Hey everyone Tom here. In this episode of the podcast I’m joined by Dorna Moini, CEO and Founder of document automation platform Documate.
In this conversation we talk about:
- How Dorna made the switch from Lawyer to start-up founder
- Starting by helping with domestic abuse cases
- Scratching your own itch
- When to go big
- How Dorna views the no-code space
- And more
I hope you enjoy this conversation with Dorna Moini!
Episode #44 - Dorna Moini of Documa
Dorna, welcome to the Makerpad podcast. Thank you very much for joining me. How are you doing?
I'm great. Thank you so much for having me, Tom. No worries.
Absolute pleasure. Whereabouts are you calling in from.
I'm over here in Los Angeles on a sunny Thanksgiving day.
Nice. It's the complete opposite here. So I am pretty jealous.
[00:00:22] Yeah. And happy Thanksgiving.
Thank you. We'll be eating lots of Turkey tonight. I'm sure.
Do you know what? I was actually that jealous. I went to one of the farm shops where I live and got like a, it's not called a Thanksgiving ciabatta here, but it's everything you get into Thanksgiving. Lunch dinner celebration, whatever you want to call it in a ciabatta.
[00:00:44] And it was delicious. So
that's the best part. Anyway, is the leftovers the next day?
Yeah, I think so. So let's do a little bit of housekeeping, I think. Cause everyone expects that sort of thing from a podcast. Could you just give an introduction to who you are and what you do?
Yeah, definitely. So my name is Dorna Moini.
[00:01:04] I am the founder of Documate and we're a no-code platform for building document automation and expert systems. So if we're most popular in the legal field where lawyers are building legal applications and actually full fledged legal tech companies on our platform, but we're also seeing tons of interesting use cases in any industry that touches
[00:01:26] Nice. So this is one of these areas which, uh, Like sneaky valuable is like the thing that I like to call them, because you've got a couple of sides to the no-code space. From our point of view, you've got the flashy side, which is all about these like front end tools that you can build, like websites, apps, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:01:46] And then you've got these automation platforms, which either serve. The function of say like a Zapier and in Sacramento, but then you've got these ones, like Documate and something like Bryter, for instance, who is sliding into this business use case. And they just served like a very valuable function in either specific verticals within the business world, um, or across verticals, but, but just do like a niche thing.
[00:02:10] So I think the Documate is one of those things and is that she seems to be solving a, quite a large problem. Is that fair enough to assume? Yeah,
definitely. And it's, it's nice to be kind of focused on this niche area with specific use cases, because we feel like, you know, when people talk about code platforms or no code platform, and what are the values of both, the more that you focus, the more you can be, the everything for your customers and for your end users.
[00:02:39] So over time, we're. Becoming that when people ask for specific features, we already have them for them because we have thought about them as our primary market.
Got it. Yeah. So I like that because there's on the other side of that, the flashy side, you have to kind of try and cater for like, as many use cases you can.
[00:03:00] So when people are doing, um, let's say educational content or use cases, they have to kind of like spread themselves really thin. And kind of see what's going to stick and then they kind of start to work out like who their customer is going to be. But given your background, which you can get into in a minute, you have gone the way of identifying a problem, like within a sector and just building to cater for that sector first.
[00:03:24] And whether that expands outwards after that, which sounds like it has done is, and will be very effective because you've delivered on that first sector first.
Definitely. Yeah. When we started, we were thinking, well, we allow you to automate documents. And either automate them in-house or make them client facing.
[00:03:43] So why can't we be everything for everyone? Because really, if you think about any industry that touches documents, probably even yourself, any document that you've, that you've signed recently or drafted recently, it all sort of comes back to legal. If it's a sales document, it's technically a legal document, HR document.
[00:04:01] It's technically a legal document. So we originally started out thinking we can do this for everyone, but, um, and we'll probably get into this a little bit more in terms of kind of limitations of, of no code and some of the objections that some people have to know code, but the customization and the integrations become really difficult when you're trying to cater to that giant population versus focusing on one.
[00:04:25] Giving them everything and then starting to move out and branch out into other other industries.
Gotcha. How did Documate come to be? So not on the, so much your background side, because we can go back to like how this actually starts in the second, but what was, what was the moment where you discovered that this, like, this is like a real problem and like document automation is what I'm going to spend my time
[00:04:51] Yeah. So I guess it has a little bit to do with my background as well. So I used to be a lawyer and what I wanted to build was a tool for domestic violence survivors, because I was doing some pro bono work with domestic violence survivors. And I felt like a lot of the time that I was spending at my firm doing this pro bono work, which you only have a limited number of hours to do each year was being spent on form heavy and template, heavy documents.
[00:05:18] So, what I wanted to build was something sort of like in the U S we have TurboTax. I know in other countries it doesn't necessarily translate, but it's a tool for automating it automates your taxes. So you just put in your information, it does all the complex work on the backend. So I use that analogy.
[00:05:33] What we wanted to do was build a TurboTax, if you will, for domestic violence survivors. So we built that out and we launched it and we had, you know, really great success with legal aid organizations and consumers. But what we found we had even more inbound interest from was other lawyers, other legal aid organizations across the world, not even just in California where we'd built this tool saying.
[00:05:59] Can you build something like this for us? And so I'm, I'm a lawyer, I'm not an engineer. And I had worked with the net with my now co-founder and engineer to build that. So we thought, well, instead of building out all these different tools, For different areas of law for different jurisdictions. Why don't we just give that platform to the end user?
[00:06:21] Because it's, it's really a specific set of tasks that you need to be able to do. Like create questions, create all kinds of complex logic, connect them to documents, allow people to display different elements on the screen. Um, so that's, that's how Documate came to be. And some of them, some of our first users were those people who reached out to us and were like, Hey, can you build me the.
[00:06:42] Turbo tax for divorce in Arkansas.
That's that's amazing. I didn't know. It came from, it came from that. I just, I would have just assumed I'd come off of something. Maybe like not with that angle on it. So that's really interesting that you are trying to like, do something of like social good and putting your skills to actually solving like a big problem.
[00:07:05] And then it actually came up like with another problem saying like, hang on, like this is really time. And so this one, I can't actually help. You might have people that want to help let's solve that as well. So I'm going to say killed two birds with one stone there.
Definitely. And it helped us scale so that we could build a platform for more, but it also helps our clients scale their expertise to more people across the world.
Did you start this when you were still working or was it a side project that turned into like a full-time job with paying customers? Or did you just say, okay, this is the problem. Here's the business plan. Here's how much money I need. Let's go all in. They won.
So the side project that I had at my old ballroom was that domestic violence platform.
[00:07:50] And then we sort of decided that if we were going to build this full fledged app building platform that we had to had to do it full time, because. I don't know. I don't know what you think about this, but in terms of being able to really focus on a business, I feel like you can't have divided interest and divided mental space.
[00:08:11] So I thought the only way that I could actually do it was if I left and did it full time, and I figured if I failed, I could always go knock on my law firm's door and ask for a job.
That's interesting because that's going to be a controversial opinion within makers, especially with the no-code side, just because they're known for like building multiple projects and then seeing which one happens.
[00:08:33] But I guess. The difference between say like a maker and yourself, you're coming at it from a different angle in you, you've already identified the problem, which, and you knew the scale of the problem from your background in law, which was spans like multiple years. Like how, how long were you a lawyer for?
was a lawyer for seven years. And technically I still pay my bar dues. So I'm still a lawyer. You'd have some legal questions. Just kidding. I can't represent you. I need that.
So, you know exactly the scale of the problem of document automation.
Yes, definitely. Um, and it really spans across, across everything from solo firms, all the way to the biggest legal law firms and legal organizations.
