Jason Velez is a personal injury and immigration lawyer and the founder of 1Law, an affiliation of 150+ US...
In this episode, Jason Velez explains how he is using IBM’s Watson to empower 1Law, the small firm and affiliation of US lawyers he founded. He also explains how he went about building 1Law’s technology solutions, which prompts Sam and Aaron to address the question whether lawyers should learn to code.
Sam Glover: Well, thanks for joining us Jason. And I guess bears mentioning, you and Tyler, your co-founder? Partner?
Jason Velez: Partner and founder, co-founder.
Sam Glover: All right. Were both at TBD Law where you were really interesting to get to know, and so that’s why I want to put you on our podcast today to talk about your firm which starts out having the interesting name of 1LAW. Why don’t you give me the background, like how did you come to start 1LAW? Then we’ll talk about what it’s all about.
Jason Velez: Yeah, so well, thank you Sam and Lawyerist for having me. I guess the background, it was basically, as I mentioned, practicing for about 16 years, about the middle of my practice, about six, seven years into practice, I went to work for a large TV firm, a PI Mill, maybe some people may call it. I was working there for about three years when I hit, whether it’s the dry-wall ceiling, the acoustic ceiling, but bottom line, there was a disagreement over what I thought I was worth and what they thought I was worth, and so they showed me the door. I found myself having closed a solo practice that was providing for me and my family to make the jump for this opportunity with the personal injury firm.
Basically, next day, I had no clients, I had closed my practice, so-to-speak. I still had my corporate entity alive, and so basically what I did was I dusted off that solo practice, and I got an opportunity to essentially start over again, but with the, let’s say at that point, nine years of understanding of practicing. I basically took the business number I had, which we’ll segue here in a minute, but the business number I had was 634-1529, and 1529 equals 1LAW. I had reestablished that business line and went out to get some business cards, and a senior attorney saw my business card and basically said, “I like that, 1LAW.” Basically I went from A. Jason Velez, PC to A. Jason Velez, PC, DBA, 1LAW. The 1LAW, a little bit, it’s a brand …
Sam Glover: Wait, hold on. What’s the A?
Jason Velez: The A, Antonio.
Sam Glover: Okay.
Jason Velez: Or as my wife says, her Latin lover.
Sam Glover: Got you.
Jason Velez: A. Jason Velez, PC, DBA, 1LAW, and that actually is the structure of our current law firm is [Labram 00:08:57], Todd, Park, Velez, DBA, 1LAW. 1LAW you can consider an umbrella brand, and so it’s a little bit unusual or non-traditional, but it’s a bit of an ice breaker. You can say you’ve worked for Smith and Velez, but you say 1LAW, people, “Oh, what was that? What’s 1LAW?” Now you’ve broken the ice. It’s a little more memorable. Bottom line, from activating that phone number, 1529, to the input to a senior attorney, and I guess the real curve ball was the fact that in 2010 we were still economically a little soft in the states, and so a kind gentleman out of Singapore sold me the domain for what he felt was an unreasonably low price, but due to economic conditions in the US he would accept it. Bottom line, I grabbed the domain, and here we are getting close to 2017. I guess we just celebrated our sixth anniversary of 1LAW.
Sam Glover: Very cool. It’s a law firm, but I see on your website you also talk about having a network of 150 attorneys. Tell me, what’s the relationship between the nine people I see on your attorney page, and the 150 attorneys in the network.
Jason Velez: The relationship is, if you can imagine a window sticker, and the window sticker would say 1LAW, and you could have the window sticker be a 3×5-inch type of sticker that’s there next to your, “We accept Visa, MasterCard”, or if you come to our office, you’ll see a four foot by three foot 1LAW over the receptionist. It’s an affiliation, if you would, of hopefully like-minded attorneys. My big premise, I got into the law to help people, and I sincerely believe most lawyers, probably I would say, I’d to even say all lawyers, had that idea.
Everybody wants to make a living, but we thought we’d be able to help people. Some people feel maybe more on the change-the-world scale than others, but the idea is like-minded attorneys that were looking for a little bit of a different identity. You get to keep your Jason Velez, PC, but at the same time you can use the icebreaker of the 1LAW. You can have that letterhead or that window sticker as large or small as you like. The network of attorneys are geographically-based attorneys that are essentially following the symbol or philosophy, if you would.
