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We took Lawtrades to 630K MRR. AMA.

Hi everyone,

I’m Ashish, cofounder of Lawtrades (Lawtrades.com). Lawtrades is a platform used by freelance legal talent to flexible remote work. We manage the entire experience from talent discovery, payroll, compliance and more. We’re used by legal teams from companies like Doordash, Angel List, Gusto, Pinterest and many more.

After a few major pivots, Lawtrades is doing quite well, we’re going to cross 700k per month in revenue soon and we only have a team of 11 full-time.

In my role at Lawtrades, I helped onboard our early set of supply side talent, closed our first 2m in sales before even hiring a sales person and built out our early acquisition channels that helped us scale our revenue.

Although we’re profitable, in our early days we raised a seed round from 500 Startups, Draper Associates and a syndicate on Angel List.

AMA!

  1. 4

    How did you get your first customers? Did they sign contracts (or LOIs) before the product was finished, did you show them just a demo, etc.

    1. 1

      Our first customers pre and post pivot were always through just sheer hustle. Going to events, asking friends for intros to decision makers, asking for vendors that we used to make intros etc. etc. as we got some validation, then we started spending on marketing.

      As per your second question, marketplaces have the advantage of getting started manually. You're able to manually talk to your users, connect them over email, send an invoice and collect feedback all without a product. That's what we did in the early days, everything was stitched together via Airtable, zapier, google sheets. I always recommend this approach because it helps you figure out how the product should actually work and you can build at the same time.

  2. 2

    Hi Ashish - congratulations on the milestones. A few questions:

    • How did you start Lawtrades? What was the inspiration behind the idea, and how did you validate it?

    • You mention that Lawtrades is used by the likes of Doordash, Angel List, Gusto, Pinterest. What did the process of getting those companies as customers look like? How did you get 'in the door' with them?

    Thanks!

    1. 1
      1. Halfway through law school I felt miserable and stuck. I knew I wasn't going to get the big law job out of law school, I hated all my summer internships and the traditional path just felt like a nightmare. Plus I had a lot of student loans too. Luckily my good friend and co-founder Raad Ahmed, felt the same way and we started dabbling with Lawtrades. In terms of validating, we onboarded about 5-10 lawyers that were good startup lawyers and a lot more affordable than big law firms. We started going to meet up events and pitching founders on Lawtrades. We would manually show them profiles over email, coordinate free consultations, send them a stripe link to pay and then gradually build out a product at the same time. We tried to solve for distribution before product, I think a lot of marketplaces have this luxury at the early stages since you can handle the service manually.

      2. See below:

      Angel List: I knew someone that worked there as an investor and asked him to pass our sales deck to the Chief Legal Officer. He later reached out to coordinate a call.

      Pinterest: Udemy is a happy customer of Lawtrades and they referred me to someone at Pinterest.

      Gusto: They found us through an event sponsorship.

      Doordash: Another legal tech provider that I networked with had Doordash as a customer and he graciously made the intro.

  3. 2

    How much freelance talent did you have signed up before launch? How do you vet the talent to make sure it’s of high quality?

    1. 1

      At the most a few dozen, definitely less than 50. We were very scrappy because we didn't have a dedicated person to help us bring on the supply side. I would get requests from clients and based on those requests, I'd know who to bring on to the platform and I'd try to find the talent simultaneously. This approach helped because there are so many different types of lawyers based on practice areas. It would have been a nightmare to build up each practice area individually and then try to find the clients.

      In terms of vetting, we find folks that used to work in-house but are now looking for flexibility with their careers. Since our clients are predominantly in-house legal teams, we think the best scenario for them is to find someone that used to work in-house. We try to find options that have done the same type of work and have a really good track record of doing it. We do things like screener calls, reference checks, background checks etc.

  4. 1

    Hey Ashish

    You mentioned that you try to look for lawyers with in-house work experience and that applicant to the platform go through a rigorous vetting process.

    I'm curious to know what the most common reasons are for applicants not being accepted. Presumably, there are a lot of BigLaw leavers now who I'd imagine would love to join Lawtrades but may not have the in-house experience your clients are looking for.

    1. 2

      Good question, we'll still work with folks that have only law firm experience but we find that the ones with in-house experience tend to be the best fit.

      Common reasons that we decline folks:

      • They might charge too much
      • Skillset is too niche and we don't have enough demand for them
      • They are looking to work permanently in a more traditional role in the very short-term
      • Not a good personality fit or aligned w/ our culture/mission
  5. 1

    Congratulations Ashish🎉

    I'd like to know how you've handled initial traction generation, provided that you didn't have the budget for marketing. 💰

    What has been the most successful channels you've used?📡

    An additional Q: How did you make your users engage with your product?⚡
    Were you developing features (that you thought were useful) constantly? ⚒
    Did you reach to a stall at some point (if yes, at what time?)⌚

    I know it's a lot(already asked 😂) to ask! But I'd be glad 🙏 if you were checking out our tool: https://www.pricewell.io/ and tell me your thoughts on it.

