When the novel coronavirus began rapidly spreading across the United States earlier this year, Kimball Dean Parker says he felt a strong desire to help consumers and businesses in need.
But as the president and CEO of SixFifty, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s legal technology subsidiary, Parker realized that making ventilators or sewing masks would not be the most effective use of his team’s expertise.
Instead, the Utah-based group set out to do what it does best: develop online tools to assist consumers of all types tackle complex legal challenges without breaking the bank.
“That is where we thought we could make the biggest impact,” says Parker, who was named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic, the type of global health crisis that the world hasn’t seen in about 100 years, provided a bevy of legal issues for Parker’s 23-member team to consider addressing.
Earlier on in the pandemic, SixFifty produced free tools designed to help companies in transitioning from having their employees working at the office to working remotely. One tool helped companies generate extended sick leave and COVID-19 reimbursement policies, among others.
More recently, as many states have begun lifting their stay-at-home restrictions, SixFifty developed a return-to-work tool set. It did so with the assistance of Wilson Sonsini employment law expert Marina Tsatalis and her team.
The toolkit includes an automated assessment to help employers determine their back-to-work readiness. It also features customizable policies covering the transition to office working and an online questionnaire that can be given to employees daily to decide who can come to the office.
“This is the most dangerous, complicated employment situation that any of us have seen in our lifetime,” Parker says in explaining why the tool set was created.
Unlike some of its other tools, SixFifty is charging for the return-to-work tool set. The price starts at $4,750 for nonprofits and companies with fewer than 50 employees and starts at $9,500 for larger businesses.
Parker says the product has quickly attracted interest from companies including a multinational banking organization and a small immigration nonprofit. Other law firms have purchased the toolkit, as well, and SixFifty has agreed to several deals in which the product is bundled with other companies’ services.
“It is the most demand we have ever seen in a product we have developed for business,” Parker says.
But he’s quick to point out that SixFifty has also developed free tools for individual legal consumers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The tools revolve around housing issues, as the devastating economic effects of the pandemic have made it difficult for many to pay their rent or mortgages.
A tool called Hello Landlord helps renters write a letter to their landlords notifying them that the federal stimulus package likely does not allow them to evict someone struggling financially because of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Hello Lender assists homeowners in writing letters to loan servicers seeking a delay in mortgage payments if applicable under the law. Parker says the tool was developed after his team noticed that many banks’ websites indicated that they were not offering property owners the mortgage relief required to be made available under federal law.
Additionally, SixFifty produced free tools to help businesses determine whether they were eligible for loans or tax relief made available through the federal stimulus legislation.
Creating free tools has been part of SixFifty’s mission since its February 2019 launch, and Parker says his team’s goal is to produce one free product for every for-profit product that it releases.
SixFifty is ahead of that pace, he says, and it plans to launch a tool in the coming months aimed at making it easier for immigrants to apply for asylum. The tool was developed with assistance from students involved with LawX, the legal design lab that Parker directs at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School.
He says SixFifty will also remain on the lookout for ways that it can further assist legal consumers grappling with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If any other opportunities come up where we can make life better for people and businesses, we are going to do it,” Parker says.