August 29th, 2013 New York Legal Hackers

On Thursday, August 29, 2013, OLC attended New York Legal Hackers’ Startups Disrupting Legal Industry event at General Assembly. The panelists present were: Jennifer Berrent, Partner at WilmerHale; Abe Geiger, founder of Shake; Nikhil Nirmel founder of LawDingo; Erik Dykeman, CEO and co-founder of Caserails; and Basha Rubin, founder and CEO of PrioriLegal. Jonathan Askin, founder of Brooklyn Law Incubation and Policy Clinic, moderated the event.

Nikhil Nirmel presented LawDingo, a place where people can speak with attorneys immediately. “You can find a lawyer in minutes and speak to one almost immediately,” he said. “Just find attorneys in your state to speak to and choose the legal matter and LawDingo will connect you with the lawyer.”

Basha Rubin presented PrioriLegal, which connects lawyers to the right businesses. It ensures that people use legal services on a regular basis. “You click request on entering the site, answer a quick questionnaire to help lawyers understand what the user needs.

It’s sent to the attorney before consultation and it ensure that the conversation is as productive as possible for later discussions.” PrioriLegal allows attorneys to schedule and the option to collect fees through the platform.

Erik Dykeman presented Caserails. “Attorneys have an efficiency problem,” he said. “With Caserails, it make lawyer’s jobs easier and more efficient.” It uses an integrated word processing system that pulls metadata, which automatically formats the document.

Abe Geiger presented Shake, which is a mobile-first startup. Its goal is to make legal documents easy and accessible as possible. “A lot of people don’t understand legalese and try to avoid it all costs. This app puts power back into the user’s hands and gets everyone on the same page with simple English. We’re focused on other startups, simple agreements, repeat documents, and small businesses,” Geiger said. Signatures are done within the app and documents are be signed and sealed and sent between mobile devices on the go.

Jonathan Askin: Are you scared about what technology-oriented lawyers are doing?

Jennifer Berrent: I do transactional work. We do IPOs and transactions work with a lot of startups. Despite what you’ve heard, it’s a great time for big law firms, as long as we’re willing to innovate. It’s taking low-hanging fruit and making it available to people, but lawyers are high-ended. There’s a tremendous value for lawyers to use technology.

Erik Dykeman: I was definitely on the bottom of the totem pole as an Associate. I was surprised at how many cases the firms turned away. I think that reinforced that there needs to be more focus on smaller cases.

JA: Do you feel like you are comfortable with where you are?

Abe Geiger: I talk about LegalZoom as the big whale that’s paved the way for many of us. I think that it does take some time to update the rules. We have a very clear stance on playing by the rules. There’s no way we’re going to replace lawyers. We’re just making the field more efficient.

Nikhil Nirmel: I don’t know what people are concerned about. I think these services are good for the consumers.

Basha Rubin: People that are on the intersection of tech agree that all 50 states interpret laws in different ways and it’s antiquated. This makes for a chilling field—it makes it hard for lawyers to enter the business. With tech, it makes it easier.

JA: What do small law firms feel about law startups disrupting the space?

JB: We have a problem with level of profitable work that is problematic for us. Having a referral network is very helpful. Because we’re lawyers, we send out an email to everyone in our firm to ask for help—that’s the lawyer network. It’s annoying and hardly ever works, so having startups make the space more efficient is welcome.

NN: I think the view that small firms are threatened is a misguided view. For firms, we work with exclusively small firms and provide services to them and they’re doing fine.