The idea is you’ve got to be, obviously, an attorney in good standing. We like to have some referrals from practitioners in your marketplace, so we know that people like to do business with you. Beyond that, it’s as with everything, the client is the boss and can ultimately choose who they hire, but the idea is that there are attorneys in other practice areas for cross-referrals for areas of expertise that we may not have. The longer you practice law …
Sam Glover: Am I right to describe it as a branded referral network?
Jason Velez: I like to call it … Affiliation is what I like to call it because it does not require that you refer. There’s not an obligation to refer, but the idea is that there’s an opportunity to refer, and then there’s an opportunity to distinguish yourself in the marketplace. I guess, I would just say it’s a branded affiliation network. I don’t know, you can help me. It’s not …
Sam Glover: What I’m curious about too, if somebody joins the network, I assume there’s a process for coming on board, then are you paying referral fees back and forth? Besides affiliating themselves with the brand, what else do they get out of it?
Jason Velez: They get the ability to refer. I’m not interested in governing how attorneys run their practice, even between attorneys in the network, as you would say. Any referral fees are going to be based between the parties. It’s not something that I govern. What I’m trying to do is … I guess what I’m doing is marketing the brand. I call it the big-game marketing approach, whether that’s the Super Bowl or another big game. The idea is that for the big game a national ad, we’ll just use round numbers, cost a million dollars. A local ad costs $50,000. If you have enough local people, you can now buy a national ad. Instead of having a local ad with the local production quality and whatnot, you contribute less, 25,000, to a national spend, and now you’ve marketed throughout the whole United States, and it’s basically national strength, local care.
Sam Glover: You make those decisions about marketing, or do you ask people to kick in money, or is there a membership fee?
Jason Velez: The marketing is a co-op type of situation. If you want to participate in the marketing, there is a fee to that. I make the marketing decisions. The membership is nominal on the entry level, but the marketing participation is where the spend would come, if that makes sense.
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Jason Velez: The membership is not … I’m not looking to make it on subscriptions. I’m trying to say, “Hey, if you want to grow in a particular area, here’s a campaign you can be involved in.”
Sam Glover: Then you’ll buy, if they contribute, you’ll buy marketing in their area.
Jason Velez: Correct. Correct. What we like to say is activate in their area.
Sam Glover: Got you. You mentioned when we were talking before the show about the value of referrals. I think I’m starting to see more what you mean about that, but tell me more.
Jason Velez: Sure. As TBD, and again, that was an awesome, for the listeners, you’ve got the Jason Velez endorsement …
Sam Glover: Thanks.
Jason Velez: … of going and participating and really getting a view of what the practice of law is outside of where you live. It was a great experience to meet with, I consider them, comrades. Solo practice is not easy, and I get it, and TBD gave a lot of hope for people looking to the next 20 years or 50 years of their practice, depending on how old they are. Maybe this is my giveaway, if you would, or my two bits, that I do feel that the legal market, especially solo and small firms don’t maybe appreciate, but personal injury referrals, you don’t have to be a personal injury expert to intake a personal injury case and either co-counsel, associate counsel, or in some states I believe you’re allowed a direct referral to a personal injury firm.
I believe that a lot of solos, they’ll get a call on a personal injury, or even one of their clients, and they don’t always know where to send them. Like any other area of the legal market, it’s all negotiable, so I would suggest for, and this is part of the 1LAW philosophy, is to provide a personal injury lawyer, or for attorneys to get to know more than one personal injury lawyer. You want to know what relationships you can forge, what association fees they’re willing to share, how much do you want to be involved in the case? If you look around your market, and they’re rarely the firms that are advertising on TV. You generally would be a boutique personal injury firm that understands that, “Hey, we’re willing to pay,” in some cases, don’t use this is as a rule, but I would say up to 50% depending on your involvement and depending on the case.
I believe that that is hopefully a way some of your listeners and some of these solos can leverage their relationships because that does exist. Unless there’s a state that has an absolute prohibition on any type of association or a referral, you should be able to refer the case to a competent personal injury practice, maintain an involvement, possibly even maintain the lead on the case until litigation. Be that point person with your client, and it’s a nice payday for people.
