A growth mindset is a valuable skill for any lawyer especially for lawyers founding startups. All lawyers, whether advising clients or founding a business must see legal risks clearly and balance them with the goals of profitability and growth.
Tom Tong and Lori Ann Fox are attorney-entrepreneurs behind Lawmato, a first-of-its-kind startup for virtual legal consultation. A conversation with them follows.
What gave you the idea to found Lawmato?
Tom: “I have a growth mindset, or a constant sense to drive business growth. I am an International Partner at Locke Lord, with a focus on international transactions, and I have been developing legal work for the firm since I was a junior associate. While working with a telehealth app client during the recent pandemic, I wondered why law and the legal industry were not utilizing technology to its fullest potential like the medical industry.
Yet plenty of people said the telehealth model would not work for law. Instead of worrying about the problems and barriers, I set about changing the legal industry with the same growth mindset I implement for my legal clients. So, I envisioned Lawmato, a first-of-its-kind marketplace app for virtual legal consultation.
I started talking with friends and family about my new idea. With positive feedback and support, I realized the potential growth opportunity and took the initial step to raise funds to engage a third party for developing my idea into reality.”
Lori Ann, how did you get involved?
Lori Ann: “Tom and I got to know one another over the years with my work for Wolters Kluwer when his firm was one of my clients. At the time Tom started Lawmato I was General Counsel of a leading legal service plan company. By the end of 2021, Tom had his new technology built and had begun reaching out to test the waters on viability. In January 2022, I joined Lawmato.”
What made you interested in joining a startup?
"Tom and I share a passion for changing the legal technology landscape, the practice of law and ease of access to legal services for everyone. Lawmato represented an opportunity to make an impact. A startup like Lawmato can address areas of the market overlooked by larger entities.
Tom spends an average of 400 hours each year helping friends, family and acquaintances analyze their issues, and find the right lawyer and legal services for their business and personal needs. I share this in common with Tom. I also donate my time to help people find the legal assistance they need in addition to my in house and private practice endeavors."
How did you come up with the name “Lawmato”?
Tom: A few things went into the consideration: the name has to be easy to pronounce, hinting law, and easy to remember. Many of the obvious and clever catchy combination of law and legal vocabulary have been taken, Lawmato is the best that I could come up with before the deadline set by our app development team.”
A big challenge for early stage startups is knowing where to focus. Does Lawmato focus on specific areas of the legal market?
Tom: “Yes. Lawmato focuses on legal services for unserved and underserved communities, such as immigrant entrepreneurs.”
How did Lawmato choose this focus?
Tom: “As an immigrant myself and a lawyer at a large law firm, I witnessed the challenges so many entrepreneurs and business owners face when establishing, buying and maintaining a business in the U.S. along with the legal issues that inevitably arise. Some of the challenges include not knowing what they don’t know, not being able to identify legal issues, not being able to locate lawyers with the desired specialty expertise, and not being able to understand the many requirements in the legal profession such as conflict checks, retainer payments, no-guarantees for results, and billing at a seemingly unreasonably high rate. Yet, they are working hard to build their businesses and enjoying some great success, albeit still facing risks they are unaware of.”
Lori Ann: “And for lawyers, as we all know and have likely experienced, legal marketing can be costly with low return on investment. Illusory leads and uncommitted or no-show consultation appointments that waste time. Add to that the time and effort required to coordinate an in-person meeting, negotiating a limited scope engagement, especially with a retainer requirement, invoicing, and collecting fees for consultation . . . all reduce profitability for lawyers.”
Lori Ann: “We created Lawmato to address the pain-points identified above. Lawmato offers a first of its kind online marketplace app for initial virtual legal consultation by onboarding good and affordable lawyers and grouping them clearly according to their expertise and transparently showing their hourly rates. The app has its own secure audio-video communication capacity and payment mechanism.”
Tom: “Lawmato solves these issues by being the marketplace app for legal services with secure, robust technology. Clients go to the app, search for and choose a lawyer based on the issue and jurisdiction with information about years of experience and consultation rate, the app notifies the lawyer to begin the conflict check after which a limited scope engagement letter is sent, the client provides a credit card to schedule the consultation and meets virtually with the lawyer at the date and time, upon conclusion of the consultation, the client’s card is charged and automatic payment is made to the lawyer minus the credit card processing fee and technology fee. It’s just that simple and transparent!”