Lateral.ly, a start-up co-founded by a former attorney from a major law firm, is looking to upend an ubiquitous player in the legal market: the headhunter.

Headhunters have long been known to cold-call lawyers — particularly those at firms undergoing upheaval — hoping to place them at other firms and get a cut of the attorneys’ salary for their role in brokering the move. The model has been the dominant way that many lawyers find out about jobs at other firms, and the way that law firms find candidates to fill openings.

Lateral.ly, which launches today after months of beta testing, is aiming to replace the middleman with technology. It is similar to online dating for the legal business. Lawyers create their own online profiles with their geographical location, objectives and years of experience, and Lateral.ly connects them with firms that are looking to hire attorneys with the same background and objectives. The San Francisco-based start-up is currently matching up attorneys with large law firms in California, New York and Washington, but hopes to expand both geographically and to include small and mid-size firms and in-house legal departments.

Only firms that attorneys have explicitly chosen to apply to can view their profile — in other words, their own employer will not be able to see their profile.

A screenshot of Lateral.ly's online job-searching platform A screenshot of Lateral.ly’s online job-searching platform

The service is free for attorneys and law firms to sign up. Lateral.ly has partnered with a number of large U.S.-based law firms — including Skadden, Paul Hastings, Weil Gotshal, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham, Orrick, Irell & Manella, Jones Day, Baker McKenzie and Wilson Sonsini — and have signed up more than 1,000 attorneys to be part of the network.

“We wanted to make a central platform, one single place where attorneys could find all jobs, and firms could find all the lawyers,” said Audrey Barron, a former litigation associate at Shearman & Sterling who founded Lateral.ly in April with Micah Springut. Springut previously managed Groupon China’s local business unit and worked as a policy analyst in D.C. and Beijing.

Like headhunters, the company earns money by taking a percentage of an attorney’s salary once they have placed them in a new job. But Lateral.ly takes a smaller cut — typically less than the traditional 25 to 30 percent that many headhunters take. Barron declined to specify what that percentage is, other than to say it varies depending on Lateral.ly’s arrangement with the firms.

Barron and Springut got the idea last December when, after being introduced through mutual friends, they were developing Habeas Corp., a separate online platform designed to help in-house counsel find attorneys at law firms who specialize in specific practice areas. They realized that a similar platform was needed for law-firm hiring, as well.

Micah Springut and Audrey Barron, co-founders of Lateral.ly Micah Springut and Audrey Barron, co-founders of Lateral.ly. (Photo by Joe Azure)

They then enlisted the help of Chief Technology Officer Yiming Liu, a data scientist, and a handful of software developers and engineers to build Lateral.ly’s site.

“We come from a traditional San Francisco start-up perspective, that is what’s helping us bring an outside perspective to the legal industry that has been static and hasn’t seen much innovation in the last 50 years,” Barron said. “We saw a problem that could be solved by building something new.”

Barron declined to share how much in fees Lateral.ly has earned so far, or whether the company has set specific revenue benchmarks. The company has not taken outside funding, she said.

Lateral.ly’s first success story was placing Barron’s roommate, an attorney in San Francisco, who was looking to transition from litigation to corporate work representing emerging companies. She ended up jumping from one law firm to another by using Lateral.ly’s network.