Kenji App Looks to Match Small Businesses and Attorneys for Hire

Ken Minturn, the founder of Indianapolis-based Kenji, says one of the biggest challenges facing attorneys is finding new business that matches their expertise, and then getting paid on time for the work they do. Complicating matters is the legal industry’s resistance to digital innovation.

Minturn says lawyers lag behind other professions when it comes to technological advances, and nobody is sure why. “The question is always what will force attorneys to adopt new technology,” he points out. “Age is a factor, and once millennials and Gen Xers move up in the ranks, adoption of technology will accelerate. Clients have only recently started demanding that attorneys use the same technology as them, which moves the needle a little.”

Minturn, himself a millennial, is pushing that acceleration with Kenji, an online marketplace for those in need of legal services to find, compare, and hire attorneys from a Web app. (Apps for iOS and Android are coming soon.) Whether assembling a will, forming a new business, or drawing up a contract, Kenji can make the connection no matter the price point, he says.

“We’re solving a problem a lot of small-business owners have: finding the right attorney for specific needs, which is not always satisfied by one person,” he says. “We get our customers proposals from highly qualified attorneys in their area of need. We also require up front, fixed-fee quotes so our customers know what it will cost.”

Users initiate the process by posting a project request proposal. “We look at that and help them flesh out what they’re looking for,” Minturn says. “We notify the attorneys on our platform that there is business ready to be had. We get the deliverables and price proposal from the attorneys and then give the customer a list of names to choose from.”

Kenji also helps the lawyers on its service to get paid. According to Minturn, attorneys typically recoup about 80 percent of what they bill out. “We get the money ahead of time from our customers,” he adds. “It sits in escrow until both parties agree the job is done.”

Kenji was formed in 2015, and its service just went live in late May. Minturn says customers and attorneys are already using the service, but he declined to share specific numbers.

“As far as we know, once we go live in the app store, this will be the first service of its kind available on a mobile app,” he says, naming UpCounsel and HourlyNerd (recently renamed Catalant) as startups with similar offerings, although he believes Kenji is better positioned to capture business east of the Mississippi.

Kenji’s three-person team has so far bootstrapped, but the company plans to seek outside funding soon. Minturn has both a law degree and an MBA, and he’s a member of the Indiana bar “with a passion for technology.” When he graduated from law school a few years ago, jobs were hard to come by, which is partially what inspired him to start a company.

“I had been hearing stories about how bright attorneys can’t find employment, or if they do find work at a firm, it’s very difficult to balance work and life,” he recalls. “There are a lot of women, especially, who are really smart and hardworking and are trying to find that balance. There’s a huge pool of legal talent and a huge need on the part of small business, but no way to match them up. It seemed like a really interesting opportunity.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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