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E-Legal in South Africa

[JOHANNESBERG, SOUTH AFRICA] - Dealing with the law can be both difficult and expensive. A new site aims to make finding an attorney to consult both easier and cheaper for South Africans Legalopinion.co.za.

The site is simple to navigate: you type in the URL and are presented with a map of South Africa. Upon clicking on the province where you need legal aid e.g. Gauteng- you are presented with a series of drop-down menus that allow you to search by city and/or speciality, as well as selecting the language of your choice.

The search generates a list of lawyers and firms, any of whom can then be examined for contact details, area of speciality and background information.

Those seeking a quick legal opinion can send the attorney of their choice an email. Each question costs R95 (excl. VAT) and a response is guaranteed within two working days, which is then posted onto a password protected area in the site.

Rick Jordan, who developed the website, is CEO of LegalSuite, which develops software for attorneys to use. He realized that legal firms were putting up websites, but werent receiving any visitors. So he created Legalopinion.co.za as a channel between the public and legal experts.

And he made sure revenue streams are built in. Not only does the R95/question go to Legalopinion.co.za, attorneys are charged R495 a year to list on the site. According to Jordan, attorneys use the site as a marketing tool by answering legal questions posted from Legalopinion.co.za in a legally helpful manner, they hope to eventually win new clients.

It seems there is indeed place for intermediaries in the Internet Economy.

Apart from putting you in touch with attorneys, the Internet offers an array of legal information. Acts online offers the full text of key South African acts, the Wits Law School offers a variety of commentary, links and texts, while the Search Portal FindLaw allows you to search for legal web-sites both in SA and internationally.