“Being a square keeps you from going around in circles” – J. Vernon McGee
There’s something quite serene about a square, putting aside all mathematical specifics, it has a unique attribute. All sides are the same length, and all are equally important in forming the entirety of the shape. Expressions such as, “fair and square” gain an entirely new meaning.
One crucial factor aside from a square’s proportionality is also its connectivity.
Each side is linked to the other- a powerful metaphor of the link to the outside world that the justice system inevitably has.
Just as wireless networks are constantly being upgraded, so too are the “networks” of justice.
Innovative initiatives are laying down the blocks to strengthen these links, one of them being coSquare- a platform where individuals can get answers to their pressing legal questions, straight to their inbox by matching their inquiries with the appropriate legal professional.
Meet Vadim Lidich, founder and CEO of coSquare.
After working on Bay St. in the finance sector, he started to get a glimpse of the rise of financial tech, and thus began Vadim’s entrepreneurial journey. His ventures have led him into various fields, from real estate to mortgage tech, however, the legal field came knocking- quite forcibly.
Vadim started his first venture 7 years ago, while still pursuing his studies. He had little time for much else, but with successful management and a solid concept, his real estate startup was beginning to see immense growth. Yet, pressure began to mount on the competition, and “fair and square” became a non-existent concept.
"We got a cease and desist letter from a major competitor. Back then I had no idea what that meant, and naturally, I had no idea what to do. I was still a student, with absolutely zero legal knowledge. Do I ignore the letter and pretend I never received it? Do I fight it? I was lost and helpless."
Vadim soon found help by tapping into an incubator program that was able to assist him in the process,
"I don’t know what I would have done without the incubator program. I realized that these were tactics larger competitors used on startups, in order to solidify their market share. But not being a lawyer, and seeing the system for what it is, made me see an opportunity."
Suddenly, Vadim’s “opportunity” sprouted quite vigorously with the imposition of the COVID-19 pandemic,
"I was encountering the most unfortunate situations. They ranged from employment problems, divorce, and even certain people being denied residence. People were reaching out, asking if I could recommend someone to talk to. I began to see that the same feeling I had all those years prior, is the way most people feel when they are met with their first legal problem. You don’t wake up every day and say ‘I need to see my lawyer today’, that question usually arises when there is a pressing need, but oftentimes you don’t know who to ask."
Not only did Vadim see an opportunity to help but also the chance to tackle the unfortunate stereotypes surrounding legal services, such as affordability and approachability.
"I wanted people to not be afraid to reach out, and show that lawyers are often very approachable and willing to help."
There was no better time to kickstart the concept and create the platform that we know today as coSquare, launching officially in September 2020,
"From May to September I began interviewing lawyers and reaching out to licensed legal professionals who would be willing to voluntarily contribute their time and expertise in answering legal questions related to their area of practice. I was pleasantly surprised that they saw the same need I did and agreed to be a part of the coSquare community."
How does it work? It’s truly as simple as 1, 2, 3.
Once you reach coSquare’s homepage, you click on “Ask a Lawyer”, and you’re taken directly to a submission form where you are free to list your concern. Within 24-48 hours your question will be matched, and you will receive a response straight to your inbox.
Given coSquare’s no hassle model, within the span of three months, coSquare received and successfully matched over 300 questions. One of them being from retiree Gord Smith:
"During COVID, I've received some unreasonable demands from our property manager in the building. It was a nightmare - they demanded money everywhere they could. So I turned to coSquare. They helped me understand my rights and who I could call to have the problem resolved."
As the platform was gaining traction, it caught the eye of Globe and Mail’s personal finance contributor Rob Carrick.
"That was a huge turning point for us. It was one of the Globe’s first few articles of 2021, and as soon as our feature was published, our site almost crashed. We started having 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a day. I was away on a trip to Montreal but had to cut my vacation short since I didn’t bring my laptop. As I was on the train on my way back to Toronto, I was frantically trying to match the hundreds of questions, through my personal phone."
With a sudden rise, also comes the ability to adapt:
"We had to change our business model. We went from being completely free to charging a flat-fee because it was the only way to weed out inquiries that really didn’t warrant the help of a lawyer. Also, what’s important to remember, is that we don’t charge until the question is actually answered. There are other services that provide consultations, but that doesn’t guarantee an answer."
Currently, coSquare’s contributing team of lawyers, collectively have an abundance of expertise, and the legal assistance provided ranges from employment to immigration law, and much more.
"I’m so grateful for our team of lawyers. They’re such dedicated professionals. Shoutout to Samuel Michaels, Kathleen Adams, Joshua Schachnow, Dominic Alfred, Heather Hui-Litwin, and Carter Perks. Their guidance and support have made coSquare a reality and with their contributions, we are able to match questions related to various areas of legal practice. The top three topics of interest are employment, immigration, and business law because they are areas people come into contact with most, so they’re going to be seeking them out."
With easy to access solutions as coSquare comes also some skepticism:
Can the information provided be trusted? Are there privacy concerns?
"The main concern we come across is legitimacy. Can we provide the same value as a traditional law firm? Obviously, there are certain questions that require help that might exceed our current service, but coSquare is specifically tailored for people who can’t afford a lawyer, and their legal needs don’t require the entire traditional legal service. All of our contributing lawyers go through a validation process, and we make sure that they are licensed. Furthermore, all questions are submitted anonymously, so if someone slips some personal information, we remove it when we relay it forward."
On the other hand, tackling access to legal information has many David versus Goliath parallels, which can put legal tech startups, such as coSquare at immediate risk,
"The legal tech space is relatively young, and so one blow can cause an immense impact. One lawsuit can cut a company right off its feet, so generating capital is quite difficult since some investors still aren’t sure about the viability to invest in the legal tech space. However, the need is there, and I know we can help. I’m really grateful for the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University, they offered immense support to us as a legal tech incubator. I wish there were more legal tech incubators in Canada."
Aside from garnering considerable interest from clients, coSquare’s appeal to the legal community has also been striking common notes of harmony,
"Many don’t realize that 1 in 5 of those who ask questions on coSquare end up becoming a long-term client for the lawyer they were matched with, and we charge no referral fee. We’re now in a position where we are able to pay our contributing lawyers for their time and expertise offered, so we’re looking to get more lawyers and expand our reach."
Dominic Alfred, a business and tech lawyer, speaks of his contribution:
"I’m able to share my thoughts, help people, and by doing that — build credibility within the community I service".
With a steady expansion in progress, 2021 is looking to be a promising year for Vadim and his team:
"I believe 2021 will be the year of coSquare. Now is our time to make an impact, and not just be a cash-generating machine. We want to reach scale so we can remain self-sufficient, and truly provide equitable access to legal information."
Its initiatives like coSquare, that exemplify the need for equal access to justice, but most importantly, they are the artists who are progressively drawing out the lines that will one day connect this square in the making.
For more information please visit coSquare
If you would like to contribute and join the team you can connect with Vadim at:
You can follow coSquare on: