Josh Schoen: Legal Tech Fellow Spotlight

Why did you want to work at a legal tech startup?

Both of my parents are lawyers and tried to dissuade me from attending law school. They both hated law school and told me how miserable firm life is. Despite these warnings, I thought about applying to law school when I read about all of the legal tech in “Above the Law.” Seeing these industry disrupters motivated me. Law was changing to provide clients with better service through the power of technology.

I knew then that I wanted to join that revolution, because other than perhaps math, law is the most powerful force in the universe. If we can increase people’s access to it, we can change the way our society works for the better.

What skills did you gain working with Evisort? How will you apply those skills in your future career?

At Evisort I gained the ability to perform a wide variety of tasks. I chipped in wherever I was needed. But the most valuable skill I gained was the ability to think like a startup entrepreneur. In an early-stage startup, business practices are still in beta mode; everyone from the programmers to the sales team has to iteratively learn best practices to achieve scale. We all are working as a team to make the next big thing.

For example, when I first spoke with potential clients, I would quickly spit out a list of features, hoping that one would excite the potential client. I learned that process rarely works and gives you poor results. Rather, you have to ask the client to talk about themselves and their pain point and then help them see that your product offers a solution. Once I figured that out, I saw a huge improvement in my personal outreach success.

Lastly, this experience prepared me to become a founder of my own legal tech startup.

What advice do you have for law students who may be interested in a nontraditional career path?

A 1L should definitely work at a legal tech startup to see what it is like. I learned more about contract law and drafting than I ever would in law school or even at most law firms. But the nontraditional path is not for the faint of heart — it’s fast-paced and often it’s hard to predict what you will be working on day to day.

Notwithstanding, I learned more about the practice of law and how lawyers work because I was on the phone with them every day hearing about their jobs and the problems they faced. If I ever do practice, I gained more valuable skills than just drafting a memo no one would read.

What did you learn at Evisort that you didn’t learn in law school?

I learned what it’s like to be a lawyer, and then some. After reviewing thousands of contracts and learning more about the startup process, I was able to draft most of the contracts for my own startup, which saved my business a lot of money in legal fees.

But beyond legal work, I learned everything from project management to sales strategy. As a founder of my own startup, I now know that I’ll need to wear many hats, so working at Evisort was the perfect training ground. I got to try different things and wasn’t pigeonholed into a single mundane task. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact I am founding my own startup, I’d much rather work at Evisort full time than work for a law firm.

How did working at Evisort change your perspective on the legal industry?

I learned that the legal industry has a long way to go before it catches up with the technological advances in other industries. Lawyers, as a group, are averse to change. It takes a lot to convince them they need to.

But working at a legal tech startup puts you at the forefront of the law. In the short-term, traditional employers may not immediately value this type of nontraditional experience, but I predict that a few years down the road, lawyers will need to have the skills I gained at Evisort to remain relevant.

Right now large sections of the legal industry are dying (see here). I predict legal tech will be one of the hottest jobs in five years for law grads. From that perspective, I was ahead of the curve.

What was your favorite part about working with Evisort?

Teamwork.

I worked for a few years after college, and I found the hyper-competitive environment in law school that pits one individual against another toxic. I really appreciated working in a team-oriented environment where people from different backgrounds could use their skills to achieve a shared objective.

One of my favorite parts was working with Alex Su, the Business Development VP. He was incredibly supportive in teaching me how to make sales and be a better sales rep. In return, because I had a previous tech background, I taught him more about how Evisort’s technology worked. I loved that level of collaboration and teamwork.

You started a startup while working at Evisort. Please tell us more about your startup and what inspired you to start your own company.

I was inspired by Jerry, Jake, Memme, and Riley who all took the plunge out of law school to start a legal tech startup. They gave me a solid template for how a law student could turn an idea into a viable startup business. They gave me sound advice on how to refine my business plan, look for investors, and develop a team around me.

But to speak a little bit more about my company: AiLanthus is a litigation analytics platform that uses court data to determine probabilities for litigation success. Through our platform, litigation finance firms, law firms, and in-house counsels can determine whether their potential litigation will succeed if it goes to court. We allow users to do this through user-generated decision tree models and past court data to guide analysis.

This platform will be particular useful for the $5B litigation finance industry, since it gives them a framework to decide whether to invest in a case. So far, we have raised $150,000 and are building out the platform. We plan on having a version of our platform ready and in clients’ hands by the end of the year.

What advice do you have for current law students who may be interested in non-legal careers but may be nervous about losing opportunities in Big Law?

I’d say that the startup route is not for the faint of heart, but it is exhilarating. Every day is a new challenge to overcome. Rather than sitting in the background, you get firsthand experience solving complex business and legal problems that you never would in a law firm.

I remember during my on-campus interviews, I asked a summer associate how some of the firm’s startup clients decided between using SAFE or debt-equity agreements. Her response was telling: She didn’t know because she worked on only one client’s employment policy. I couldn’t imagine a more boring role.

Moreover, in actual fact big law is far from playing it safe. Lawyers burn out every year and many are unhappy. Firm life is not as glamorous as partners present it on campus. I’d say it might be safer to go into legal tech where you know you will be happier to build your long-term career.

