LawPivot: The Google-Backed, One-Stop Shop for Startup Legal Advice

2/28/11Follow @xconomy

For startups, getting good legal advice can be costly and time-consuming. And for new lawyers, building up a client list also takes a big time commitment. Now there’s a Web Q&A site backed by Google Ventures that aims to solve both problems at once. It’s called LawPivot, and it recently set up shop right on the Google campus in Mountain View, CA, within easy striking distance of hundreds of Silicon Valley startups.

The company’s founders are veteran Silicon Valley lawyers Nitin Gupta and Jay Mandal. CEO Mandal was previously the lead mergers and acquisitions lawyer for Apple, and Gupta, vice president of business development, worked as an intellectual property litigation lawyer for Townsend and Townsend and Crew (now known as Kilpatrick Townsend). Both lawyers “saw a lot of fundamental changes going on in the legal industry,” Gupta says. “There were a lot of pain points for startups, and for the lawyers.”

For startups, one of the pain points is cost. The average billable rate for lawyers in Silicon Valley can run between $300 and $600 per hour, Gupta says, a hefty price for startups with limited capital. Different types of legal issues—immigration, intellectual property, patent—can require different kinds of lawyers, and tracking down the right one takes time and research. “I’ve seen startups who avoided legal issues for the purpose of saving money because they were cost-conscious in the beginning, and it took a toll on them because they didn’t protect their intellectual property,” Gupta says.

Individual lawyers face a different problem. Once they join a firm, they need to drum up business to get promoted or make partner. But most lawyers aren’t prepared to make a good list of contacts straight out of school. “All of a sudden, you’re expected to develop business within one or two years to hit partner at that law firm,” Gupta says. “Lawyers are panicking.” According to Gupta, most lawyers only have 10 to 15 hours per month to dedicate to increasing their client list, and they need a more efficient way to develop their business.

LawPivot solves the problems on both sides, by connecting startups with qualified lawyers who will give them legal advice—for free.

Entrepreneurs can go on the site, draft their confidential legal questions, and tag them with keywords and the general subject matter. Once submitted, the LawPivot search engine will recommend up to 10 lawyers to answer the query, and the startups can use the suggestions and detailed lawyer profiles to pick the attorney they want to answer their questions. “This isn’t a public forum,” Gupta says. “In this situation, the company knows exactly who they’re sending their question to.” The companies can expect the answers to their questions to be in their inboxes within 24 to 48 hours. For the lawyers, it’s an introduction that will “hopefully develop into a long-term relationship.”

The service is set up so that attorneys can only join the network if approved or invited by the LawPivot staff. “As lawyers, we have a pretty extensive network,” Gupta says. The company isn’t releasing how many attorneys are on the service so far, but says they come from … Next Page »

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  • http://willzuckermann.wordpress.com Will Zuckermann

    I love this concept. Quality legal advice is often the exclusive preserve of startups with the means to retain ‘marquee’ counsel. A service like this can enable key stakeholders to asses the calibre of a lawyer by the quality of their advice not the glitter of their client base or depth of their relationship with VC’s.

  • http://duilawyerstips.com J Donaldson

    LawPivot is a great idea. Thank You for the post. I will subscribe to your feed so that I can see more.

  • http://sharklance.com Pat Henry

    Between this and Google’s investment in Rocket Lawyer, you have to wonder at some point whether they’ll essentially destroy the power of the state bar associations with regard to the practice of law.

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