Somya Kaushik is the CEO and Founder of Esq.Me, Inc.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in (or a customer of) the legal business?
I’m a lawyer in NYC and have focused my legal career in commercial litigation and transactions, focusing my practice on IP, technology, and startups. Along with practicing law, I’m the founder of EsqMe, Inc., a legal technology company that gives lawyers, particularly solos and small firms, a document marketplace for them to buy and sell templates, motions, contracts etc., with one another across the country. Along with the document marketplace, our lawyer members get access to a suite of legal services to help them practice more effectively and efficiently. Currently our legal services include on-demand legal drafting, free legal research, and a voice activated billing software integrated with Clio, Rocket Matter and PracticePanther. Our mission at EsqMe is to use technology to connect, collaborate and advance the way we practice law. I came up with the concept of EsqMe when I was working at a small firm and wasting a lot of time and money in reinventing the wheel on similar documents and research that I knew other lawyers had done before. I knew information was being exchanged between lawyers in the community but it was being done in an informal way, so I decided to formalize and monetize it. Now, lawyers can upload their legal documents, price and tag them accordingly and sell them to other attorneys in need of something similar. On the purchase side, it saves a lawyer hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in research.
What do you do for a living right now?
I’m focusing on scaling EsqMe at the moment, as we’ve been growing rapidly since our national launch in July 2017.
What has been your greatest triumph and your greatest success in the legal services field and what did you learn from each?
Our greatest triumph is probably yet to happen! But our greatest success so far has been seeing EsqMe grow organically everyday and our ability to become an expert in the community. We’ve had the pleasure of speaking at several panels and conferences around the world. We’ve definitely learned that success is measured in different ways, not just monetarily or numerically. We’ve also learned that piercing and changing the legal industry will take time because what we’re trying to do is shift the culture and way of practice.
Do you think the legal industry is headed in the right direction, the wrong direction – or which direction?
That’s tough to answer because I think there are several components and angles you can answer this question from. Having said that, I’ll focus on one “right” direction and one “wrong” direction. I believe the legal industry is moving in the right direction when it comes to correcting gender discrimination in the field. And I believe the legal industry is moving in a different direction when it comes to realizing that BigLaw may not be the future of law anymore.
Who – or what – inspires you – and why?
Legal technology companies that have been in the market successfully for decades inspire us to keep moving forward and being persistent. We admire the work of a lot of other legal tech companies and hope to grow to their stature one day.
What advice would you give to the younger generation contemplating law as a career?
I would stress that being a lawyer today is no longer confined to a few options (firm, public service, in-house) as it was before. There are so many avenues and ways you can be a lawyer now, from creating a role of your own at a large startup or VC firm, to starting your own legal service company. It’s about how you use your academic degree more than what options you have.
How ready for change do you think the legal industry is?
It’s a ripe market to pierce and it’s bound to change tremendously in the next five to ten years.
Is more – or different – leadership required? In what ways?
I think law schools need to start mentoring students on the use of technology in practice and in business so that when they start to work, they are ready for the different practice they will be joining. I’d like to see more leadership in practice as well, especially when it comes to big law firms joining forces with smaller firms to bridge the huge gap between big and small law.
How deep do you think will be the inroads of technology in the industry?
It will be the main way we practice law, from predictive research, AI drafting, to virtual representation of clients, predicting the outcome of cases and trials.
In ten years, do you see an industry much as it is – or do you see new players, new technology and an altered state?
In ten years I think there will be new players and new technology that run the legal industry from the outside. Companies like Amazon and Google will definitely enter and alter the market once they realize its growth potential.
Are consultants and lawyers looking increasingly similar? Should the distinction continue?
I don’t think so. I think what lawyers do is very unique to their craft, especially those in litigation. I think it will be hard for certain areas of the law to be altered by alternative legal service providers, technology and artificial intelligence.
What are your thoughts on the increasing availability of data to guide client-side procurement of legal services?
I think it changes the paradigm of the attorney-client relationship, giving the client a heavier hand in the deal. They are now better aware of their options and the procedure to get the kind of representation they are looking for, and attorneys should be aware of the shift in dynamics.
Lawyers have typically regulated to keep non-lawyer investors out but that’s a two-edged sword these days. What are your thoughts?
I understand the reason for the rule and believe generally that it’s a good thing to have only the client’s best interest at hand when considering strategies and outcomes. However, I believe this is going to change pretty soon.
What’s the one most significant factor that will drive change in your view?
The biggest factor will be when a majority of the legal industry is comprised of lawyers who are technologically savvy and understand law from a business standpoint as well.
Are we seeing the demise of the “profession” and the real emergence of the “business” of law?
I think it depends on what type of law is being practiced. From a transactions point of view, I think there is a big trend in cost-cutting, which will ultimately look to alternative legal technologies. But from a litigation standpoint, I think the profession is still unique to each case and requires legal skills that aren’t necessarily automatable or computational in nature.
What do you consider is the greatest challenge facing the industry?
The inability to understand the problem and how technology can make a difference, the difficulty in accepting a new way of practicing, and the skepticism that comes with new adopting new practices.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for the sector looking forward?
I think the greatest opportunity is with focusing on the majority of the legal industry, small law firms and solo practitioners, which has been undervalued and underserved until recently.
Do you think law can improve its track record on diversity and inclusion? How?
Yes. I think it already has and the awareness is there throughout the industry. Change won’t be over night but it’s inevitable as more diversity enters the profession.
Will the current regulatory framework around law help or hinder it in the future?
I think it’s main framework will have to be slightly adjusted to fully make use of the changes that’s occurring now. I think the practice of law across states will become more uniform as we look to marketplaces like EsqMe, the incorporation of artificial intelligence, standardization of practices, and the shift between the lawyer and client relationship. Consumers are looking for cost-effective and efficient representation, and this will change the regulations behind a lot of the framework.
Who do you think are the greatest influencers on the industry these days?
LegalZoom single handedly changed the way consumers look at the profession, lawyers’ abilities, and the art of law.
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Or what would you do differently?
I would absolutely do it again.
If a law firm was a startup pitching for investors, would you be an investor?
Yes but it depends on their mission.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Probably practicing law and focusing on bringing awareness to the gender issues latent in the legal industry.
What would you like to be known for?
Changing the way we practice law from a highly competitive and individualistic manner to a collaborative and inclusive practice.
What would surprise everyone if they knew (they may now).
I’m a painter and have a few canvases up in NYC restaurants.
What’s your favorite hobby or activity outside of law?
Spending time with family and playing/watching sports!
What’s your favorite sports team?
The Pittsburgh Steelers
What’s your favorite city?
What’s your favorite food?
What’s your nickname – and why?
Never had one!