High-profile lawyer Mai Chen has today launched an "online marketplace" for the legal profession.
The site, MyAdvice.Legal, is a hub where people in need of legal assistance can find the most suitable lawyer for them through a largely automated process.
"It's a site where people with legal problems can come, type in what their problem is and get matched with all of the lawyers that have the expertise and experience to help them solve their problems," Chen said.
Appropriate lawyers are then notified of the case and given the opportunity to ask the client questions before making a "bid" to take it on.
"Those lawyers get a chance to pitch, the client gets a chance to choose who is the best, who do they feel most comfortable with, who do they trust the most, who has the most expertise and who can give them the best price and service," Chen said.
Currently, people's available funds were often being completely depleted as they were referred from one lawyer to another before finding the right one, something Chen hoped the site could change.
"So many people have called me up in the last 30 years and said, 'Hey, I've got this problem, can you help me? And I say, 'Well that's great but I don't specialise in the area'.
"They ask me to refer them ... but quite often you don't know who to send them to or who's available."
Not only would it benefit clients, the new service could open new doors for many lawyers, too.
"There are about 12,600 lawyers in New Zealand ... many of whom are 30, 40 years in the business but they specialise and are really good at what they do but perhaps don't have such profile," Chen said.
"Otherwise you get access to lawyers who might have been in the media but that doesn't necessarily mean they're the best lawyer for the job."
The service is free for clients but costs $199 per month for lawyers once they have secured their first case through the site. MyAdvice.Legal then takes 2.5 per cent of the fee that has been agreed with the client.
With an increasing number of migrants in New Zealand, some of whom needed legal advice and others who were themselves lawyers, stage two of the project would involve translating the site into Mandarin.
There was also potential for it to one day go global, Chen said.