[00:09:19] Um, but I agree with you, you know, a lot of our clients are building these tools. Friday nights are the busiest time for customer support for us because they have their day jobs. They're working as a lawyer all day, and then they're building these legal tech tools at night or on the weekends. And I'm sure this Thanksgiving weekend will be, will be quite busy for us as well, because that's, that's, it is there side project, as, as you said,
[00:09:45] What can you talk me through? Like how the process of getting documents like created through, through a legal process would happen before tools like Documate existed.
Yeah, definitely. So obviously not every area of law is susceptible to document automation. There are always going to be areas of law that are completely bespoke, where you walk into the law firm's office and they take down your information and they go draft something from scratch for you.
[00:10:18] But many, many areas of the law are susceptible to being systematized and, um, are template driven. So many contracts and different documents that you have at law firms. If you, if you look at the draft that they started with, it starts with a ton of highlighted sections all throughout the document. Like you might have a hundred page document with.
[00:10:40] Bracketed highlighted the highlighted sections and footnotes that tell you whether or not you should include the clause or not almost looks like code inside that document on its own, because of all the little variations people have put in there before using some sort of automation tool you're going through.
[00:10:56] And I did this at my old firm as well. You're going through. Line by line, replacing different different words, different client names, or looking at the footnotes to read and see. Hmm. Do I want to include this clause? Do I want to accept this level of risk for this client? And then at the end of that, Uh, you know, you're reviewing that 10 times to make sure you didn't miss anything.
[00:11:17] Cause it's a huge document and you might still have an error in there. You know, you might've, you may have forgotten to replace the client's name somewhere, or you may have forgotten to take a clause out somewhere. So you, you review, you review it tons of times, but what you do when you automate it is.
[00:11:32] That you're a limit. I mean, you're making it a ton faster, but you're also eliminating a lot of the errors and making sure that it's efficient and accurate. Um, and what we, what we really specialize in is allowing you to make that client facing. So not only use it and get within your firm, which is definitely a big use case for us as well, but also being able to sell that to your clients or allow them to participate in the data collaboration piece.
did you go about actually accessing the first version of Documate to two clients? This is one of the things that is really, really interesting for people who can actually build software products and not necessarily just on the no-code side, because you see people actually creating things that are like on the surface really useful, but often like sales.
[00:12:19] Is that differentiator? Yeah. Did you have like a benefit by default because you're technically selling it to be the people you knew or put yourself as a persona or a, how did you navigate that initially?
That's a good question. So our initial users were actually not really as many people that we knew.
[00:12:39] They, they actually came, um, some of our initial users came from. The group of people who had reached out to us about the domestic violence tool. And we started in legal aid. So we now sell to lawyers and non-lawyers of all different areas, but we started within the legal aid sphere where in the U S and you know, across the world, there's a problem with access to justice, because there are so many people who need legal services and there.
[00:13:06] Everything in your life touches a legal issue, but there are not enough lawyers and lawyers are too expensive for those people. So within the U S you kind of have two groups of people who have access to legal services. It's. Corporate, you know, businesses who can pay the average hourly rate, which is around $350 an hour.
[00:13:25] Um, and you know, upper class, upper middle class individuals who are doing a will or something preventative. And then at the, at the other end of the sphere, you have those folks who are eligible for legal aid, which is about 125% of the poverty level. So super, super low. So you have this entire segment in the middle, the middle class who doesn't have access.
[00:13:47] To legal services and doesn't really have anywhere to find them. So legal aid is a good place for them to find that. And for those organizations to be able to build tools that they can put out there into the public helps address that gap. So they were sort of our first users because more out of necessity than anything else.
Got it. And that from those first users, was that like those use cases that you needed to then like bring, bring in more users, was it a case of, um, bringing more users in quickly to like fund the project from the get go? Was that a case of let's keep iterating on the product? I appreciate like you. Um, brought in a technical co-founder at some point, and we can touch on that in a second, but say once you've got that first level of interest, which direction did you go?
[00:14:36] Did you go like the products improvement route or did you say, okay, this is working. It's bringing more people in more like different, different types of users into the platform.
