Web site aims to make suing easier

Chris Rizo Aug. 8, 2008, 3:54pm

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline)-A new online service that aims to connect trial lawyers with potential clients has drawn a watchful eye from some plaintiffs' attorneys.

Operators of WhoCanISue.com say their service is designed to "fill the gap in the market with a model that gives consumers greater control, safety, and efficiency, and creates more qualified inquiries for participating attorneys."

Curtis Wolfe, an attorney and the company founder, said his service allows aggrieved consumers to determine whether they may have a case for lawsuit. Wolfe is former general counsel for Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based private equity firm Ener1 Group.

"We built our service around what people find everywhere else on the Web today: The ability to get an immediate answer without revealing confidential details or giving out their name and phone number," Wolfe said in a statement. "This will make WhoCanISue.com the go-to choice when people feel they've been wronged and are looking for answers."

But some legal observers say the Internet service, which is set to launch in September, is just another venture in legal matchmaking, making it easier for Americans to sue.

The company's front page displays an image of man in a suit slipping on a banana peel.

The service does not generate leads to attorneys. Instead, attorneys bid on real-time ad placements. Attorneys pay an annual fee of $1,000 to appear on the Web site, plus an additional amount to determine how prominently their listing will appear.

WhoCanISue.com is not the first of its kind. Other lawyer referral sites include SueEasy.com and LegalMatch.com, both of which have been derided watchdog groups, including the American Tort Reform Association and the Manhattan Institute Center for Legal Policy.

Theresa Meehan Rudy, program director for the nonprofit group Help Abolish Legal Tyranny (HALT), said WhoCanISue.com sounds like an "interesting use of technology," where potential litigants are screened and attorneys pay for special ad placement in the site.

She cautioned there is range of lawyer shopping sites, some of which are more consumer-friendly than others. She noted that some sites even allow for consumer and peer reviews, as in the case of Avvo.com.

"As far as consumers are concerned: The more information the better," she said.

WhoCanISue.com is signing up lawyers at the American Bar Association's annual convention this week in New York, offering attorneys cut-rate deals to sign on with the company.

Unlikely to be among those signing up, at least right away, is Ben Glass, a Fairfax, Va.-based personal injury attorney.

He said the WhoCanISue.com site looks to him like it was developed by tort reformers.

"I mean, what legitimate lawyer would pay $1,000 a month or more to be listed on a site that actually makes fun of lawsuits?" Glass wrote Friday on InjuryBoard.com.

On the same blog, attorney Dan Frith of Roanoke, Va., calls himself a proud to be a trial attorney, but expressed opposition to the idea behind WhoCanISue.com.

In a blog post Thursday titled "Who Can I Sue-Disgusting," Frith wrote, "My take to those who use this service: You Get What You Pay For...and maybe You Get What You Deserve!"

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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