Happy lawless, government-less day. Oddly, for the first time in my life, today is the first time that I've been told that I'm not allowed to work. That working is actually illegal. The workaholic inside me is feeling a bit lost and perplexed, but maybe SueWith.Me has a solution! I'd only recently heard of this relatively new startup, but the concept is very exciting! Meet Patrick Cahill of SueWith.Me. Maybe he'll help the rest of the country file a class action against the imbeciles up on Capitol Hill who seem to be unable to do their job today (hey! it could happen!)
Tell me about yourself.
I'd always wanted to have my own business. For the past four years, I've run my own marketing firm that helps professional service firms market their services. I wanted a new challenge though, and have always enjoyed the process of starting something new.
My father was a police officer, state trooper, and president of the police union. He later on went to Suffolk Law School, so I grew up observing him and how his legal background helped him shape issues that his peers were having trouble with. My mom is part of a union as well as teacher. Their work in unions showed me how business must respond to groups of people that take issue with an injustice. Recently, I've seen my friends and colleagues protesting in public areas, and while I support their efforts, I thought there must be a more effective use of their time. Protesting doesn't seem to have much impact on huge corporations, and I thought there must be a way to organize efforts efficiently and on a national scale.
And you're not a lawyer, right?
No. I didn't make this site with the intention of shaking up how law is practiced, but I did want to create a mechanism for access to justice.
How do you envision this working?
If an individual feels that they have encountered an injustice or are owed damages from a large company or government entity, and if the entity performed an illegal act, the individual can post a description of the case, and we'll let them know whether we will post it or not. We'd use social sharing tools to grow an audience. Others can become a "peer" on these cases for $2.50. We charge $2.50 because we want to make sure people are passionate about the issue, that the people are real, and the money would go to help fund the lawsuit. It is a small hurdle to overcome, but a hurdle that makes people put their money where their opinions are. There would be multiple "tipping points," i.e. when a certain number of people sign up to a case, it could trigger an attorney review. When the case reaches the final tipping point, we hope to hand the case out to a class action law firm. We would work with a few law firms to have them pitch to the peers, who would then vote on the firm they want to represent them.
Have you been working with attorneys on this?
Not yet. The plan is to go forward and see what mistakes we make in the process. I didn't want to approach law firms until we built a legitimate platform with clients signing up. I'd like more legitimacy before approaching the law firms.
How will the recent Supreme Court cases affect you?
My understanding is that the rulings make it harder to group individuals together for a class action suit. Still, my thought is that if thousands of people come together and the law firm spends zero dollars on trying to find plaintiffs, then its still a useful platform. We're just here to provide the masses for the law firms.
How information do you collect?
We collect the basic contact information. People have to also check a box saying that they think they are affected by the issue and are owed damages. We'd then have the firms pitch to this peer network. Our use doesn't end thought when the case is handed off to the law firm. We also offer a ourselves as a simple communication platform between the law firm and peer network during the case. The law firm can also use SueWith.Me to efficiently get additional information from peers.
How long have you been around?
We publicly announced ourselves two weeks ago. We've been working on this for a few months now.
Why do you curate the ideas posted on the platform?
We want to maintain some level of quality control. We have three levels--first, we monitor what is or isn't posted on the platform in order to build a good reputation in helping to pursue wrongful cases. Second, peers pay in to help fund an attorney review, and third, attorneys assess the potential of the case. We don't really want to see the "I burned my tongue on coffee" cases."
What's been your greatest challenge?
We want more people to share their ideas and be willing to put them out there to the public. In our first two weeks, we found that lots of people have great ideas, but it takes effort to get people to submit their case ideas. We want people to open up, submit ideas, tell their friends, and then spread the word.
What's been your greatest success?
I read a previous interview on your blog where another founder said its too early to claim success. I feel the same way. However, I do think there are milestones. I got the first email earlier this week from someone I didn't know asking about posting an idea on the site. The case was strangely aligned with someone I felt passionate about. Another milestone was getting an interview request from you. Those are motiving milestones.
Any advice to the aspiring (legal or non-legal) entrepreneur?
I've started a few businesses, and a couple of them are reasonably successful--but they're all different. My advice would be to overcome the initial inertia. Ask what it takes to get someone to pay for this idea. Its good to share the idea and see if there's enough traction to validate it. Lots of people also stress about the business plan. If you have an idea of where you want to be and what you want to accomplish, forget the 3-5 year goals; instead, create small plans for next month. As you're actually implementing those small plans, you find a lot that shapes your business and makes it better. If you cling too tightly to your initial idea, it will cost you time and money.