Matthew Horn and Ryan Caltagirone became good friends while growing up in Palatine, participating in sports and attending the same high school and college.
While they found their career paths taking them in different directions, they have once again come together to launch a new venture that they say will disrupt the legal industry the same way HomeAdvisor has changed the home repair and remodeling industry.
Horn and Caltagirone are co-founders of Legal Services Link, an online service designed to connect people and business with legal needs to local attorneys that can help.
The process is simple, Horn notes. Potential clients create a profile on the site and fill out a form outlining their specific legal need. The form is emailed to registered attorneys on the site, who then have the option of responding to the client with a proposal.
"If an attorney isn't interested, they just delete the email, no time lost," Horn, an attorney now living in Naperville, said. "But if they're interested, they click on a link that sends an email directly to the client that tells then 'I am interested in working with you and here's what I can do for you.'"
Depending on the response, the client can then choose an attorney who can provide the best solution to the legal issue.
"And it really depends on the case," he added. "Do they want the attorney who's been practicing for 25 years that is charging more or do they want the attorney who isn't so experienced, but is charging less.
"It's all about giving the consumer the information they need and want to make an informed buying decision."
Horn said he saw the need for a site like this a few years back, when he was seeking an attorney to develop his own estate plan. He found the traditional method of searching directories and contacting attorneys directly "very difficult and very cumbersome." "There are all of these platforms in industries that are connecting people with needs to those service providers," he said. "I recognized the legal industry didn't have one and really needed one."
And, as an attorney himself, Horn said developing a regular clientele was just as time consuming and, at times, costly.
"I was going to golf outings and charitable events, spending money and time, and was pitching to people who didn't have legal needs or already had an attorney," he said. "From that end, I saw this as something that is not only beneficial to the consumer but also to attorneys, because they now have clients coming directly to them that they can connect with from their computer chair."
While the service is free to clients and attorneys who just want to be listed on the site, attorneys pay a $250 annual premium for the ability to receive client proposals and contact them directly.
After launching about a year ago, Legal Services Link currently has about 300 attorneys and 250 client profiles, Horn said, with about a similar number of proposals submitted. While the service is national, the bulk of the clientele has come from the Chicago area.
Horn and Caltagirone both see the venture now at a tipping point, and are anticipating the service growing and expanding as more people are aware of it. The two anticipate growth over the next three to five years to represent 20 to 25 percent of all legal business.
Caltagirone, who lives in Inverness and has a background in insurance and health care, notes the site simplifies the process of finding an attorney, which has been the key disruption of other industries.
"In any industry, when someone is looking for solutions, there's an overwhelming amount of information and it's very difficult to succinctly find that," he said.
"We recognize people don't hire attorneys because they're bored. It's a very important process, and before it was terribly time consuming and inefficient," Caltagirone added. "And what are the odds they are truly finding the best fit for what they need it for?
"We're trying to get it closer to a 100 percent fit to what the situation calls for."