As Big Legal Brain’s resident futurist, I am often asked about the future. People have recently asked me about Shpoonkle, the new Yiddish-language lawyer matching and bidding service. While even mentioning Shpoonkle can risk an attorney getting tarred, feathered and immediately disbarred, some shmoe out there needed to take a closer look at this thing and report back about it. Lucky for you, I’m that shmoe.
I signed up for Shpoonkle within a few days of finding out about it. I wasn’t out to get cases or to get tarred and feathered. I was curious, and it’s an easy enough process to find out. Provide your name, attorney id number and contact information, then wait a few days to hear back from the crack Shpoonkle background investigation unit. It’s a nice touch, giving me the impression that, during the delay, I was being Binged, Googled and a little felt up. Thankfully, I got approved and I was immediately able to sign in to Shpoonkle as an attorney to take a look around.
First, I was surprised by how much standard English is used. While we’ve espoused the effective use of Yiddish for legal briefs in the past and understand the linguistic power of Yiddish, Shpoonkle is surprisingly Yiddish-free. Not a single shlimazel or schmendrik, or at least one of which I was aware. I had expected a Yiddish-based service to have plenty of Yiddish. But none?
Once I got over that (and agreed to a twelve page user agreement), I was off to the races. I immediately signed up as a letter writing, landlord/tenant, divorce attorney, then jumped into the gambling. And found six total potential clients, one of which already had a bid to do the work (a landlord-tenant matter) for $200 per hour. Fuck. I could have done it for $199.99, except it was in New York and I’m admitted in a state a few thousand miles away.
Granted, the six total cases were within a week of Shpoonkle opening up shop (and before the Wall Street Journal mentioned the service), so I went back tonight to get me some more bidding action. Actually, to look around. Here’s what I found:
- A total of 31 “open” cases;
- Myriad types of cases, including wills, personal injury, legal malpractice (described as “rock solid”), guardianship, contracts, landlord-tenant, blah, blah, blah. People looking for attorneys, many with stories we’ve heard.
- Cases in 17 different states, many in New York;
- A total of 14 bids on eight of the 31 open cases;
- The most bids (4) came on a request for “a simple will. We have small children. Our assets aren’t extensive or complex.”
- Of the four bids on this case, one attorney bid a flat fee of $900, one bid an hourly rate of $200 or a flat fee of $1,000, one was $400 an hour, and the low bid was $125 hour or a flat fee of $375. You cannot tell who “won” the bid.
No one, however, was looking for an attorney in my state, so I was out of luck. Or not. I mean, why not get in on some action with a bid on a New York case? I could see the Rockettes while I’m there. Take in a Mets game, commit some malpractice, buy some nachos and a beer. Sure, Rule 5.5 is a bit dodgey about this kind of thing (practicing outside of my jurisdiction), but as my boss Chank often tells me, ethics do not apply on the internet. Or in New York if I’m in Minnesota. Or in New York if you cannot find me.
I looked around a bit more in the Shpoonkles and found a Texas guy looking for “an attorney that is licensed in federal court and not altogether popular with the gay and lesbian community.” It was categorized as an “other” matter. I didn’t ask. Another person was looking for an attorney for her brother, who was already represented by a public defender but he’s not getting a good deal and, oh hell, you know the story. One guy wanted to retain an attorney to write letters to his creditors on an “on-going” basis. I’d not partake in that bidding. These few aside, most people on the Shpoonkalicious circuit were just looking for an attorney. Nothing new, in either the service or the need.
I gave up and went back to looking for a Yiddish lawyer-matching service. There’s likely one on the web or maybe one a bit more upstate. What’s my advice, as a highly-qualified resident futurist? Go be your own shmoe. There’s plenty of tar to go around. And plenty of tar coming.