A serial entrepreneur who last year launched a comparison website hailed as a TripAdvisor equivalent for solicitors is offering a stake in the business to law firms which invest.
Saleem Arif (pictured), who also co-founded the QualitySolicitors network in 2009, is offering a year’s free membership and an equity stake in ReviewSolicitors in return for an upfront investment of at least £3,000.
He hopes up to 50 firms will take up the offer, raising £150,000 to add to £350,000 sourced from angel investors. The business will also seek to raise cash through crowdfunding.
'We would like to give the market an opportunity to become involved in ReviewSolicitors, and its success, from the outset,’ said Arif, who claims the initiative is the first time a new business in the legal sector has invited businesses from within the industry to become shareholders. 'Our aim is to work with our investors to shape the business according to the needs of the industry as a whole.’
ReviewSolicitors lists every law firm in the UK and offers members a £250 ‘Pro’ membership package. It provides a benchmarking resource that helps people seeking legal advice to assess the benefits of a law firm, based on its reputation. It also ’enables solicitors to showcase their credentials and build a dialogue with potential clients’.
Arif told the Gazette there is ‘no question’ of firms which buy a stake being allowed to ‘censor’ or remove negative reviews. 'There is a misconception that a bad review is the end of the world, but in fact it’s an opportunity to put the client right and to show that you care about service,’ he said.
When he launched the site almost exactly a year ago, Arif said his aim was to get 1,000 firms signed up for the £250 premium service, giving firms top placing in search results, enabling them to appear on the page of rival firms and providing social media support.
He said the venture would set itself apart from other legal comparison websites through focusing on service levels rather than price.
So far some 500 firms have signed up for either the premium or free membership offer.
The business is also seeking to integrate with the major legal IT suppliers, following tieups with Eclipse and Redbrick Solutions.
ReviewSolicitors’ management team includes director Pete Storey, a former colleague at technology corporation IBM, who went on to found a comparison site for insurance firms in Australia.
Michael Hanney, former head of business development at QS, is also a director.