As the world’s sixth largest economy and Asia’s third largest economy, India represents a significant opportunity for any legal services sector entrepreneur. In Asia Law Portal’s continuing coverage of the Asia-Pacific region’s NewLaw and legal startup economy, here’s our recent interview with Raghav Shekhar, Co-founder and CMO of New Delhi-based legal startup Lawyered.in, whose focus is on helping people find lawyers in Asia’s 3rd largest economy:
What inspired the founding of Lawyered.in?
Back in 2014, my friend and partner Shashank Tiwari, currently CEO & Co-founder at Lawyered, started working on a fintech startup idea. The idea was a mix of stock-trading and equity based crowdfunding for bootstrapped startups, little did he know that his journey to build a legally compliant business model would motivate him to start his own legal startup.
Crowdfunding norms in India were heavily regulated and forming a model complaint with the regulations of the Securities and Exchange Board was not particularly easy. After multiple attempts and later failing to find a lawyer who could decode the Indian regulation surrounding and help at startup budgets, he figured that finding a lawyer is a huge challenge waiting for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
The startup boom had just hit and students were dropping out of college to follow their passions, if legal discovery was not made accessible and transparent, it would become a huge roadblock for thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs. The fact that such an age-old service still remained untouched by technology and often out of reach of the common man was the reason Shashank thought of creating Lawyered.
I, Gauri Bedekar and Lakshya Kamboj joined a month after when Shashank pitched the idea to us. Since we had been following the startup ecosystem closely, we knew that this was a problem that needed the right solution but people dreaded working on it, just because of the rigidity of the industry. Being engineers we knew we could disrupt the market by being more people-centric, transparent and social in a rather less talked about market.
Is Lawyered both a B2C and B2B platform matching lawyers with companies as well as individual consumers?
Lawyered is primarily built for startups, small & medium scale enterprises and corporates. With a network of some of India’s finest corporate lawyers, we are able to cater to companies from all types of industries. Having a diversified network of corporate lawyers, we are able to help young startups having close to no legal budget to big corporates who spend millions on legal work every year.
We have identified the common the legal troubles faced by companies and are trying to standardize services for contracts, employment, intellectual property etc so as to provide a more transparent and affordable solution to companies.
Although we target startups and businesses, we do still generate a huge amount of traction in the B2C market. We get plenty of request for divorce, property, family matters etc and since our network also comprises of court litigation lawyers from all practice areas, we are able help individual requirements as well.
You mentioned Lawyered.in has many engineers on staff. What role do engineers play at Lawyered.in and how are they important to the future of law?
Lawyered’s core team comprises of 4 engineering graduates. When we started researching the market to understand the challenges of a lawyer’s practice, we understood that the problems shared by lawyers were really quite fundamental. The burden of physical files, inefficient communication, manual intervention for each workflow and inability to generate more clients without spending tons of money were some problems to name a few.
Surprisingly, lawyers in India did not know that technology had a solution, even if they knew, they assumed it would burn a hole in their pocket. Lawyered’s aim is to bring user-friendly, cost-effective components of techonology to each lawyer’s practice which will help lawyers spend more time on core activities, thus improving their efficiency and practice. Lawyer’s outside India already rely on SaaS tools that help them manage clients, resources and tasks, it’s time the same level of automation is experienced by lawyers in India.
The legal industry still remains untouched by great tech products, the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning seems to be heading towards law, but the implementation and mainstream use of such products still remains in a future too far. At Lawyered, our engineering is looking to provide solutions that will bring in a new age of legal practice and legal delivery. We aim to see a judicial system soon which is responsive, neutral and effective.
Lawyered.in appears similar to Australia’s LegalVision. How are you similar – and different?
Lawyered is quite different to LegalVision, mainly because Lawyered is not a law firm, it’s a place for people to find and access lawyers according to their need. We have independent law practitioners as well as partners from leading law firms of India. People can find lawyers as per their legal query and connect with them, LegalVision on the other hand, operates like a firm.
That said, the services and ideology of both the companies do have similarities, like LegalVision, Lawyered also is bringing in technology to make a lawyers practice efficient and at the same time being able to deliver customer-centric and cost-effective solutions to legal advice seekers by standardizing common legal troubles.
What inspired you to be a legal services sector entrepreneur?
Before starting with Lawyered, I along with the same team had tried our hands at a couple of different startup ideas, one was close to talent management and the other one was a clothing e-commerce venture. We had plenty of companies to look upto and technology to adapt as these sort of ventures were already up and running in some way or the other. With the legal industry though, it was a different story altogether.
As soon as we started understanding the industry during our first phase of research, which mainly included meeting with a lot of legal professionals, we understood that we could possibly be game changing. The legal industry was set in it’s own ways and the only technology they had adopted was legacy, thinking about how impactful even small technological solutions can be, we were sure legal industry was ripe for disruption, and we wanted to be the disruptors.
What are Lawyered.in’s goals for the future? Will you remain in India? Expand regionally or beyond?
The first goal that Lawyered has is to be India’s biggest legal advisory platform. As of now we are operational in all of India’s metropolitans, but we look forward expanding more regionally. India is experiencing a rapid growth on the business front, every month, more and more companies are getting registered across all cities in India. We aim to be an affordable, accessible and transparent legal assistance provider to all Indian businesses.
As a result of the keen focus the company has on technology, we aim not just to bring digitization of practice but to actually introduce groundbreaking technological solutions to make a lawyer’s practice efficient. Through Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, we are building tools that will help lawyers with their core tasks such as research and drafting, gather insights for decision making and automate mundane tasks, all in all, revolutionizing the way lawyers have been practicing.
We believe the path towards having a responsive, neutral and effective legal system starts with having an awareness of the legal system. Awareness of both legal advice seekers and legal advisors is something we have been working on through social media, public events and social activities. We think with enough effort, we can see a day where each citizen has their own trusted legal advisor.
What advice would you give law students interested in a career in the practice of law or in legal services sector entrepreneurship?
The pathway to becoming an average legal professional is well laid out in front of the lawyers of tomorrow. With over 150,000 lawyers graduating every year and a 1.5 million already in practice, the only way a lawyer can stand out is through adopting technology from the get-go.
Legal professional, although not allowed to market themselves, will need to find a way through which they can reach the millions of advice seekers, majorly through the online medium. With the surge of reach that Internet has received in countries like India of late, many professions have started leveraging the power of it to drive more business. Lawyers though are still a few steps behind when it comes to showcasing thought-leadership and sharing knowledge.
Law students have to understand and adapt to the power of the internet by being vocal about their domain expertise. This would require law students to be more specialized rather than generalized. Users these day look for legal advisors who have prior experience with exactly their kind of requirement, for example, a mobile wallet startup would only want advice from an advisor who has helped other fin-tech companies before.
Legal professionals need to select a domain, master it and then tell the world about it if they hope to build a successful practice. In my personal experience of being associated with over 250 of India’s finest lawyers, I can say with certainty that by following values of transparency, customer-centricity and excellence, every lawyer/law firm can become successful.