Sam Glover: Here’s always been my hesitation about is, in my state at least, in Minnesota, in order to get a referral fee you have to be co-counsel, basically. Lots of personal injury lawyers are willing to make you co-counsel in name, but you don’t actually do anything on the case. Potentially you run into questions there about the proportionality, the fairness of the size of your fee. More than that, I just didn’t really want to keep any responsibility for the case. I didn’t want the malpractice liability, exposure for actually staying on the case. I’m wondering, is that particular to my state, or is that are real thing, or am I just over-dramatizing the potential exposure from doing that referral arrangement?
Jason Velez: Well I would say no, that is not unique to your state, and no that is not an actual concern. What I would say to that is any personal injury lawyer worth their salt is also aware of that, and statue of limitations, that’s probably the number one zinger in personal injury. I would just say to any personal injury lawyer, “Do you track your statue of limitations? How often do you check them?” We check them once a year in our office, go through every file, and they have to be hand touched to identify the police report or the originating document on a case to say when the appropriate statute date is.
The exposure issues, one on malpractice, if you’re only doing a personal injury case every couple of years, you’re below even 1% of your gross or your caseload, and so it’s not going to impact your malpractice insurance. Secondarily, the associating attorney, I would make sure that they have proper insurance as well. They’re little educational points, and that’s part of what we do in being in the 1LAW family, so to speak, is making sure that the comfort level for someone like yourself is there so you know, “Hey, I have these concerns, are they addressed?” The proportionality issue goes back to, I personally, when I started out, even though I, you know, there are some cases I took, but I associated almost immediately because of the scope of the case, too many plaintiffs, the value was too great, but what I did was, I quarterbacked the case, so to speak.
I was the point of contact for the client. I knew enough of personal injury, and it’s not that complicated. We’re talking about medical records, bills, police reports, to be involved. The nuances, the expertise that’s provided by these skilled personal injury practitioners is the difficult part. Being participating in a case is not as difficult as you would think, you know, going to a deposition, participating in the interrogatory process. There are ways that are very just bread and butter, cut and dry, to participate and to maintain because in Utah there is that association. Utah is not a direct referral state. California is, but in Utah it is a [quantum meruit 00:20:26] or however you want to describe it, as far as you have to add value to the case.
Sam Glover: We’re going to take about two minutes for sponsors, and when we come back, I want to talk about another aspect of 1LAW which we haven’t really touched on, but is really interesting, and you have, well 1LAW and you, have been working on some interesting ways to use technology to get more about of law practice, including working with Watson, IBM’s famous Watson AI. We’re going to take two minutes, and when we come back, I want to talk more about that.
This podcast is supported by Ruby Receptionists. As a matter of fact, Ruby answers our firms at Lawyerist, and my firm was a paying Ruby customer before that. Here’s what I love about Ruby, when I’m in the middle of something, I hate to be interrupted, so when the phone rings, it annoys me, and at often carries over into the conversation I have after I pick up the phone, which is why I’m better off not answering my own phone.
Instead, Ruby answers the phone, and if the person on the other end asks for me, a friendly, cheerful receptionist from Ruby calls me and asks if I want them to put the call through. It’s a buffer that gives me a minute to let go of my annoyance and be a better human being during the call. If you want to be a better human being on the phone, give Ruby a try. Go to CallRuby.com/Lawyerist to sign up, and Ruby will wave the $95 set-up fee. If you aren’t happy with Ruby for any reason, you can get your money back during your first three weeks. I’m pretty sure you’ll stick around, but since there is no risk, you might as well try.
Aaron Street: Billable hours are the life-blood of a successful law practice. Problem is you still have to bill those hours. Even if your law firm has an account, tracking hours, clients, rates, preparing invoices, and collecting on those invoices is time you never get paid for, and writing notes to yourself in court or on the road is inefficient and error prone. Run your legal practice better with cloud accounting software and see why over 600,000 small businesses love Xero, including Lawyerist. Get a free trial at Xero.com, that’s X-E-R-O.com. Beautiful accounting software.
Sam Glover: Okay, we’re back, and Jason, tell me where did the tech experiments come from? Give me the background on how you started branching out because so far you’ve described sort of a, I called it a branded referral network and affiliation, a network of attorneys that are sending cases to each other, that are collaborating on marketing. That all sounds pretty interesting, but normal. Then at some point you started releasing apps and started working with AI. How did that happen?
Jason Velez: Yeah, I think you just hit it on the head there, collaboration. That may be, that’s my takeaway Sam. How did it start? I go back to 2010, right, the phone number and the senior lawyer, and that was … Facebook was really starting to gain some momentum at that time. It had come from this communication and funsy thing to where I believe it was a true business tool. We’ve always been very active participants in definitely the Facebook, social media, and working on the others.