Why did you want to work at a legal tech startup?

Both of my parents are lawyers and tried to dissuade me from attending law school. They both hated law school and told me how miserable firm life is. Despite these warnings, I thought about applying to law school when I read about all of the legal tech in “Above the Law.” Seeing these industry disrupters motivated me. Law was changing to provide clients with better service through the power of technology.

I knew then that I wanted to join that revolution, because other than perhaps math, law is the most powerful force in the universe. If we can increase people’s access to it, we can change the way our society works for the better.

What skills did you gain working with Evisort? How will you apply those skills in your future career?

At Evisort I gained the ability to perform a wide variety of tasks. I chipped in wherever I was needed. But the most valuable skill I gained was the ability to think like a startup entrepreneur. In an early-stage startup, business practices are still in beta mode; everyone from the programmers to the sales team has to iteratively learn best practices to achieve scale. We all are working as a team to make the next big thing.

For example, when I first spoke with potential clients, I would quickly spit out a list of features, hoping that one would excite the potential client. I learned that process rarely works and gives you poor results. Rather, you have to ask the client to talk about themselves and their pain point and then help them see that your product offers a solution. Once I figured that out, I saw a huge improvement in my personal outreach success.

Lastly, this experience prepared me to become a founder of my own legal tech startup.

What advice do you have for law students who may be interested in a nontraditional career path?

A 1L should definitely work at a legal tech startup to see what it is like. I learned more about contract law and drafting than I ever would in law school or even at most law firms. But the nontraditional path is not for the faint of heart — it’s fast-paced and often it’s hard to predict what you will be working on day to day.

Notwithstanding, I learned more about the practice of law and how lawyers work because I was on the phone with them every day hearing about their jobs and the problems they faced. If I ever do practice, I gained more valuable skills than just drafting a memo no one would read.

What did you learn at Evisort that you didn’t learn in law school?

I learned what it’s like to be a lawyer, and then some. After reviewing thousands of contracts and learning more about the startup process, I was able to draft most of the contracts for my own startup, which saved my business a lot of money in legal fees.

But beyond legal work, I learned everything from project management to sales strategy. As a founder of my own startup, I now know that I’ll need to wear many hats, so working at Evisort was the perfect training ground. I got to try different things and wasn’t pigeonholed into a single mundane task. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact I am founding my own startup, I’d much rather work at Evisort full time than work for a law firm.

How did working at Evisort change your perspective on the legal industry?

I learned that the legal industry has a long way to go before it catches up with the technological advances in other industries. Lawyers, as a group, are averse to change. It takes a lot to convince them they need to.

But working at a legal tech startup puts you at the forefront of the law. In the short-term, traditional employers may not immediately value this type of nontraditional experience, but I predict that a few years down the road, lawyers will need to have the skills I gained at Evisort to remain relevant.

Right now large sections of the legal industry are dying (see here). I predict legal tech will be one of the hottest jobs in five years for law grads. From that perspective, I was ahead of the curve.

What was your favorite part about working with Evisort?

Teamwork.

I worked for a few years after college, and I found the hyper-competitive environment in law school that pits one individual against another toxic. I really appreciated working in a team-oriented environment where people from different backgrounds could use their skills to achieve a shared objective.

One of my favorite parts was working with Alex Su, the Business Development VP. He was incredibly supportive in teaching me how to make sales and be a better sales rep. In return, because I had a previous tech background, I taught him more about how Evisort’s technology worked. I loved that level of collaboration and teamwork.

You started a startup while working at Evisort. Please tell us more about your startup and what inspired you to start your own company.

I was inspired by Jerry, Jake, Memme, and Riley who all took the plunge out of law school to start a legal tech startup. They gave me a solid template for how a law student could turn an idea into a viable startup business. They gave me sound advice on how to refine my business plan, look for investors, and develop a team around me.

But to speak a little bit more about my company: AiLanthus is a litigation analytics platform that uses court data to determine probabilities for litigation success. Through our platform, litigation finance firms, law firms, and in-house counsels can determine whether their potential litigation will succeed if it goes to court. We allow users to do this through user-generated decision tree models and past court data to guide analysis.

This platform will be particular useful for the $5B litigation finance industry, since it gives them a framework to decide whether to invest in a case. So far, we have raised $150,000 and are building out the platform. We plan on having a version of our platform ready and in clients’ hands by the end of the year.

What advice do you have for current law students who may be interested in non-legal careers but may be nervous about losing opportunities in Big Law?

I’d say that the startup route is not for the faint of heart, but it is exhilarating. Every day is a new challenge to overcome. Rather than sitting in the background, you get firsthand experience solving complex business and legal problems that you never would in a law firm.

I remember during my on-campus interviews, I asked a summer associate how some of the firm’s startup clients decided between using SAFE or debt-equity agreements. Her response was telling: She didn’t know because she worked on only one client’s employment policy. I couldn’t imagine a more boring role.

Moreover, in actual fact big law is far from playing it safe. Lawyers burn out every year and many are unhappy. Firm life is not as glamorous as partners present it on campus. I’d say it might be safer to go into legal tech where you know you will be happier to build your long-term career.