If you Google “lawyer jokes” you’ll be told there are roughly 18.4 million results, of which we’re guessing very few are complimentary. What UpCounsel realized is that it’s not lawyers who should be the butt of those jokes but the process of finding and working with one. Quality and pricing are traditionally very opaque for a business looking to contract for legal services. The result? The likelihood of higher costs and lower quality work. But use UpCounsel to find legal support and you’ve got expert, affordable assistance and not another “did you hear the one about the lawyer…” UpCounsel help independent lawyers manage their practices and connects them with small businesses seeking legal advice. As part of Homebrew’s Bottom Up Economy focus, we love startups that use technology to help small and medium-sized businesses access resources that were previously expensive and largely available only to larger companies. Here’s why we invested in UpCounsel:
Who: UpCounsel CEO Matthew Faustman was a lawyer at a prestigious firm when he realized that the traditional structure was undergoing disruption. No longer would clients pay for overpriced work from associates. And no longer would the smartest young lawyers want to wait around 20 years to make partner, obsessing over billable hours and not delivering the client service or completing the variety of work which drew them to the profession in the first place. So Matt decided to do something about it and teamed up with his friend (and CTO) Mason Blake to offer an alternative. Not Faustman, Blake & Associates, but UpCounsel.
What: UpCounsel helps top independent lawyers run their businesses and identify new small business client opportunities. Matt and Mason saw the end of the brick & mortar firm, foretold by lawyers who were already striking out on their own. At the same, small and medium-sized businesses were struggling to find, research and request bids from top quality lawyers. Instead of calling their accountant, brother-in-law or college buddy for recommendations, why couldn’t they just go to one place online to connect with the best professional for the job?
How: UpCounsel begins with an expanding suite of software services for independent lawyers, including invoicing and billing management. This “virtual backoffice” helps UpCounsel attorneys replace some of the infrastructure they left behind when they struck out on their own. Businesses looking to hire these lawyers visit UpCounsel and submit details of their legal needs. Lawyers respond, usually within 24 hours, and the hiring business can review ratings, costs and expertise to pick the best professional for the job.
To test this approach, UpCounsel bootstrapped to a California launch of its services. After serving more than 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses over the past 14 months, they’ve established a deep understanding of the marketplace’s needs and are beginning national expansion.
Why: Matt left behind the “safe” path to disrupt his own industry. That perked our ears - sometimes the most disruptive forces come from within. However, this disruption wasn’t tinged with contempt or disdain. We saw that UpCounsel believed lawyers could be heroes to their clients if there were simply better ways to connect to and service them. If you’re going to create the world’s largest on-demand legal workforce, you need to understand the legal profession. Matt and Mason combine an entrepreneur’s willingness to take big risks with a personal commitment to the market they service ─ a killer combination.
We’re excited to support many years of UpCounsel growth and to contribute to the decline in those unfair lawyer jokes!