We begged the Shpoonklers to tell us they planned on changing their company’s name, but CEO Robert Niznik wouldn’t budge.
“Shpoonkle is a funny word,” he said in an interview with VentureBeat. “It brings a smile to your face, and it is definitely something you will remember.”
We thought his startup idea was brilliant — an eBay just for legal services. People who need legal representation but who don’t have time to call around for rates, or who might not be able to afford a lawyer in other circumstances, can post their needs and get bids. Attorneys then have to compete for a piece of the action.
The idea made some waves in the legal community, where some attorneys called the practice unethical.
“What’s unethical is charging upwards of $300 an hour or more, making it nearly impossible for the average American to afford legal representation,” Niznik retorted.
“The bidding process is definitely ethical. The American Bar Association Journal [stated] that despite our quirky name, we are getting the job done. We provide clients a confidential way to get competitive bids from attorneys.”
Niznik said that people who use the bidding process are able to spend one third less than the national average for legal services. Overall, Shpoonkle users paid around $100 less per hour than an average attorney’s rate.
“Additionally, our users keep more of their winnings on contingency cases,” Niznik said.
The CEO told us that 13,000 out of every 44,000 graduating law students don’t have jobs lined up, making Shpoonkle (that name!) great for new attorneys as well as for their customers.
Also, he said, “We are also saving attorneys money. Instead of wasting thousands of dollars on outdated means of advertising, they can use our site for free to find new clients. The time savings for attorneys is also significant. Every time a new client in their local and practice area posts a case, the attorney is notified by email, text or however they choose. They can, on their own schedule, bid on that client if they wish. Instead of spending countless hours of free in office consultations, they can save time by using Shpoonkle’s process.”
In addition to working with attorneys, users choose to work with mediators, paralegals, notaries or other licensed professionals.
As far as privacy goes, users cannot see one anyone else’s case details, and non-attorney legal professionals can only see case details if the user indicates that he or she is seeking their particular kind of help.
And as for the name, Niznik assured us, “Xerox, Haagen Daas and countless other companies chose names that meant nothing, but they eventually became synonymous with the product or service they provide. That is our goal with our brand Shpoonkle.”