What Facebook allowed you to do, it still does in some capacity, but in the early days I started with basically a note on a Facebook that said, “If you have a legal question, go ahead and ask it.” That’s was kind of my start of this. There’s a number of dot coms that offer this type of service, but that was the [forward 00:23:49], that was the groundbreaking for the technology. From that idea that people could virtually interact with the brand or the lawyer or however you want to look at it. It started on Facebook.
Then, very shortly after, I came to the realization that a simple will is not something that people should be charged for. There’s certain legal aspects of life that I consider almost like a utility, you know, that people should be able to just have access to. I started basically building a machine learning a logic tree will, and learned how hard that was, and the iterations. We’re going back to like ’12, ’13. In tech terms, that is kind of a long time ago, but to have a website that, back then I don’t think that we were on Word Press, we were just a regular custom-coded website to try to integrate a tool that allowed you to actually build a simple will. A simple will is not that crazy, but it was quite an undertaking.
Those are my first forays, some playing around with early kind of text interactions. Those three are where I’d say the genesis came. The entire time I’ve had the brand, I’ve wanted what I call a widget, and the widget being the tech because as you identified, the collaboration is fairly normal, and maybe a little atypical, but you can select your flavor of collaboration if you want in this day and age.
Sam Glover: You won’t freak anybody out to hear 1LAW described.
Jason Velez: Yeah, no, absolutely. Then, having that, the desire widget led me, and then knowing what I knew about the tech, I thought, “Hey, where is the space? Where is the space?” I started on demand a the very rudimentary, geo-based, hit a geo pin on a map and be able to interact with a lawyer through video chat. [Out 00:26:04] of good fortune this was launched, basically, I think we’re probably close to the birthday of the tech. It’s somewhere in November, I made my first payment in …
Sam Glover: We’re talking about the 1LAW app right now, which basically lets anybody who has the app talk to a lawyer in the 1LAW network on demand, basically.
Jason Velez: Yes, yes, and more as we’ll get to Watson, but yes, absolutely. That is a year old, launched in … The idea was in the summer of last year, the coding started in November. An on-demand product, and I was very fortunate, it was just timing. I’ve heard timing is a big deal in any new venture, and we used Twilio, which I give a shout out to Twilio, and it’s very powerful developer kits that they have for you. They had programmable video was in beta, and so we launched right into programmable video. Following programmable video, we went into the programmable, I guess the chat, if you would. We offer SMS text, but we went right into the chat with attachments.
I went to a conference in February of this year, 2016. I didn’t know if I had a thing. I went to the conference to see validation of the idea. I had a working beta, and it was evident pretty quickly that there is a market for what I had. Now that doesn’t meant that everybody was throwing money at me, it just meant that people saw the vision. From there, I really kind of doubled down on the tech. Twilio had their signal conference, I want to say May, I believe it was in May, up in San Francisco, and went there …
Sam Glover: Why don’t you back up real quick. What is Twilio?
Jason Velez: Twilio is, my gosh, Twilio in my little overview, one a stock you should own, two it’s AT&T. Basically, in this day and age of digital communication, Twilio is AT&T. If you’re using VOIP internet, they’re the backbone behind most of that.
Sam Glover: Got you.
Jason Velez: Your programmable tech, so they are a switchboard, in a simple term, for digital communication.
Sam Glover: Got you, okay. Back to the app.
Jason Velez: Twilio, so made our way to the Twilio conference. I should mention, along the way, I became aware that my app had a very good application in the legal aid world. We made an opportunity to talk about that because a lot of clients in legal aid, fairly routine answers, most of it is just ask and answer triage type of stuff. Well, why should you have to drive or take a bus or even make an appointment if you could just know that between these two hours on a given day, or every day between four and five there’s an attorney available to answer to questions, and if you don’t get him today, you can ask him tomorrow.
Sam Glover: Are legal aid organizations using it?
Jason Velez: Yes. We are live in two states, and it’s a big push. A huge push of what we’re doing because I believe if you can solve the justice gap issue, that you’re going to make one heck of a private market product. That aside, absolutely. Legal aid, it’s free to legal aids. We do ask if there’s an ability to write [TIG 00:29:29] that if appropriate we would apply for a TIG, and if not …
Sam Glover: What’s a TIG?
