Writer: Xu Yu
Kr-Asia learnt that Winteam 500 (瀛和律师机构), a B2B marketplace for legal services, has just snared over tens of millions of yuan (over $1.5 million) investment from Tamarace Capital. The money will be mainly used for product R&D and market expansion.
There were 328,000 licensed lawyers and 26,000 law firms in China by the end of 2016. But, as Sun Zaichen, founder of Winteam 500, sees it, disorder still dominates in the legal market.
On the one hand, the small law firms are struggling to grow their business and the services provided by them oftentimes fall short of customers’ expectations. Plus, lawyers at small law firms usually have to focus only on two to three practice areas. But this is quite understandable considering that there are so many sub-branches in the legal world.
On the other hand, the large law firms are grappling with the high administrative cost incurred by the numerous branches dotted around the country, not to mention the constant conflicts of interest among different branches.
There are quite a few B2B marketplaces for legal services on the market. But, many of them bury themselves solely in drawing traffic while giving short shrift to growing their offline services. Therefore, many of their cases are actually outsourced to other firms.
Worse still, many of the lawyers listed on their platforms are simply randomly netted online even without the knowledge of the lawyers themselves.
According to Sun, Winteam 500 operates on both online and offline scenarios, but it is neither of them in a pure sense.
Its operational flow goes like this. For starters, a business package including its brand, operational mode, management mode, training and more will be offered to the law firms.
Then, it will leverage some of its products to upgrade their ability to win over customers and services. When everything is in place, it moves them online.
To be more specific, Winteam 500 provides the law firms services concerning six aspects, i.e. branding, operation, information management, management, business practices and resources, to upgrade their services and help them grow their business.
To increase its brand awareness and also to let the law firms benefit from its brand awareness, Winteam 500 demands all joined law firms to name their firms in line with a standard format, which goes “province (direct-controlled municipality or autonomous region) + a name starts with Ying + law firm”.
On top of that, the market materials including promotional video, brochure, poster, periodical and company mailbox are also shared among all law firms.
Training will also be arranged periodically to further enhance the law firms’ service capacity.
To facilitate communication and information sharing among lawyers (currently over 1,000), Winteam 500 deploys a complete OA system, which includes company mailbox, video conference system, mobile app, WeChat Enterprise and more, for every joined law firm.
Staying connected helps improve efficiency. It enables a lawyer to quickly pass a case, which he or she finds hard to crack, on to the other lawyers with Winteam 500, thereby solving the case as a team.
Winteam 500 also rolled out online platforms like “Ying Cloud (瀛和云)” and “Yingzaixian(瀛在线)” in an effort to widen the law firms’ access to customers. Yingzaixian is a site that helps customers to quickly sift out eligible lawyers based on specific regions and cases, while Ying Cloud is a cooperation platform for efficient distribution of cases based on each lawyer’s region, practice area and current workload.
Thus, labor cost is saved and efficiency improved.
In June 2017, Winteam 500 launched its resource sharing platform YingHome (瀛和共享家), on which lists all the areas including offices, meeting rooms and front desks of Winteam 500 across the country that are available for sharing.
The lawyers can book the desirable spots on the site. For lawyers often on business trips, this must be a welcome news since they don’t have to make do with makeshift offices anymore.
Winteam 500 makes money by charging service fees from joined law firms. According to Sun, improving the service capacity of the supply side is only a start. In the future, it will focus more on expanding its reach to large companies.
Winteam 500 has a natural advantage at this. The recent project it took on from China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is a testament to that. The project is about CNOOC’s acquisition of 100 petrol stations across China. For a project of that scale, it definitely involves a daunting amount of legal processes.
But not quite so for Winteam 500, because it can dissect the work and assign them to law firms dispersed around the country. This, as Sun put it, is a tough act for many law firms to follow.
Winteam 500 now has over 100 law firms and 3,000+ lawyers under its umbrella. Its founder Sun also has 20 years of work experience in the legal field and has headed many law firms with 100+ lawyers.