Thursday, June 26, 2014

LawKick: Lawyers go Groupon

Tell me about yourself.

Aaron George and Michael Chasin met during their time at Loyola Law School. Both quickly learned of each other's entrepreneurial ambitions and past successes starting businesses. Neither of them had a strong desire to actually practice law but both saw some major deficiencies in the legal industry so they decided to start LawKick in the 2nd year of the law school career.

Tell me about LawKick.

LawKick is a marketplace for finding a lawyer. You just have to fill out a few questions and then wait for lawyers in your area to submit proposals to work with you. Conversely, if you are looking to act quickly and get a ton of savings, you can purchase a Deal for discounted legal services through LawKick Deals. 

How is it different from the legal marketplaces? Also, tell me more about your "Groupon-like" program.

We're different because we allow you to freely use the platform at absolutely no cost. We understand that legal services are very expensive, so we don't want to increase that cost. The "Groupon-like" program is LawKick Deals ( Consumers can find a Deal for discounted legal services that fits their specific need. In many instances, consumers can choose from a few different lawyers offering similar deals to find the right fit. They prepay for the Deal to lock in the savings and will get a 30 minute consultation with that lawyer. If they're not sure you want to proceed with that lawyer, for whatever reason, they get a full refund, no questions asked.

What inspired you to create LawKicks? 

We saw all of our friends, who were smart and qualified attorneys, struggling to find jobs. Conversely, we were constantly asked by our non-lawyer friends "do you know a lawyer who does xyz...?" It was crazy to us that there were so many lost clients but so many unemployed lawyers. Not only that--if there are so many unemployed/under-employed lawyers, why are legal expenses so high? In any industry, when supply is high, prices should be low. But for some reason, this normal occurrence did not exist in law. So we thought of LawKick to create a transparent and open marketplace to hopefully employ more lawyers and bring the cost of legal services down.

What's innovative about it? 

By creating an open marketplace, we have enabled lawyer to acquire clients at a lower cost than normal. Because of this, they've been able to lower their prices without affecting their profits. It's a win-win for everyone. 

What's been your greatest challenge thus far? 

Marketing. It is extremely difficult to educate the consumer about our product and to think of us when they encounter a need for a lawyer

What is the demographic of your main customer? 

Our demographic varies quite a lot depending on the type of lawyer being sought. Our most common user, however, would be an entrepreneur in their 20s or 30s looking to startup/run a company

What's been your greatest success so far? 

Efficiency. We've been able to create a site that works extremely well. Some clients receive responses from lawyers within 2 minutes of submitting a request. On average, clients don't have to wait more than 15 minutes to hear from a lawyer and typically receive around 8 lawyers to choose from.

What changes do you foresee in the company? the legal industry? 

The legal industry is changing considerably. Lawyers, while far behind the curve, are finally starting to utilize technology to benefit their practice. Our goal is--now that we've made the clients' lives a lot easier--to do the same for lawyers. We're developing products to help lawyers manage their practices better.

Are you an attorney? Did you go to law school? Are you doing the startup full time? 

Michael did not take the Bar, but did graduate from his JD/MBA programs. Aaron dropped out of law school after his 2nd year. Both doing the startup fulltime, along with 4 other people.

Lawyerist article on law startups

Interesting article this morning from the Lawyerist on law startups.

Take a look at their cool info graphic:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

FactBox: The Litigator's Fact Organizer

Lecia Kaslofsky works full-time as the CEO of Lynx Workflow. Formerly a private investigator, she continues to play a limited role in Lynx Insights, an investigative firm, which is managed full-time by another partner. She is also a full-time mother, wife and friend, so I'm grateful to have caught a few minutes to interview her.

Tell me about yourself.

As a corporate investigator, I worked with the best litigators in the world for decades and have personally managed multi-million dollar professional-services organizations. I have the utmost respect for litigators. We find the facts, and they use the facts to win cases! It's a great partnership.

I’m a native San Franciscan and spent many years in New York. Out of college I started a small research company – mostly as an excuse to hang out in the library – and that very quickly grew to a staff of subcontractors doing mostly investigative and financial research. I next cofounded the international investment arm of a DC-based bank and ran that before heading back to the field of private investigation. Then I turned 25. Using technology and visualization software to streamline work has always been part of my DNA. Writing HTML and knowing basic programming languages helped. With my partners, I ran and grew an investigations business and that was enormously rewarding. I eventually left to develop Lynx Workflow.

