Community.lawyer, P.B.C. is a public benefit corporation that builds technology to help networks of lawyers meet the legal needs of their community. Our flagship service is software we offer free of charge to bar associations and other nonprofit legal networks so that they can operate their own branded referral services or find-a-lawyer directories.
The software is a flexible solution, designed to suit a diverse array of nonprofit legal networks. It’s robust enough to work as a standalone platform for conducting intake, overseeing your service, and managing your network membership -- but also modular enough to be integrated with existing database solutions.
As Community.lawyer looks toward the future, our goal is to continue to develop a 21st-century toolkit to support our partners and the communities they serve.
Our team members come from a variety of backgrounds -- a lawyer at the ACLU, an engineer at ThoughtWorks, a product manager at Buzzfeed, and a designer at FoundationLab -- but we share a common belief that technology should be used for more than just the latest food-delivery website or photo-sharing app. That’s why, in the summer of 2016, we joined the nonprofit Blue Ridge Labs’ fellowship program to study ways technology could help bridge the access to justice gap.
After months of immersive design research, including conversations with hundreds of stakeholders across the legal industry, we decided to found Community.lawyer, P.B.C. to help empower nonprofit legal networks. We saw companies like Avvo and Rocket Lawyer encroaching on the role traditionally played by community-based bar associations and wanted to use technology to level the playing field and ensure that the public always had a trusted alternative to strictly for-profit marketplaces.
In October of 2016, we launched a pilot of our software in partnership with the Court Square Law Project, a modest means law firm sponsored by the New York City Bar Association. With the help of additional grant funding from Blue Ridge Labs, Community.lawyer continued to hone our technology and, in early 2017, began offering it free of charge to bar associations and legal incubators. We’re now partnered with legal networks across the country to help grow their impact and promote access to quality legal services in their communities.
We understand that each of our partners -- be they a bar association, legal incubator, or other kind of legal network -- has its own unique constellation of needs and goals. For that reason, our software provides a range of different customizations. For example, Community.lawyer offers optional features for our partners to collect remittance fees, experiment with alternative service delivery models, and integrate a modest means program into their work.
Our platform also supports a variety of integrations that ensure your Community.lawyer portal works in concert with other systems upon which your organization relies. Currently, our platform integrates with database solutions like iMIS, YourMembership, and CiviCRM, as well as leading payment processors like Authorize.Net, Stripe, PayPal, and LawPay. If your preferred database or payment processor isn’t listed, just reach out and we can investigate whether an integration is possible.
Yes. We never charge fees for the use of our underlying referral and directory technologies for two important reasons.
First, as a mission-driven public benefit corporation, we believe strongly in offering trusted nonprofits like bar associations and legal incubators a platform to support their members and serve their communities. We never want cost to stand in the way of that mission so we’ve decided to offer our platform free of charge to qualified nonprofit legal networks.
Second, since ethics committees* have cautioned that a company risks improper fee splitting when its revenues are based on the percentage of legal fees facilitated or clients obtained, we’ve designed our model to scrupulously avoid that gray area and never share in client fees, whether directly or indirectly.
At Community.lawyer, we have been fortunate to receive generous financial support from the nonprofit Robin Hood Foundation’s Blue Ridge Labs, as well as more recent funding from private social impact investors. Together these contributions have given us the stability we need to think in terms of years down the road, instead of weeks or months.
This long range perspective empowered us to build the core service that we offer free of charge to qualified nonprofit legal networks -- and later supplement that with optional features that our users can choose to pay for (e.g. unique portal customizations).
As the creator of these optional tools and services, we sometimes charge for their use; however, we are committed to keeping our underlying referral and directory service technologies free, now and forever. That’s our promise.
As a public benefit corporation, Community.lawyer wants to ensure that the technology it builds is available to help the legal networks we partner with and the communities they serve. That's why we've recently made the Open Source Commitment.
The Open Source Commitment is a first-of-its-kind guarantee that we've started building into each of our partnership agreements with legal referral networks. It ensures that if we were to ever discontinue our core referral service portal technology or stop offering the free version of it to our partners, then we would open source it for everyone to use.
We want to do things differently at Community.lawyer, and this is just one small step in that direction. If you want to find out more about the Open Source Commitment — or talk about other ways Community.lawyer can stay true to our mission — don't hesitate to reach out.