Every great start-up company is built around a big idea, some product or service that didn’t exist in the world and a passionate founder who wanted to bring that idea to reality.
In the first episode of our 4 part “Starting a Start-Up” Miniseries our host Rob Hanna hears from Guy Stern, Founder of Legal Connection on the origin of his big idea and why he eats, sleeps and breathes Legal Tech.
[0:00:00.0] Rob Hanna: Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast powered by Kissoon Carr. I’m your host Rob Hanna. Today I’m delighted to be joined by Guy Stern, the cofounder and CEO of the Legal Connection. So, a very big welcome Guy.
[0:00:15.8] Guy Stern: I’m so happy to be here. Thanks Rob.
[0:00:18.2] Rob Hanna: Absolute pleasure. So, before we talk about the Legal Connection and everything that you are up to, we do have an icebreaker question on all of our shows on Minisodes. So, on the scale of one to ten, ten being very real, how real would you rate the hit series Suits in terms of your knowledge of the TV world?
[0:00:36.0] Guy Stern: Well, Suits is totally real. I mean, it’s like they went into a law firm and filmed with hidden cameras.
[0:00:42.4] Rob Hanna: There you go – there we go, we have it. Hidden cameras in there, it’s all real. So, for people not so familiar about the Legal Connection, tell us about it.
[0:00:50.5] Guy Stern: Sure, the very fast elevated pitch is that Legal Connection is a communication and collaboration platform for legal professionals. I mean, if I’m explaining it to the people in my industry, I often say, “It’s a WhatsApp of law”. Lawyers use it to connect to the other lawyers and to connect with the clients.
[0:01:05.0] Rob Hanna: Okay. Let’s break that down then. Every startup is around a big idea, so where did your big idea come from?
[0:01:11.9] Guy Stern: I was actually thinking about that this morning that I can sort say any number of events or things that happened in my life that brought me to this idea. But I don’t think this is necessarily one, you know, apple falling out of the tree, sort of moments. I think I quite consciously decided I wanted to build a startup.
I was looking for startup ideas, honed it on law, spoke to many, many lawyers. Played with a lot of different concepts, one of them being websites for law firms, videos for law firms, a find a lawyer service, and just with the different conversations that I had, it sort of emerged one really cool product, that didn’t seem to exist was a digital platform that lawyers could use. From their phones, from the laptops to communicate with each other and work in groups. I worked with one particular law firm. They’re relatively young lawyers like myself and the work that they were doing was predominantly face to face meetings where they would sit and write notes on a piece of paper and a pen. And then, you know, emails that would go back and forth when they needed to ask me questions. What I felt was missing was a tool where I could be in a chat room with all the lawyers. Watching them work, being involved, sharing files, seeing a thing go run in real time. And that sort of – it’s started to build.
[0:02:17.7] Rob Hanna: So, you talk about the WhatsApp of law which is great. How does that work?
[0:02:22.0] Guy Stern: Okay, so it’s a concept that you should be quite familiar with. You’re in a lot of WhatsApp groups so – I’m imagining, so am I and so are all of us, WhatsApp groups and WhatsApp chats, and throughout the day you will jump in and out of those conversations and you will answer. One-word answer, sentence answer, you’ll read what happened, you’ll come in, you’ll come out. And that’s sort of how our brains work. But if you look at the way that a lot of law firms and lawyers operate, it’s set long meetings where they would sort of do briefs with clients, and other times where they’ll be very quiet and focused in work by themselves.
So, when you have a few people working together in a group chat, mostly working in text chat, what happens is, people can follow on the conversation in an asynchronous manner, and it’s a really powerful way of doing problem solving. And it really speaks to the way the world works today. People are busy, everyone’s doing a lot of the things at the same time, and getting everyone together on a Zoom call, getting everyone together in the same room to solve problems at the same time is not really possible anymore. So, using these group chats, you can sort of change the way that lawyers work. And in doing so, you can actually speed up the process of servicing the client. So, it’s better for the lawyers, better for the clients. And yeah that’s little sale-y, but that’s the – a sort of really big idea.
[0:03:33.1] Rob Hanna: Yeah. No, I love that. It’s a faster, more efficient, slicker process.
[0:03:38.1] Guy Stern: And then sometimes people say to me, “Oh, why not just use WhatsApp?” you know, and WhatsApp is a great tool, but it’s not right for lawyers. You might be a lawyer needing to be briefed on a case. If you get into a WhatsApp group, you can’t read what happened before you. Also, those files would then be on your personal phone. So, if you leave the firm, you take it all with you. So, we tried to borrow some of the best parts of WhatsApp and then create a secure user experience around it. And something that spoke to the legal professional in the way that they need to operate.
[0:04:04.7] Rob Hanna: Great stuff. And you definitely sort of eat, breathe and sleep all things legal tech. Where does that sort of passion come from? Because it’s really important if people are trying to get a start-up of the ground, they have the big idea. The idea is just one part of it, you’ve got to have that passion to follow all the way through. Where did you get yours from?
[0:04:22.4] Guy Stern: Yeah, that’s a good question because if you told me, three or four years ago when I was living in South Africa that I would now be living in London. CEO of a legal tech startup and literally spending all day talking about legal tech. I wouldn’t have believed it. I think me – it really just grew on itself, you know, in the beginning it was a cool little nifty startup idea that I wanted to enter into a startup contest.
