A legal tech company that provides custom solutions for ordinary citizens and small businesses.
Knowing that more than 88 per cent of the population considers the legal services available on the market too expensive, inefficient and complex, Alexandre Désy partnered with Philippe Lacoursière to launch a virtual dispute resolution platform. The innovative project has already won them several awards, and its popularity shows no signs of slowing.
Founded in 2016, BidSettle.com helps consumers draft their own demand letters and small claims applications at low cost, using a smart form. If they wish, clients can also speak to a lawyer, obtain a legal review and even get help preparing for a court hearing—all for a fraction of the price typically charged by law firms. BidSettle.com also offers custom solutions for small businesses.
A lawyer in your pocket
Since its creation, BidSettle.com has served an average of 1,000–2,000 clients per year and has expanded its services into Ontario. The driving force behind the virtual legal platform is to use new technology to make the justice system more accessible.
According to Désy, the average person doesn’t go see a lawyer for all their legal troubles (for example, small claims or disputes with neighbours or merchants). “People don’t really understand how the system works and find legal services too expensive,” he says. “Access to justice is out of reach for most people, and that is a real problem. Imagine if 90 per cent of sick people didn’t see a healthcare professional!” What’s worse is that a portion of the general public feels it isn’t worth the effort to assert their rights. Indeed, in Désy’s opinion, only busiensses, wealthy people and those who have no choice but to seek legal representation (for example, for a divorce) set foot in a law firm nowadays.
Désy drew this conclusion based on his own professional experience as well as on his observations from when he was a lawyer employed by the Barreau du Québec, where he monitored evolving trends in the industry. He sat on the Barreau’s Committee on Participatory Justice and developed a particular interest in alternative dispute resolution. It was only natural for him to start brainstorming innovative solutions.
With BidSettle.com, Désy wants everybody to have a courthouse and a lawyer in the their back pocket. “At first,” he explains, “we wanted to provide fully automated services. We quickly realized, however, that clients still wanted to be able to consult a lawyer, which is why the platform directs them to Assistance Lawyers, a partner firm that promotes the use of new technologies in the legal profession.”
New judicial culture
Alexandre Désy is convinced that far from stealing work away from lawyers, BidSettle.com can actually help lawyers bring in new clients by generating online business volume.
“Lawyers are like artisans in that they do everything by hand, but as a result, legal services are expensive,” says Désy. “Automating part of the process or enabling the client to do some of the work themselves, makes smaller cases more profitable for lawyers while keeping costs low for clients. In order to be competitive and drive prices down, we transition away from the ‘tailor‑made’ model toward standardized, automated tasks. When Ford invented the assembly line, it put cars within everyone’s reach. It’s the same idea.” That said, Désy acknowledges that not all cases can be handled this way—only those for whom standardized processes apply to some extent.
He firmly believes, though, that lawyers must embrace new technology in order to ensure the future of their profession and expand into wide open market space. Désy also points to growing legal tech companies in the United Kingdom, France and other countries, and says that lawyers of the future will have no choice but to be skilled IT and business solutions managers.
The Quebec and Canadian legal communities have welcomed this “new judicial culture.” In 2016, Désy was named lawyer of the year by the Young Bar of Montreal, and the next year, he received a Mérite du Barreau du Québec for innovation and access to justice.
The platform itself has also received several awards: it won second prize in the La Ruche Académie Desjardins contest and first prize in the GrindSpace XL business acceleration program at Queen’s University (in Kingston, Ontario), and made the five‑finalist shortlist of the 2018 edition of “The Pitch,” an international competition sponsored by the Canadian Bar Association, which took place in Toronto.
Finally, it is worth noting that 15 per cent of BidSettle.com’s profits are donated to projects that seek to improve access to justice—an excellent way, says Alexandre Désy, for the company to put its money where its mouth is!