Jason Velez: A technology and innovation grant.
Sam Glover: Got you.
Jason Velez: There’s lots of federal dollars out there to help provide these utility services, if you would. If the TIG is not granted, they still get the product for free.
Sam Glover: Cool.
Jason Velez: That’s just part of the 1LAW philosophy, and what we do. Going to Twilio, Twilio conference, met some really cool people up there because we were working with the programmable video, and they were really pushing Watson. The light bulb came on back to my free will and my logic tree that, “Hey, this is a way to not only do what I was trying to do, but now you can serve it up via …” We use it primarily as a chat bot. We have it as a Word Press plugin in the Word Press store, and we’re on GitHub. It is available as an SMS, and then just, I guess, we’re in beta, but it’s just a flip of a switch on Facebook messenger.
Realizing that what I like to call augmented legal because it’s not just about having a chat bot fill out forms, which is really powerful. That’s something that we have. We have an editor to allow you to submit documents to our chat bot, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. To do it yourself, you need a certain level of competence, and there’s going to be the next step that it’s do it yourself, but I have a few questions. Then there’s the people that don’t even want to do it themselves, they would just say, “Hey, can you do this for me?”
They don’t realize that they’ve actually lowered their cost because they’ve done 75% of the process, whether it’s intake, filling out a questionnaire, it allows the attorney to then go forward and finish the product, or at least have the information that they need to build something for the client. Watson …
Sam Glover: Yeah, what is working with Watson like? Do you just plug into it? I haven’t really explored it.
Jason Velez: Think of Watson as the brain, and the chat is the call. Right, you’re making a call to Watson. Watson is this processor, and so what Watson does really well is handle the natural language. If you have just yes, no stuff, you don’t really need Watson. If you have people, you need to discern what they said, because yes, no is very easy, but discern what they said, that’s where Watson comes in. Basically Watson, you send it. You’ll ask a question, “Who is the person, the will?” This is, you’re asking of the client. The response is sent to Watson. Watson can now say, “Okay, I heard what he said, the person to make the will is Jason Velez.” Now, Watson can really turn that into text. Then Watson can also discern whether what you said … You know, if I say, “30 degree west,” that’s not going to be a typical answer to who is the person for this [inaudible 00:32:49] …
Sam Glover: Oh, so Watson can go, “Oh, that’s not what I was expecting.”
Jason Velez: Right, yeah, exactly. “I didn’t hear you right. Do you want to try that again? What was that? I didn’t get it. It didn’t fit the criteria.” That’s the beauty of machine learning is that. That’s AI. The chat bot experience is awesome, but the learning part of it is the big deal, knowing that, hey, names two, three, proper names, maybe four, but starting to get weird things, numbers and what not …
Sam Glover: I’ve read lots of discussions about how do you validate a name field in a form? If you subtract machine learning, you have to say, “Well, it’s going to have a first and a last name, and they should both be capitalized,” except that’s not true. Some people have lower cased their names as a form of protest, for example, in the 60’s that was one form of protest. One of my law school professors, his name is spelled in all lowercase, so you got to throw that out. Also, some places, the last name comes before the first name, and in some countries people typically have many names. In some countries they typically have one. As soon as you start trying to validate that input, it gets impossible, but if you give it to something like Watson, you can just feed it all of the proper names that every census in the world knows about, and it’s got a pretty decent idea of what might validate within that form field.
Jason Velez: Yes, and you can have it learn from what the inputs it’s have received. We haven’t put every census name in, but we got a pretty good pool of general names. How we solve the issue of lowercase or whatnot, you can override because what our chat bot does, it says, “Is that correct?”
Sam Glover: Got you.
Jason Velez: If you say it’s correct, it’s just going to accept it. Or if you say, “no,” it’ll say, “What part isn’t correct?”
Sam Glover: Does it also at that point go, like sort of take that into account next time so that the next person …
Jason Velez: Yes.
Sam Glover: … who enters something similar might not get a kickback?
Jason Velez: Yes.
Sam Glover: That’s interesting.
Jason Velez: That’s the beauty of using AI, if you would. One thing though, for people that aren’t familiar with Watson, there is a cost. It’s not crazy. Watson is pretty economical, I would say, for what you’re getting, but there is a cost. What we did was instead of having … We’ve now built … Our first generation was pretty much exactly as I described to you. Imagine a text message, we’re texting Watson, Watson is interpreting, and then spitting back the next question or validation of the existing answer. We knew that that would get expensive quickly, you know, on scale, millions of calls, things like that. We developed our own hybrid engine. Now most of the logic is handled on our end, except for the heavy [natural 00:35:52] lifting, if you would.
