#BakersDozen is a series of interviews with leading professionals in the fields of law, consulting, finance, tech, and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in the legal business?
The two joys in my early life were research (young librarian’s club) and technology (BASIC for the Apple II), and those became the guiding principals of my career. From founding the investment arm of the first OCC-regulated Internet Bank to being the youngest equity partner of a large investigative firm, I’ve been fascinated by the use of technology to reduce inefficiencies and enhance the role of the professional as storyteller. During my career in investigative services, I worked hand-in-hand with our litigator clients to help them win cases through access to information.
What do you do for a living right now?
I am the founder and chief executive officer of FactBox, which provides cloud-based fact and evidence management software for litigators. FactBox grew out of my personal frustration. Professionals like investigators and litigators deal in huge sets of complex information, but software for professionals was either bespoke on-premise software solutions for tens of thousands of dollars or else a consumer app with a more pricey “business” label. Lawyers have great memories and great workarounds. But we also have frustrating wasted time, duplicative efforts and late nights.
What has been your greatest triumph and your greatest success in the legal services field and what did you learn from each?
My greatest triumph and success was building FactBox, a product that enhances the work life of our litigator customers. It was incredibly difficult to design a complex product for a complicated set of tasks that feels light and easy to use. There were many moments when we thought it might be an impossible effort. I learned that, despite their reputation, experienced c-suite litigators do want technology…as long as it works and is easy to use!
I think the tectonic shift will occur for everyday law. Better suites of technology will mean more access to justice and more work for lawyers.
Do you think the legal industry is headed in the right direction, the wrong direction – or which direction?
There is so much opportunity for the legal profession. You hear numbers like 12% of people who need lawyers get lawyers. As a culture, we espouse the goal of wanting people to have access to justice. And on the other hand there is a huge number of trained lawyers who want to practice law but are underemployed. Clio just came out with a statistic that solo litigators bill an average of only 1.4 hours a day! Technology is the key to bridging that gap.
You’re known for innovation and have been an inspiration to many. Who inspires you – and why?
Olympic athletes inspire me. Musicians inspire me. People who put in the work each and every day and then make it look facile, triumphant even. I love this quote by Michelangelo: “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” And also this one by Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
What advice would you give to the younger generation contemplating law as a career?
Despite the opportunity, law is a contracting industry. I advise the younger generation not to start a career in a contracting industry because your success will be based on taking away work from your competitor. This is in contrast to starting a career in an expanding industry where your success and the success of your colleagues is not a conflict. If that younger person insisted on law, I think the real question is why? Is it that you like to argue? A common reason given. Do you want to expand justice? Or “make a lot of money?” There is no more pre-set happy trajectory as a lawyer…figuring out what you want to do in law will open more doors.
How deep do you think will be the inroads of technology in the industry?
Technology is the key to getting more lawyers more work, and simultaneously providing more justice to more people. It is not that robots will replace lawyers, but that technology will augment the human intellect that lawyers provide their clients. Technology will positively change: (1) the way people find lawyers; (2) the way lawyers find work; (3) the court process; (4) the cost of hiring a lawyer; and (5) lawyers’ satisfaction with their jobs.
In ten years, do you see an industry much as it is – or do you see new players, new technology and an altered state?
BigLaw might look much as it is today…it’s an entrenched model with room for life-saving incremental change. I think the tectonic shift will occur for everyday law. Better suites of technology will mean more access to justice and more work for lawyers.
Are consultants and lawyers looking increasingly similar? Should the distinction continue?
Yes the distinction should continue and will likely get more pronounced. Technology allows for easier access to specialists. I should be able to hire a lawyer who specializes in cross-border technology licenses for cloud-based SaaS rather than forced to hire someone who’s knows how to look it up. On the other hand, if I don’t know where to start I’d like a consultant’s help to get started.
What are your thoughts on the increasing availability of data to guide client-side procurement of legal services?
Law is a “trust the expert” industry not dissimilar to doctors or even car mechanics. Offline, customers trust their guts and recommendations. Online, customers look at reviews. That will be the trend for lawyers. Most people don’t want to learn to fix their own cars even though they could. The data is already available. I think law will continue to be a “trust the expert” type of industry.
Lawyers have typically regulated to keep non-lawyer investors out but that’s a two-edged sword these days. What are your thoughts?
One of the biggest roadblocks to innovation in the legal field is the prohibition against non-lawyers owning or investing in law firms. One only needs to look to the U.K. to see the innovative services possible when this requirement is removed. Presumably, a non-lawyer owned law firm would still need to hire licensed lawyers to do the work that necessitates licensed lawyers.
What’s the one most significant factor that will drive change in your view?
FOMO. Many incremental changes need to happen first: bar associations and industry groups shaming lawyers who don’t use technology; non-lawyer ownership of law firms; customer demand; etc. After these incremental changes, the most significant factor on both the customer and vendor/lawyer side will be Fear of Missing Out.
Are we seeing the demise of the “profession” and the real emergence of the “business” of law?
I don’t think so. If lawyers, as professionals, were allowed to do what they loved to do and leave the business to non-lawyers, the “business” of law would make more sense. I’ve been told people who become lawyers chose law school because they did not want to go to business school. There are always exceptions, but I think it’s generally true. In software, some engineers are CEO’s, but most would prefer to do the creative work they love to do…and not run a business.
Do you think law can improve its track record on diversity and inclusion? How?
From my perspective running a legal-tech company, I see a higher-than-average adoption from women, African-Americans and Hispanic lawyers. In my opinion, if you’ve been excluded in the workplace, you’re already used to fighting to get a leg up. That mentality leads to innovation. If the status quo isn’t working in your favor, you’re more inclined to embrace a new way. I believe this will lead to more diversity in innovative law firms…or at least I’d like to think so.
Will the current regulatory framework around law help or hinder it in the future
Hinder it. Practitioners of the law have a unique specialty and ethical obligations that will and should remain. But the regulations around the business of the law firm will and must change.
Who do you think are the greatest influencers on the industry these days?
Mary Juetten and Jules Miller of Evolve Law are doing more to influence communication, learning and technology in law than anyone today. Avvo and LegalZoom are positively innovating at the nexus of lawyers needing work and people needing access to justice. They have the biggest opportunity to influence change I see today. I also keep my eye on Ralph Baxter. If any individual can have a massive impact for change, it’s him.
If a law firm was a startup pitching for investors, would you be an investor?
Depends on the firm and the specifics, but yes. Absolutely.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Writing novels and short stories.
What would you like to be known for?
Creating a company where everyone feels respected and able to be their most powerful and creative selves. I believe in service leadership. An empowered and satisfied workforce creates fantastic products, stellar customer service and true innovation.
What would surprise everyone if they knew (they may now).
As a licensed private investigator, I have many things that could be surprising but I’m obligated not to say.
What’s your favorite hobby or activity outside of law?
Swimming and singing karaoke.
What’s your favorite sports team?
Whats your favorite city?
Tie between San Francisco and New York.
What’s your favorite food?
Lecia Kaslofsky is founder and chief executive officer of FactBox. Ever since learning BASIC for the Apple II as a kid, Lecia has put technology at the center of her professional practice. From founding the investment arm of the first OCC-regulated Internet Bank to being the youngest equity partner of a large investigative firm, Lecia has pioneered the use of technology to reduce inefficiencies and enhance the role of the professional as storyteller.