Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with Brennan Ong, founder and managing director of LawAdvisor .
In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.
It’s a simple thing, really: LawAdvisor is an online platform that will help people get legal help when they need it. We’re doing this by breaking down the barriers that prevent many people from protecting and enforcing their legal rights by empowering everyday people with legal knowledge, and allowing people to easily compare the different options – along with the costs – in addressing their legal problems.
What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?
We were fortunate to receive ‘seed’ investment to finance the development of LawAdvisor as well as initial launch costs, namely, staffing, PR, and digital marketing activities.
We did extensive research about the difficulties ordinary people face when procuring legal services. This has meant that we’ve been able to design LawAdvisor in a way that addresses these issues, but we’ve also used what we’ve learnt to craft messages about why people should use and support LawAdvisor. We’ve shared this message in newspapers, TV stories, and most importantly, our social media channels. Our Facebook page has been particularly important to us, and since launching 5 weeks ago, we’ve grown to over 12,000 followers. We’ve had lots of people sign up and start using LawAdvisor as a result of these campaigns.
We’ve been delighted and touched by how many people genuinely believe in our vision to make the law ‘start helping people again’. Great legal advice can really be a tremendous force for good, and we want to connect the people who need it with the lawyers who can help them. With continued public support, we believe that our high growth trajectory will continue, and that LawAdvisor can become the driving force for change when it comes to legal services around the world.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?
LawAdvisor has two markets: people looking for legal advice and lawyers who want to provide this advice. Since launching, we have been inundated with demand from the public, which has not been mirrored by lawyer numbers. As a result, we had to pause our consumer marketing campaigns and have focused on signing up more lawyers. Given that lawyers are very risk averse, we found out that many lawyers were afraid to sign-up without approval from the leadership of their firm. We’ve had to invest time and energy in meetings with Partners of law firms to explain the system, and to educate them that LawAdvisor offers a new way of working and to reach their target clientele, in a way that supports, rather than supplants, their existing practices.
Operating in the legal space presents a challenge in its own right. The law is one of the most highly regulated professions, which has required a lot of legal advice in the development of the system. And we haven’t had the benefit of LawAdvisor to help us!
How do your differentiate your business from your competitors?
While many startups focus on building a minimum viable product (MVP) and shipping and learning quickly, we knew that wasn’t going to work for us. In order to get the support and buy-in of lawyers, we had to work closely with them to meet their requirements. We had to build the platform in a way that represented quality and sophistication – after all, lawyers treat their careers seriously and want to project the services they offer in the best possible light. We had to balance this with making it easy to use by both the general public and for lawyers who might not be terribly tech-savvy. We are very proud of the design we created, and it speaks to how focused we are on the needs of both lawyers and consumers.
Thus, from designing the platform, to creating a community, our customers are key to everything we do; so much so that we collate all feedback and review it once a week, and see whether any feedback can inform the development of future features. We listen to our customers because without them, there will be no platform.
What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?
Slack. No question. It allows our team members from Buenos Aires, San Francisco, New York, Manila, Paris, Melbourne and Sydney to communicate and work efficiently and effortlessly.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
That the best businesses care about people and prioritise them first and foremost.
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