site, he told me he had more than a million people signed up.
The number was more than double what he’d hoped for, but the number of users was still growing.
After talking with Siegel and reading through his site’s FAQ, I realized I had an idea of what I was going to do next.
I had to know how to set up my own, and I needed a business plan.
But first, I needed to know where to start.
Lawyer’s website FAQ.
“What are you going to charge?”
I called Siegel to ask what he was charging, and he said he was going “off the charts.”
He told me I could choose from hundreds of options, but I couldn’t choose which ones to charge.
He explained that the “standard” fee he charged was $1,000 for an attorney, which was “pretty standard.”
But for people looking for the most competitive rates, he said, he would offer “lower” rates of $5,000.
(His typical fee was $35,000.)
“I was getting a lot of calls from people that were getting their business started and were wondering what they could get for their money,” Siegel told me.
“They said, ‘Why am I paying $50 per hour when I can get $1 million for my first investment?’
And I said, Well, that’s what you are going to get.
You can get anywhere from $500,000 to $1 billion for your first investment.
You want to make sure you are getting the best value for your money.”
Siegel also explained that he would charge his competitors in the same way.
“I’d have to get in touch with them and explain that I was offering them a better deal,” he said.
“But I’d tell them, ‘I’m offering you $500 per hour and $1.5 million per year for your business, and you get to charge whatever you want.
I want to keep my business going, but if you want to get that higher rate, I’ll give you $1 more.’
And then I’d make the same deal for everybody else.”
After that conversation, Siegel asked me to help him figure out how he could offer his service.
“So, I looked at what we already had on the market,” Sinker said.
He called a few different attorneys to figure out what fees he could charge.
After a while, he realized that a few of the people he had talked to said they were willing to pay anywhere from a few thousand to a few million dollars per hour for his services.
I started to think that I had a lot in common with those people, and so I called my old lawyer friend, who I had known for a long time.
We agreed to meet for a coffee.
“You want to start your business?”
Siegel showed me how he’d set up his site.
He told us that he had a number of different pricing options.
Some people had their own custom lawyers that he’d hire.
Others could choose between a free trial, a $500-per-hour plan, or a $1-million-peryear plan.
I was excited to get started.
I wanted to know what my options were, what fees I could pay, and how much it would cost to do so.
I asked him if he’d charge me $1 for every hour of my time.
He said he could, but that he wanted to make his fees competitive.
“Then I’ll take the next step and get the best deal,” Skelson said.
So I told him I would start with $1 per hour.
Then I asked if I could charge my competitors for my time, too.
He agreed, but he wanted me to charge him the same price.
So, after a few minutes of back and forth, Skelstein said, “We’ll just negotiate.
It’ll be good for everybody.”
I looked over at the lawyer, and suddenly, he was smiling.
He was happy to hear I was serious about getting my business started.
“We’re going to negotiate a deal, and we’ll figure out the best way to go about that,” he told Siegel.
He showed me a simple Excel spreadsheet with the company name, a business name, and a date on which the company was set up.
“It’s called the Siegel Business