Empty warning:You get what you pay for, and that's often less than standard servicenew "on-demand" marketplaces like UpCounsel. Also, we're still checking the facts here as it's an ongoing investigation. We encourage you to do your own research into the truth regarding the UpCounsel platform. Everything here is our opinion based on our own experiences.
We want you to help find the answers to solve this mystery! If you have had a similar experience with UpCounsel, please let us know.
About 3 years ago I decided to explore the idea of getting a patent for one of our portfolio companies. The patent was intended to incorporate some of my discoveries in the field of online education. This patent would potentially be worth millions of dollars to our particular company as it could easily become a proprietary asset in the event of a future merger or acquisition of this portfolio company.
After researching the idea of who, what, how and ways to obtain a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I realized that hiring a traditional attorney or law firm would be expensive. The average cost of obtaining a patent this way is between $10,000 and $50,000. As a new company, I knew these costs were prohibitive and would take away much-needed capital to run our business. Yes you can say if it was worth millions why not spend more to hire a traditional business...? and here I would recommend a website that works just as well as a traditional company but at a much lower cost.
Well, at the same time, I found a website called„UpCounsel“ (UpCounsel.com). When I first started investing in startups through various sites like FundersClub, UpCounsel was listed as an investment on their crowdfunding site. After researching UpCounsel's business model further, I thought it would not only be a smart website for my businesses, but also a great potential investment. Offer "Legal services for companies on request from leading lawyers' UpCounsel also promised attorneys who could do the job for a lot less money.
Well, the main point of this UpCounsel review: I wish I had never used UpCounsel, and I warn all startups, companies, and corporations to never make the same mistake!
I'll now give UpCounsel a chance to correct their mistake...before I proceed; After years of doing this, it's time to do the right thing and protect consumers.
The background and history of UpCounsel...
first i found myselfUpCounsel website in 2014/2015Although this is an updated picture of how the company's website looks now, just so you know:
As you can see when I signed up to use your service, UpCounsel looks very professional so far...misleading.
I was exploring the user-friendly UpCounsel website looking for a patent attorney who could help us obtain a patent for our company…. and then they put me in touch with someone who is probably just faking themselves and their qualifications for a law firm in America.
The following written information about an UpCounsel attorney we work with is our opinion only. You should research and research each lawyer when you decide to work with their platform.
Lawyers and profiles are likely to be unverified, misleading and possibly fraudulent.
The attorney UpCounsel put me in contact with was listed plain and simple, her name is Kanika Radhakrishnan and she works with Evergreen Valley Law Group.
After reviewing Kanika Radhakrishnan's profile on UpCounsel, where she claims to be a Harvard Law School (LLM) graduate (pending verification) and an experienced attorney with years of work on startup projects, I decided to share her Discontinuing services for less than $5,000, how could it go wrong?
I fully trusted UpCounsel's representatives now when I decided to hire Kanika because we were in dire straits and needed an affordable attorney, but unfortunately I also dug deep into her social media profile AFTER I got on clicked "queue" (still not sure which one is true!). . I was quickly drawn to a project with her because the project was only $4300 and would include all patent and research applications! Unbelievable! Again, caveat, if the expected price of working with someone in a traditional field like law is 1/10th the price, there's probably a reason. Be careful before agreeing to these "affordable" services.
Here is the social media profile of this "lawyer" that I unfortunately researched after hiring her via the UpCounsel platform (still not sure what's true! Please help us find out the truth...):
With hindsight, and knowing how important this project was to our business, I should have called the Harvard Law School Registrar directly or asked for proof of education... which we are doing now that UpCounsel has not verified its members! The reality was, and still is, that UpCounsel allows all of its attorneys to make claims about their educational pedigree and does little to assess the accuracy of its attorneys' claims.
In our opinion, it is entirely possible that the majority of UpCounsel are lawyersCreate fake profiles and do nothing to verify them. Why do I think this might be the case? still goodUpCousel Terms of Service, referring to the fact that they make no representations as to the attorney's qualifications or background claims (several times actually), it takes no more than a few simple steps and checkboxes to become an "Attorney" with UpCounsel.
It literally takes 2 minutes to become an attorney at UpCounsel. Try it yourself!
Now, for a moment, can you imagine if state bar associations would allow people to start practicing law without completing background check pages and background checks? Oh wait, you've seen it in the media and entertainment... but why did it happen to our company?
After the fact (after the eventfor these lawyers) In my opinion, much of Kanika's profile was exaggerated, and thatUpCounsel has done nothing to verify this.
After doing some background research and getting a friend to sign up for UpCounsel's New Attorney Process Test, I am convinced that they do nothing to prevent scammers or fraudulent profiles.
for the record: The penalties for practicing the legal profession without a license can be severe. Not only is it a misdemeanor in some states, but a crime in others.
only from exampleUpCounsel does not conduct a basic license check, nor does it call to speak with the candidate applying to do a legal project for someone on its website..
The legal question I would ask is if there are attorneys who have misrepresented or misrepresented any of their qualifications listed on UpCounsel profiles, can the platform be held accountable?
