110 Legal Advice, a Chinese online legal service platform, attended Baidu Union Summit 2014 as one of the top sites of the contextual advertising network ran by the Chinese search giant.
At the annual event, Zhang Lei, the CEO of 110 Legal Advice, talked about his inspiration and motivation behind the establishment of 110 Legal Advice in 2006, after he returned to China after finishing his study in Boston, USA. “For ordinary people in China, it is considered as luxury to retain a lawyer to protect one’s interests, particularly in the case of litigation.” Zhang Lei said, “We established 110 Legal Advice with the goal to provide affordable and accessible legal services to ordinary people in their everyday lives, and to allow and educate people to take legal recourse to protect their legitimate interests.”
110 Legal Advice was one of the earliest internet legal service providers in China. As of March 2014, it had over 5 million registered members and over 36,000 lawyers engaged to provide services covering all aspects of legal practice from taxation and employment to incorporation and bankruptcy.
110 Legal Advice has since set up over 400 local service stations in over 34 provinces and self-administration cities in China, providing both free and paid legal services via telephone, internet and in person.
It is not surprising to notice that 110 Legal Advice, as many other internet legal service providers in China (Lvgou, FindLaw etc) have been following the (arguably) successful precedent of overseas online legal service providers including LegalZoom. Despite minor variations in their respective business focus, these sites all offer simple and tailor made legal documents and templates that meet almost all the legal needs that a user could possibly have. They also allow users to ask questions online to any selected lawyer, or to look for answers to their legal issues.
The underlining implication of 110 Legal Advice joining the Baidu Union Summit means that there is substantial traffic generated by 110 Legal Advice for Baidu. Additionally, it also means legal service related keyword sales a considerable part of Baidu’s total advertising revenues.
Historically, the top categories that brought Baidu the most revenues include medical and healthcare. However, some of them have witnessed a slowdown and legal service related advertising has been on the rise in recent years.
Traditional legal practitioners argue that the engagement of a lawyer goes far beyond merely asking and answering questions online. An ideal client and legal advisor relationship should also include the understanding of the client’s best interests, the trust building and emotional human interaction. These are considered by some to be the most valuable parts for a successful legal service. Nevertheless, these legal service websites certainly do make it easier to skip red tape with just a few clicks. Additionally, with a fraction of what it would have cost to engage a law firm, internet legal service providers are providing a service that would otherwise seem ‘unreachable’ to most Chinese people.