Robert Grant Niznik had commiserated with other third-year law students about the lousy job market and was wondering what he was going to do after finishing his courses at New York Law School this month. At the same time, he'd read about middle-class people who didn't qualify for Legal Aid services but couldn't afford high-priced attorneys. So, in between going to classes and studying for exams, he came up with the idea of a matchmaking Web site where recent law graduates could hone their legal skills by bidding alongside other lawyers for clients seeking affordable counsel. ...
Mr. Niznik, who says he owes more than $140,000 in student loans, thinks that with the depressed job market and the number of people who can't afford legal services, the time is right for his service to succeed. The Association for Legal Career Professionals reports that by nine months after graduation, only 64% of law graduates in 2010 had full-time jobs that required a J.D.
The result is Shpoonkle, a reverse-auction site where potential clients describe legal problems and lawyers bid to see who can solve them for the lowest price.
Perhaps alerted by the silly name, the legal establishment sat up and took notice. As Shpoonkle grew—Mr. Niznik says the 10-month-old venture now has 25 employees and more than 5,000 members, including some 2,100 attorneys—a backlash began to brew. "Any lawyer who signs up for this service should be immediately disbarred, then tarred and feathered, then publicly humiliated," Scott H. Greenfield, a prominent criminal-defense lawyer in New York, fumed on his blog, Simple Justice.