Two comments on the problem.: This is a big problem in the startup/on-demand market space. As a venture capitalist, it's now a class action lawsuit waiting to be served as more companies rely on services/on-demand to perform traditional functions, from medical to legal.
We estimate that this patent's lack of performance and communication has cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars as several potential buyers have resigned because they did not see the patent filing we were expecting.
Lawyers do superficial legal work, do not communicate with clients and do not meet their clients' expectations.
After we selected Kanika for her Harvard Law experience and her alleged UpCounsel record (as seen in her profile), there were many periods of silence from the attorney and from us. We have recently discovered some other online education/recruitment companies trying to replicate our technologies. That's why we had to hurry, otherwise we could lose everything!
Kanika promised that the entire USPTO filing and UpCounsel process would take less than a year. This is also a misrepresentation, as we found out later, since patent applications can take significantly longer.
After weeks (we even gave it a great rating based on the patent filing actually taking place) and then months without a word from Kanika, we reached out directly to UpCounsel to voice our concerns...
“We completed a project on UpCounsel titled 'Complete Patent Application…' last year. Although I thought it was done and in fact the lawyer (Kanika Radhakrishnan) replied... now we have nothing to show for that. I couldn't even find this pending application when I spoke to the USPTO.
I'm afraid there may be a bigger issue here and I'd like to speak to someone at @UpCounsel."
To which UpCounsel replied:
We then communicated our concerns directly to Kanika.
No answer yet... and each answer from Kanika was followed by a variation of it, it just takes time.
UpCounsel never contacted us after sending this email stating that their legal boss was "at the dentist" (as if this was our company problem?!)... and all our internal communications on this project were removed.
It's been almost two and a half years and nothing!
And even looking at Kanika's completed patent filing through UpCounsel...it was sub-par, but since this was our first UPSTO filing, it seemed to be of high quality at the time. We ended up having to make appointments and draft documents for their attorneys. In fact, we probably spent over 40 hours (which could have been focused on our business operations) making sure Kanika knew what our company was offering. As it turned out, Kanika and her team knew very little about our company, even after talking to her on the phone and giving explanations. The quality was/is poor - perhaps this is another reason for the delay at the USPTO.
However, instead of investigating the root causes/concerns of their consumers (ie our company) when I emailed UpCounsel's legal/support team, they diddid nothing to investigate our concerns.
So it's been almost 2 years...we still don't have a patent and the only reason we're looking at this now is for a full refund ($4300). So people know to be careful with these new services, and hopefully we don't have to look for legal options against UpCounsel (with triple damage) either.
Misleading advertising of a "guarantee"
Having raised our concerns several times with the UpCounsel team, through their online support (firstname.lastname@example.org), their website (using their messaging platform Olark) and alsoContacting UpCounsel CEO Matt Faustman directly, still nothing.
Turns out, back in 2014 and 2015, when we signed up for UpCounsel's legal marketplace, there was a "no worries guarantee" which you can read here (thanks to the site's archives).
If you are not satisfied with the work of a lawyer you found and kept on our marketplace, please let us know. We want to do it right and will credit your payments (up to $5,000) so you can use someone else to do it. As simple as that."
Although UpCounsel recently updated their Terms of Service in 2016, the guarantee still stands:
In short: With UpCounsel there are no guarantees.
While UpCounsel has a seemingly obvious (no pun intended) process for refunding customers, they never do!
After repeatedly asking for a refund for our problem,UpCounsel blamed her former employees for their past business practicesand yet they refused to help us get our refund based on the simplest possible request: their service and warranty terms say "No problem..." So why all the trouble?
I have also made numerous requests to speak to a member of the UpCounsel team, including through the website and LinkedIn:
Here is a list from the UpCounsel team:
Matthew Faustman (CEO of UpCounsel), Mason Blake (CTO of UpCounsel) and Tim Parks (VP of Growth)
To be clear, Matthew Faustman, I do not intend to make a Faustian deal. We just want a refund.
Their satisfaction guarantee existed and still existed.
And it's up to startups like yours to treat their customers better.
If UpCounsel disregards your attorney's credentials, it's your job to find out...not mine. My job as a successful venture capitalist and investor in some of America's best startups is to make sure companies like yours stop behaving like "startups" when they find excuses to blame and begin to behave like companies with prospects in the long term.
Get our refund. do the right thing
And start monitoring your lawyers and profiles to prevent this from happening again to companies like ours.
(1) File a “misleading” consumer complaint with the FTC about the legal services it has provided and continues to provide. (completed)
(2) Bring an action in the San Francisco District Court for negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation and other damages related to this project. (Earring)
(3) File a complaint with the State Bar of California regarding the qualifications of such attorneys (and thousands more) listed on the UpCounsel marketplace. (Earring)
(4) Social media posts to 23,000+ followers and an email list of 100,000 people.
(5) Report this negligence to more than 30 companies in our portfolio.
Just get it right and show your current and future customers that doing the right thing goes beyond “Terms of Service”.
Startup consultant and entrepreneur
- "UpCousel Reviews"