And the more I learned about it, the more I listened to podcasts and read blog articles and went to legal conferences, the more excited I became about my idea and about the industry that I was innovating in. And I don’t know if that answers that question, I don’t know if there is one particular light bulb moment or if there was something innate in me. I think I just get excited about it because it’s pretty cool. What do you think? I mean you’re in the same sort of sector that I am. Why did you get into law?
[0:05:10.3] Rob Hanna: What I liked about our common synergies in terms of what I’m trying to do from a – more of a legal recruiting careers perspective is disrupt the sector and embrace things such as technology for the good, and that’s why I think particularly what you’re doing in the legal connection is great. But I guess, sticking with the theme of the – the big idea for the Legal Connection, were there are lots of other ideas that you sort of played with before that didn’t happen because you get lots of entrepreneur, people trying to get involved in legal tech, legal start-ups, it’s tough. So, how did you know this was the right idea?
[0:05:40.1] Guy Stern: Yeah, that’s another great question. So, you know, back in 2016, I’ll tell you one of the first ideas I came up with. It was a website where you can type in a legal problem and a few lawyers would bid for work, they’d each give a paragraph about why they should get the job and how much they would charge. It was a pretty shocking idea, but if I think back to how I was then, I wanted to keep this idea secret, and build it as fast I could, you know. And then it was only through sort of chatting to people that I realized, firstly this already exists. There’s many versions of this that already exists. They don’t work for the following reasons. I tested one or two of them.
And then you take the idea and you go, “Okay, well that’s not going to work. What if I change this? And what if I change this?” And the first idea that I actually started testing and bringing to market was around 25 minutes phone calls with the lawyer.
So, you would pay a certain amount which is about ten quid and you would type in a topic and we would connect you to the lawyer who will speak to you on the phone for 15 minutes about a topic of your choice. Doing that we realize that there was this missing thing, we could very easily get the lawyers to chat to the clients.
But the client needed to share a file, they’d need to give an email address, they need to set up a time for the phone call. Sometimes they want even more information, more advice. Sometimes the lawyers wanted to quote the clients and because the client and the lawyer were in different places and different spaces again, it just felt like there was this missing product, a place where the lawyer and the client could connect in cyber space, do the work that needed to be done and get on with their lives.
And I entered Startupbootcamp in 2017 with this sort of first idea of Find a Lawyer app. And even with Startupbootcamp, they took a look at some of the user experience screens that I built on where the lawyer and the client would chat. And, “Why don’t you build that thing?”. And so, another thing happened which was, lawyer I was working with – dealing with, she said, ”I’ve got an interesting feature for your product. What if it could help me to track referrals? I deal with a lot of lawyers in my network and many of them don’t work for my firm and I’m constantly sending out work and collaborating with different lawyers from different firms. What if there was a product that could track that?”
And I said, “Well, that’s not exactly what I’m doing, but let me think about it” and again, it was a lot of sort of distilling and taking this and putting that on top of that, what if I put this concept and this concept together? I’ll be lying in bed at night and I’d sort of picture the app, and I picture this window and this stuff and this links to this.
And it slowly just sort of came together in my head. You know, to the point that you look at it now, when I showed you the product, and you said, “Oh, wow! this is so simple.” But it wasn’t simple in the beginning, it was a very complicated process which involved lots of coffees with lots of lawyers, lots of brainstorming. Lots of picking up ideas, throwing them away over and over again before we came up with the big idea which we now talk about as the WhatsApp of law.
[0:08:13.2] Rob Hanna: And I just love that idea. And obviously next week, and throughout the minisode series we’re going to be talking about the next steps and how you break into that. But I guess, just sticking with the sort of big idea theme as we wrap up. Any tips for people who want to try and get creative or are struggling to get creative with ideas or you know, or reservations or concerns that they have. Any tips that you would give to those people? Because everyone is trying to attack the legal sector right now, because it’s so under innovated when compared to other sectors. So, what would you say to people trying to do that or were trying to get those creative juices going?
[0:08:43.0] Guy Stern: Exactly. Look, I think it’s never been a better time to innovate, there’s so many platforms. If you look at the Global Legal Hackathon for example, I attend that event religiously every year. You know, you get thrown in a room with different people, technologist, lawyers, fusing ideas together. Take every meeting you can, have every coffee you can. You never know when the best ideas will fuse and things will come together.
Look at you and I, I went to the Hackathon. I joined a team called the Magic Box. You and I happen to be on a panel last week, and I saw your name there, and I saw a picture of your podcast and I reached out you, and look now we’re chatting. So, it’s really great to be operating in a network of fellow innovators. And I think if we can embrace that network and share ideas to people, it can really lead to some magical things.
[0:09:29.6] Rob Hanna: Great stuff. Really enjoyed hearing a lot more about your sort of the big idea and the Legal connection, Guy. So, I look forward to chatting next week around the sort of first steps that people need to take to hopefully inspire future entrepreneurs and people trying to break into the start-ups as well. Be that in the legal or other professional services and beyond sectors. But it’s been an absolute pleasure, I look forward to chatting more next week.
[0:09:51.4] Guy Stern: Sounds good. But I’ll try to get us some good under the hood secrets for you for the next week’s episode.
[0:09:56.3] Rob Hanna: Good stuff. Cheers Guy.
[0:09:58.0] Guy Stern: Cheers mate.
[Audio ends] [0:09:59.1]