Sam Glover: What are some examples of that? We’ve talked about validating names, but that’s probably the smaller part of it. What other things actually get sent to Watson?
Jason Velez: The big things are going to be like what type of form you’re looking for, so the initial query. Some people may say, you know, “I want a will”, “I want a living will”, “I want different types of documents.” That first initial, “Hey, this is what we’re doing”, and then things like when you have multiple children and you want to deal with certain distributions, right, you’re going to say, “Hey, I want to leave my, what is it, Patek Phillipe, or whatever, watch to Billy, and I don’t want Jimmy to get this”, some of the more sophisticated language within a will, if you would. Or, say, in instructions on a corporate organization or things of that nature.
The basic stuff, like you said, names, addresses, things that you’re able to really isolate that they should fit within certain parameters, that’s where we now pulled from Watson to allow it really take the, [you 00:37:10] want to say, maybe the free form text, a text field, the bigger text fields. We might say, let’s say over six, seven words, something like that. Really what it … Go ahead.
Sam Glover: From listening to you, I’m assuming that Watson is basically available as an API, and you can just send it things, and it sends back responses.
Jason Velez: Yeah. If you go to our site, we’ve got, let me see, 1LAW …
Sam Glover: And we’ll obviously link to this on our show notes.
Jason Velez: Cool. 1LAW.comintro-docubot, it kind of discusses the flow to Watson. It’s a call, so there’s an API that is, you know … Whether it’s an API or a little bit different, but that’s essentially what you’re doing, and you go in and deliver up to Watson. You’re telling it, “Hey, here’s what I’m sending you, and this is what I want back,” more or less.
Sam Glover: Pretty cool.
Jason Velez: It’s awesome. I was going down a path, and I still may because I’m that intrigued by this. I know we don’t say this for the [skunk 00:38:21] works, but I’m very interested in how AI can, again, augment the practice of law. This isn’t a replacement. This is a tool. This is something that can make your practice better.
Sam Glover: You mentioned that there is a cost. Are you willing to share what the cost is because I bet people are curious?
Jason Velez: The cost to use Watson?
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Jason Velez: Oh, I mean …
Sam Glover: I assume it’s per query or something like that.
Jason Velez: I want to say, generally speaking, we’ve got a … When we started, a simple will or a form letter or things like that were costing us about 75 cents on the Watson end, to give you an idea, to build that.
Sam Glover: Got you.
Jason Velez: We’re down now below 50 cents and probably going to see it land in about 40 cents. It’s really based on, you know, I’m just trying to think, a simple will. You’ve got your name, your address. You’ve got spouse. I mean, there’s quite a few, quite a bit of information. I’d say you’re probably looking at maybe 70ish queries, something like that. It’s somewhere in the five to 10 cents type of thing.
Sam Glover: Let me, kind of by way of seguing to a close here, but how are you doing all of this? I think part of what has to happen for lawyers who want to get involved in tech is they have to figure out how to get it done because you can necessarily just go out there and patch something into your practice which is exactly why you’re doing this because you’ve got a network of people who you can got to and say, “Hey, this is an awesome thing, let’s do it.” They’re essentially investing in it. The typical solo or small firm lawyer is going to have a hard time doing that. I’d like to talk about how are you getting it done, and maybe those others who are interested then can take lessons from that.
Jason Velez: I didn’t really say it in my lead in, so, studied in South America, graduated. I hooked up with a consulting firm. I did political science, hooked up with a consulting firm, sent me back to South America. A bunch of engineers were getting kicked off of jobs because they were too a little bit American cowboy. Bottom line, a poly-sci guy with a little computer background, I spent three years traveling the globe as a network engineer, poly-sci guy turned network engineer, and a little bit of experience with sequel databases. I have a rudimentary background in code and in getting there.