    Thank you

  6. 1

    I would love to learn more about your experience because I am doing something similar in another industry and would love to chat if possible.

  7. 1

    Three questions I would love to hear about:

    1. What was your very first acquisition channel for customers and service providers?

    2. What has been your most successful acquisition channel for customers and service providers?

    What has been your most valuable lesson when it comes to identifying and building acquisition channels?

    1. 2

      Hey Farzan,

      1. Our assumption was that an ideal customer was a general counsel at a high growth company. My hunch was that they would need extra support since usually they're one of the only lawyers at the company managing ALL legal affairs. Cold emails didn't really work since they are busy people and naturally get pitched on legal tech solutions all the time. I would find an employee at the company that I was connected to and ask them to pass our deck to the decision maker. This worked for a lot of our early customers. From there, we would go on to build partnerships with organizations, sponsor events, incentivize referrals to more customers etc. For service providers, I relied on my network, Linkedin and job ads.

      2. On the customer side, the most successful by far is working with communities that your prospects are part of. Ask yourself questions like, where do my ICP's get their news? How do they find conferences, valuable content etc.? Find those communities and work with them. On the supply side, Linkedin by far.

      Most important lessons in no particular order:

      a) Find trusted sources and collaborate with them.
      b) Find channels with good unit economics. For instance, we know Google adwords can drive leads but it's so expensive for us and we just stay away.
      c) Start building your own community w/ your core customers and prospects even if it's small. We found hosting our own webinars, having a good newsletter, podcast etc. is a great way to build up your brand and reputation.
      d) Nothing beats word of mouth. Nail the customer experience for your early users and incentivize referrals.
      e) It's OK to do things manually. Worry about scaling later on.

  8. 1

    Fantastic Ashish!

    How do you plan to compete with companies that have raised capital like Deel? How have you beaten them so far? :)

    1. 1

      Hi Prashanth - I wouldn't say Deel is a competitor because they don't help you identify talent to work with. What we consider competitors are the legacy staffing institutions and the very high end law firms that charge significant amount of money for routine work. We think through a productized approach, we can offer more flexible engagements, better pricing and overall, a much more seamless experience. I think there's a massive opportunity for startups to disrupt the legacy staffing industries across all professional services. You're already seeing this with companies like Toptal, Turing, Pilot, Catalant etc. The incumbents are way too costly, not tech focused and have a generally have low customer satisfaction.

  9. 1

    Ashish,

    Glad to hear your doing well. Do you see this service as similar to the "teleheath" space but instead it would be "telelegal"?

    1. 1

      I don't.... to me Telehealth comes off as very one-off. You have an issue, get a consultation with a doctor and get the issue addressed. With Lawtrades, you're going through a process to hire someone to assist you on an on-going basis. There are services out there though that make it easy for someone to find a lawyer for a one-off consultation for consumers and smb's and those to me are more "telelegal".

  10. 1

    Hey Ashish,

    What were some of the major pivots you took + why'd you take them?

    1. 1

      From 2015-2018ish, we focused on servicing small business users and early stage startups. We'd help with areas like incorporation, trademarks, contract review etc. The challenge that we ran into was that the average SMB user doesn't need legal services as frequently as we thought! We would attract a lot of customers but the unit economics never made sense. This was total bummer because we tried so many iterations on the product, business model and nothing seemed to work. We would spend a lot on marketing, business development etc. only to get customers that might use us once or twice per year. With a marketplace model, that's hard to sustain.

      At this point we were pretty low on runway and even demoralized to an extent because we put so much effort into this. Letting go of those early employees was painful and we were back to our core team that we started with. It also didn't help seeing fundraising news about Atrium raising tens of millions of dollars to try the same thing too.

      We didn't give up though and we knew that this supply side of high quality legal talent was useful. What we found after talking to more users was that legal teams, general counsels at high growth companies were overworked and overwhelmed and it turns out that this customer segment would want access to our supply side on a daily, weekly, monthly basis so we made the pivot to start servicing those customers. After working with a small number of those customers, maybe about 5-10, it was very obvious that this was the segment that we should be focusing on.

  11. 1

    Did you see a real spike on your supply side in 2020 due to covid? Do you think you'll need to go for more funding beyond a seed round? Do you generate a lot of word-of-mouth sales? What are your main marketing channels?

    1. 1

      Covid definitely helped us with our supply side substantially. I think now more than ever, people want to work for themselves and work flexibly, which definitely helps our business since we can support them.

      Raising more beyond a seed round is something that we constantly think about. On the one hand, we're profitable and growing. On the flip side a fundraise can definitely help us hire quicker, expand faster and have more of a war-chest to experiment with.

      Main marketing channels are sponsorships, partnerships, our own community and word of mouth.

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