Ed was also a partner at the investigation firm. He had always been very active in the art scene in New York and eventually co-founded an organization that brings awareness about climate change through art. Through his work with that organization, he was offered the prestigious Loeb fellowship at the Harvard Design School and left the investigations firm to do that. It was not his first journey to Harvard; he also holds a Masters degree in Japanese poetry from there, and is quite the renaissance guy. He still plays an active role in the international art/climate-change discourse while not leading design and product for Lynx Workflow.

Record facts, notes, and ideas
Tell me about Lynx Workflow and FactBox

In litigation, attorneys must work with big volumes of complex factual information. Our flagship product FactBox is an easier way to manage all those facts by capturing all the ideas, facts, and notes of the workday, making connections between all those facts, and readying those facts for a client-focused report.  Although Lynx Workflow has other offerings, FactBox is dedicated to the professional services industry. It’s an SaaS product that transforms ideas into work product.

Analyze, sort, and dig into your facts and notes
How is it different from its competitors?

Generate work product directly from your facts
FactBox could be described as Evernote meets CaseMap. It has an intuitive, easy interface with the organizational features of a more robust product. Other litigation management platforms require 100% adoption and profess to do all things related to the litigation process. That’s great for some firms, but we hear that even with these total packages, litigators are still working the way they always have – email subfolders, Word docs and sticky notes. FactBox meets litigators where and how they already work.

What inspired you to create FactBox?

As a partner in a large investigative firm, I grew increasingly frustrated at the inefficiencies of the job. I found timekeeping, report editing, and organizing exhibits to be an excruciating time drain. So, my cofounder Matthew Carmody and I created a skunkworks program to solve these workflow problems. Our first product made it much easier for investigators to record expenses related to their searches. That sounds boring at first, but these types of minutiae weigh down a professional’s life. In the first month, we saw widespread adoption and thousands of dollars added to the bottom line. We made happy investigators and happy partners.

The cofounders went our separate ways and eventually reconvened to work on innovating workflow solutions for professional services. Lynx Workflow recognizes that that facts and ideas in the litigation process get put in email, folders with subfolders, and Word docs, so this workflow system allows people to save time and energy, and results in a better work product. We found that litigators that bill over $500/hr often spend 10 hours a week redoing the same work. We are passionate about automating work a computer does better, and leaving the real service-level work to the human. 

What's innovative about it?

The real trick with work-productivity software is not making the user change his/her current way of working. We spent almost two years iterating and testing different solutions before we got to the current FactBox product. FactBox is designed to let each person – and groups of people – continue working in their own style, with the lightest of interference. The result is an easy-to-use tool that gives back 1000X what you put in. There are other, and even more robust, fact-management tools for litigators but they require a thick manual and training program. That’s not realistic to how professionals like working today.  Plus, we really love professionals and have the highest respect for what they do. That respect shows in every nuance of FactBox.

What's been your greatest challenge thus far?

Finding the balance between getting FactBox into the hands of users and building out all the features we know our customers will want. Our initial customers – litigators at major law firms working on high-impact cases – don’t have extra time and expect the highest quality from day one.

What is the demographic of your main customer?

Our initial customers are litigators and more specifically tend to be: (1) senior associates who are ready to maximize the efficiency of their workday and (2) partners who want better work-product from their associates. Even though FactBox does reduce unbillable time, we find the prime motivator for our customers is providing the most exceptional service to their clients. FactBox helps them do that.

What's been your greatest success so far?

We provided a very early version of FactBox to five firms – including two Amlaw 50 firms – for them to use on real cases and provide design feedback. This required the firm to sign-off on our security and SaaS technology--an important benchmark for us.  Additionally, despite the basic interface and bugs, every one of those firms opted in to continue using (and pay for) FactBox.

What changes do you foresee in the company? the legal industry?

There are many features and exciting dimensions of FactBox waiting in our roadmap. I can’t wait to grow and deliver excellent products to our customers.

As for the legal-industry prognostication: it really bothers me when people talk about big law dying or predict a world of total legal self-service. There are huge leaps of productivity needed for sure, but the bottom line is that lawyers have real skills that add real value. Being a counselor is more than reading a law book; great lawyers are trained to think about a problem and give you expert legal-specific advice. That will not go away. The professional-services field will not be commoditized and I challenge anyone who thinks it will be.

Are you an attorney? Did you go to law school?

I am not an attorney, nor have I ever considered it. My partner Ed got close to being one. He got a perfect LSAT score, in fact, and turned down Harvard Law School to pursue a dual career in investigations and climate-change activism.