What I do is I start out on a white board, and just a dry erase board, and you draw pictures with text of what you think it will look like. This is probably the biggest takeaway for anybody wanting to get into tech. You don’t want to call up a developer and say, “Hey, I want you to build me a on-demand app.” You want to tell them, “I’ve got an idea for an app. You’re going to come into the app, and it’s going to look like this. From there, this button does that.” The more you can do that … I laid out version one, or whatever, .01, the crudest MVP, I had built. I took it from a white board, two iterations on a white board. I did two sessions, large sessions on a white board, moved it to word, and drew little boxes with pictures in it, and then breakout boxes for the text. Then I shopped developers which is a huge part of the process,
Sam Glover: Where do you go to shop developers?
Jason Velez: You identify what you’re looking for. First you go to the App Store and see if there’s anything out they are. I’d recommend that to anybody, the App Store or Google. What products are out there? Then, I started out, I did three-fold. I did one, a pretty well-respected, you know, I’m in southern California, so I’ve got some good resources, but Irvine is very close to me. They were a high-profile firm. I looked to outsource, and so I took a bid from a company overseas, and then I talked to some people that had provided me tech support in the past. I said, one, I just went out and searched the marketplace here, locally. One, I searched the marketplace abroad, and then finally, I asked people that I felt would have some level of expertise.
Sam Glover: You actually engaged in a … You did a bunch of research, and then you did an actual hiring process.
Jason Velez: Yeah. Yeah. Because at that time I knew what I was asking for.
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Jason Velez: I was able to take them, after some [NDA’s 00:42:50] of course, and I was able to take them what I was looking for, and then get their feedback. Again, I have a rudimentary understanding, so if they were talking … I if I couldn’t understand what they were telling me, I felt that maybe there was a little too much magic behind the curtain. If I could understand, again, I don’t necessarily know how to take it from a blank page …
Sam Glover: That’s a really good point. Lots of lawyers are impressed by people who say things they can’t understand, but I don’t remember who said it, but you don’t truly understand something unless you can explain it to people who aren’t as expert as you are.
Jason Velez: Fair enough.
Sam Glover: That seems like a pretty good litmus test.
Jason Velez: Yeah. Along those lines, one thing I would share to the listeners that want to build any type of tech, or even applying certain tech just to their … You know, website is tech. One thing that I’ve learned, speed is important. If somebody can meet their delivery deadlines, that’s a first indicator that something is going right by a developer. Secondarily, quality. It’s kind of a speed, quality. Cost, I’m going to assume you’ve figured out your budget, so your budget is your budget. If somebody’s taking a long time to deliver something to you, if it’s really good, maybe, but if somebody’s meeting their time deadlines and the product is good, and meaning good that you as the consumer, the person who’s paying for it is saying, “Hey, this really feels good, looks good. It’s meeting my expectations”, you’ve got a good developer right there.
Sam Glover: Yeah.
Jason Velez: Just so people know.
Sam Glover: Very cool. Jason, thank you so much for being with us and taking us through the stuff you’re working on and where it came from. There’s a lot going on there, and if people want to know more go check it out at number one law dot com. That’s 1LAW.com with the number one, not the word. You can see Docubot there. You can get links to the apps. It’s neat stuff, and I think what is maybe so neat about this is this is all coming out of a law firm of just nine lawyers, but there’s an extended network supporting it. Thanks for taking us through that Jason, and helping us understand what it all is, and showing us what’s possible.
Jason Velez: Hey, thank you, Sam, and thanks for the platform you give people like me and everybody out there.
Aaron Street: Make sure to catch next week’s episode of the Lawyerist Podcast. If you’d like more information about today’s show, please visit Lawyerist.com/podcast or legaltalknetwork.com. You can subscribe via iTunes or anywhere podcasts are found. Both Lawyerist and the Legal Talk Network can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and you can download the free app from Legal Talk Network and Google Play or iTunes.
Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said during this podcast is legal advice.
The Lawyerist Podcast is a weekly show about lawyering and law practice hosted by Sam Glover and Aaron Street.
In this episode of the Lawyerist podcast, Brooke Moore gives us a snapshot of her client-centric, virtual law firm.
Guest Karin Conroy talks about the key factors in making your website both functional and effective.
Natalie Kelly discusses some of the roadblocks that are stopping lawyers from addressing challenges in their firms.
Patrick Palace talks about how lawyers can help make legal services affordable to all consumers.
Stephanie Everett, Community Director at Lawyerist, talks about the big picture of what Lawyerist is up to and what the one-year road map looks...
From documentation processes to mailing resources, Lori Gonzalez shares how to improve your law firm with the simplest of legal technology tools.