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 second episode of our 4 part “Starting a Start-Up” Miniseries, our host Rob Hanna hears from Guy Stern, Founder of Legal Connection how he validated the idea for Legal Connection, how he convinced people to help him in his early days and how he stays motivated!
[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, where we’ll be featuring our second episode on the miniseries of starting a start-up. So, welcome back Guy!
[0:00:17.7] Guy Stern: It’s great to be back. Can’t believe it’s been a week.
[0:00:20.4] Rob Hanna: Indeed, time flies when you’re having fun. Last week we really enjoyed chatting and this week we’re moving the dial to what we’re calling First Steps. As you know, anyone who’s had a shower has had a great idea, to quote your good self. So, we want to sort of take the idea of Legal Connection, and you want to sort of build that into a business. So, today we’re going to be talking about how you’ve actually validated that idea for Legal Connection, and how you convinced people in the early days and kept your own self-motivation. So, let’s sort of start at the beginning. Your idea, you know, you have the idea, what should you do to actually get started?
[0:00:59.9] Guy Stern: Good question, and I assume that this podcast goes out to lawyers and I know that lawyers don’t necessarily have technical skills and I often encounter lawyers or legal professionals who think that they are stuck because they have a great idea. They don’t know what to do next in terms of execution.
So, definitely the first thing you should do in my opinion is build something, create something. It doesn’t need to be a working app; it doesn’t need to be a finished product. Something that you can show, it could be a pitch deck, it could be a user experience of how you want something to look. The most important thing is to get started. You said and – yeah, you’ve quoted me for little blurb, anyone who’s had a shower has had a great idea. I have tons of these ideas when I’m in the shower. What I’ve learned is to take that idea and just take the very first step. With Legal Connection what did I do? I went on a website called Fiverr. I found a guy in India named Hiran, I’ll never forget. Our first few conversations I explained to him what my product was going to be. He charged me five dollars a screen and he mocked up about five screens for me. And that you know, back in 2017 it was the beginning of Legal connection. Today, it’s a product that is used by law firms. So, does that help?
[0:02:11.2] Rob Hanna: Certainly does, and I guess what I’m gleaming there then is it doesn’t necessarily need to be perfect. You don’t need to have the perfect idea, you need to sort of act on the ideas, is that right?
[0:02:21.3] Guy Stern: Yeah, definitely. The sad reality is, the first time that you create this app or this product or whatever it is, it’s probably not going to be perfect. And I know lawyers are perfectionists, and they don’t, for example embrace the notion of failing fast and failing often and experimenting what are some of the things that I hear in Silicon Valley? Move fast and break things. That’s not something you’d typically hear in a law firm, is it?
[0:02:46.2] Rob Hanna: No.
[0:02:46.8] Guy Stern: That’s part of the company culture of Facebook, move fast and break things, fail fast and so on. So, you got to test it. You got to take that first step, you got to make that really shoddy looking app idea thing that’s held together with sticky tape and putty and so on. And that becomes something that you can then start to show to the world and start to get feedback and you can iterate around it.
[0:03:10.8] Rob Hanna: Yeah, okay. So, then you’ve built something, or you’ve got the initial – in this case, you know, the app. How do you get people to then use your app?
[0:03:20.6] Guy Stern: For me, building the product took I guess, maybe about six months and then like you said you have a product, and I still have a product, and I try to get people to use Legal Connection every day. We’ve got law firms using it but, you know, part of business development is constantly getting in front of people.
Law is super tricky. In that lawyers are not sitting on the internet googling for a product to make their life easier. Lawyers like to do things where that they are used to doing things, and if you want to sell products into law firms, you’re going to have to really hustle. For me it comes often down to, going to events, taking up business cards and giving it to everyone I can. Today, there are no events because of COVID, so it’s literally getting on LinkedIn, messaging people, “Hi there. I see you’ve got a law firm; I’d love to have half an hour of your time to show you our product.” That’s very effective. The one cool thing I’ll say about lawyers is that they are very interested in seeing what the future of legal tech is and being involved in legal innovations. So, if you can pitch it to them, not necessarily that you’re trying to sell them something but that you can show them something that you built and getting their feedback on that is a really nice way to approach things. And yeah, in the end of the day, you got to get someone to test and use the product. The sooner the better.
[0:04:34.5] Rob Hanna: Yeah. No, I completely agree. I think the more feedback you can get and get users encouraging to use it, the better. So, you also have won international awards. So, tell us a little bit more about that?
[0:04:47.9] Guy Stern: You must be referring to the HiiL Innovating Justice challenge from 2018.
[0:04:53.2] Rob Hanna: Indeed, tell us more.
[0:04:55.1] Guy Stern: Yes, sure. So, look back when Legal Connection was still an idea in the back of my head, I did what every entrepreneur should do. I applied for every Hackathon. I applied for every start-up contest. Anything that I saw which had the word legal in it and had an application form, I filled it in. And so, something I just happened to find was the HiiL Innovating Justice challenge, it’s partnered with the Global Legal Hackathon on Johannesburg.
Access to justice is a topic relating to the five billion people around the world that lack the funding and the means to access a lawyer and solving their problems. And you know, often people in the legal tech space got their start in access to justice and certainly we did.
So, what we landed up building that brought us the attention of the HiiL team is a sort of a WhatsApp of law that would allow a community paralegal and a pro bono lawyer to work together on a case in this WhatsApp style which I explained to you last episode. And in doing so, pro bono lawyers could dip in and out of cases. Maybe in the five-minute break between meetings and could actually participate more easily in the access to justice space.
And yeah, you know, working hard, getting law firms to sort of elevate that in South Africa had me win a trip to the Hague, where I was invited – where I was one of the few teams that were all invited to pitch at the Peace Palace to an audience of attorney generals and chief justices.
It was a huge honor to go on stage and just talk about how I think the human cloud can put a serious dent into access to justice and how we think our app can facilitate that.
[0:06:29.6] Rob Hanna: Cool. Well, thanks so much for shedding light on that, particularly on the first step. I’m sure that’s going to inspire a lot of people in terms of what they need to do, in terms of starting their start-up. So, I look forward to talking next week where we’re talking about breaking into the legal tech ecosystem. So, thank you so much for joining us once again Guy.
[0:06:47.6] Guy Stern: Sounds good, Rob. Thanks, I’ll see you next week.
[Audio Ends] [0:06:50.5]