After launching LegalZoom, the country's most popular online legal resource, in 2001 (and then ShoeDazzle in 2009 with Kim Kardashian), O.J. Simpson's former lawyer has launched yet another website: RightCounsel. The site, which went live in February, pairs people who have personal injury claims - dealing with everything from defective products to dangerous drugs - with attorneys whose specialties match the case. Robert Shapiro sat down with THR in the site's Hollywood office to talk about his latest project, his legal practice and the foundation he started in his late son's name.
When did you first come up with the idea for RightCounsel and why did you want to do this?
We've been talking about this for at least three years. We were going to try to incorporate it at LegalZoom. Although they had similar ideas - that we wanted to bring something to the consumer that they couldn't get through normal channels - we decided it wasn't ready for LegalZoom yet and that we would do it on our own.
The idea was simple. We want to do two things: provide a public service to people where they can find the best lawyers for serious accidents and injuries, and at the same time have a business that's profitable.
I have two lawyers in my own office whose spouses suffered serious injuries. One fell down an escalator that stopped suddenly, and the other was run over in a parking lot after leaving her doctor's office. These are lawyers, and they came to me asking, "Do you know anybody who can help with this?" I said yes - and they wouldn't be the same lawyer, because one has to do with a product defect and the other is a straight negligence case. I put them in touch with the best lawyers and I said, "You know what? This is something that people really need. If lawyers don't know, the public certainly doesn't know."
The lawyers who specialize in these types of cases don't advertise. You don't see them on television. They're not on the back of a bus. They rely on other lawyers to get their business. All lawyers in personal injury cases or accident cases charge the same. So why not get the best if it costs the same?
RightCounsel launched in February. How's it going so far?
So far it's going better than we expected. We're getting a lot of traction. We need to get name identification because the name is unique and people have to learn about it. Right now, we're only doing radio advertisements and only in Los Angeles. Eventually, this company's going to grow throughout California and then across the country.
I liked the disclaimer at the bottom that basically says, "Robert Shapiro will not represent you."
Well, you know, it's not my specialty. But I do know who the people are to go to.
What's your ultimate goal with this company?
The ultimate goal is to have this across the country with a network of the finest lawyers for each particular type of injury or accident, and have a very, very significant company that serves both the public needs and is a growth company for us.
What else have you been up to? Your colleagues showed me earlier that the Brent Shapiro Foundation has a new website.
Yeah. You're right here as it's happening. The foundation is growing. Our primary focus has switched from awareness to prevention. Three and a half years ago, we launched our first Brent's Club [named after Shapiro's son Brent, who died of a drug overdose in 2005], an after-school sober club where kids get academic tools, getting courage to visit college campuses and stay sober. The idea is that if they go through our program and successfully graduate as a sober high school student, we'll get them a college scholarship.
We have grown that club from an initial group of 60 kids in East L.A. to a thousand. So far, other than two kids missing a [drug] test, we've not had one positive test. So the program is working. Look at the website, you'll see, actually. There's one video that explains it better than I could ever explain it with the director at one of our clubs.
What's your hope for the future of the foundation?
We want to put a club in every city that has a major sports franchise, have the sports franchise be partners with us and have one of their players be the goodwill ambassador to the club. There's nothing in this country that is working for prevention. There's a lot of things that are helping people who have this disease, to try to cope with it, because there's no cure. There is treatment, but it's a lifelong treatment. You can avoid all of that if you don't have the problem, or the disease. And 50 percent of the people who have it have it as a result of genetics. So if we can get to that group of people, we not only are saving lives but we're changing the course of people in underserved areas, getting them educated and getting them into society in a productive way.
Are there any other projects in the works?
We have our big foundation event coming up September 9 called a Summer Spectacular, where we raise money to support the four clubs we have and open new clubs.
What's new in your legal practice?
My legal practice is very busy. Right now, I'm representing the board of directors of Wynn Resorts and the company itself in a major piece of litigation where the largest shareholder was redeemed for being unsuitable in 2012. We have a trial in 2018. It involves a billion dollars, so it's a significant case, and I spend a lot of time in Las Vegas on that.
Are you still boxing?
As soon as we leave here. The gym is 10 minutes away, down on Vine Street. Hopefully I'll get a good workout in for a couple hours, get rid of some of my anxiety - and train for the national seniors boxing tournament. It's in July in New York. I trained all last summer and throughout the year, so I'm in pretty good shape.
A version of this story first appeared in the April 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.