Opening Statements

More Than a Quirky Name, Shpoonkle Aims to Get Legal Reverse-Auction Model Right

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Illustration by Peter Kraemer

Shpoonkle may have a funny-sounding name, but it is no joke.

The website is the latest entry into the legal reverse-auction market, where clients can post their legal woes and get bids from attorneys competing for their business. At least three other legal reverse-auction sites have come and gone in the past few years: Tip-Mart, LawyerQuotesFast and LawBidding. But Shpoonkle founder Robert Grant Niznik is not deterred.

Niznik, a third-year at New York Law School who says he researched his business for around a month and a half before pursuing it, believes Shpoonkle is different from those already in the legal auction graveyard.

He describes Shpoonkle as more user-friendly than the others and says it offers features the other sites didn’t—including a section where clients can pose legal questions that can only be answered by attorneys, as well as an option to translate the site into foreign languages.

At least one competitor remains in business: ExpertBids. Launched in November, the site claims to avoid a common criticism of these reverse auction sites—namely that they promote a race to the bottom for fees among attorneys—by making bids visible to clients only, says founder Nick Cronin.

Cronin might have reason to know. He also founded the now-defunct LawBidding. He closed that site because of the race-to-the-bottom fee issue. Cronin believes his new site and Niznik’s Shpoonkle “are pretty much the exact same thing.”

Cronin claims 5,000 registered users to his site since its inception; Niznik says he already has 400.

Whether Shpoonkle will succeed where others have failed remains to be seen. But one thing it will be known for is its wacky name. Niznik says he once called his father Shpoonkle and thought the name would be perfect for his new business venture. He also hopes the jabberwocky will help put potential clients at ease when seeking legal advice for their serious problems.

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