Yeah, I think this sort of goes along with the, the thoughts around no code, which is get your rapid, rapid prototype out and iterate on that idea.
[00:14:56] So that's exactly what we did. I mean, if I think back on. We were, we were just trying to scale and get more customers as fast as we could. And those early adopters were really great for us because they wanted to be early adopters. They knew we were a new company and they gave us a lot of great feedback.
[00:15:13] But you also sometimes look back and think, Oh, a year ago, or two years ago, there's a little bit of an embarrassing product. I can't believe how far we've come, but that's, it's in the spirit of no code, which is that you put your idea out there. You tell them it's in beta and you just improve as quickly as you can on
[00:15:31] That's it? I think there's the famous saying that if you aren't embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late. So think embarrassed. It sounds like you've launched quick enough, which is good, which is good. One thing you mentioned your, uh, answer, the previous question was about the cost of using a lawyer.
[00:15:51] I have a question about how using software like this to automate what is not only like an expensive process on the buyer side. So somebody who's using a lawyer, but also a, a process which nets the lawyers a lot of money in terms of billable hours. How does that. How do customers of yours navigate that in terms of, okay, here's a document that used to take me X amount of hours and I can bill X amount of money for it.
[00:16:25] How does that like value exchange work from like a lawyers point of view? Yeah, sure. You've generated the document instantly and most likely with a lot less errors, but that leaves a lot less billable hours.
So we actually think the opposite of that. So we think that the billable hour is a cap on your earnings, as opposed to being the best way that you can bill.
[00:16:48] Because if you think about the billable hour, there's probably only so much, you can't go above some amount, you know, you can increase your rates every year and you also. Can't really build more than a certain number of hours a week. You're only awake and alive for so many hours. So if you build these tools and you put them out there in the world, you're when I left, when I left the law firm, recurring revenue was something that I had never heard about.
[00:17:14] And, uh, it was, it was baffling to me that we don't talk about it more in the legal sphere, because it's this thing that you've spent a lot of time building, but then it pays dividends. While you're sleeping and while you're on vacation and obviously you upkeep it and you make sure it's perfect and you're providing great support for your customers, but it's so much more scalable than the traditional way that we deliver legal.
That's quite the mindset shift for a lawyer. Isn't it?
Definitely. And you know, it's, it's actually been COVID has been interesting for us because so much has been thrown up in the air and so much of. The practice has, has been shifted, that lawyers are more willing to adopt and try out new
things. What's the main pushback.
[00:18:00] In a sales negotiation from somebody who is interested, but is worried about making the shift over to like, you can, you can tend some more customers this way, but he's in Documate, but yeah, there's a big issue of the billable hours. What was, what was like the main pushback from people who were maybe less tech savvy and like completely new to it's all like,
[00:18:27] So I think. Still, you know, the, the main pushback that we get is the time that it may take to set up your dream platform, because you still have to, in that, you know, you may have all this expertise inside of your brain, but you still have to put it out onto the screen and build your platform. And, um, we've seen this with a lot of the other no-code platforms that, you know, you guys have had on this podcast and that are on maker, Pat as well, but more, more and more, uh, of these platforms are building.
[00:18:54] Uh, locations where you can access what others have built and we're starting to do the same. And that's been, that's been reducing the barrier to entry for people who want to build products. So for example, if you are in, um, you know, let's say you're in Arkansas and. I don't know why I can bring your Arkansas, but you're at Arkansas and you have an estate plan, state planning platform that you built for your clients.
[00:19:20] And there's another attorney who also wants to sell something similar. They can, if you allow them to pick up from that and either modify your version or at least have a starting point for what they want to build. And that has been. Uh, that's been seriously reducing the barrier because that initial investment of time, um, for people who have day jobs is, is probably pretty difficult,
[00:19:47] And on the topic of difficulty, how did you find like the shift from being a lawyer to like diving into the tech world? So obviously you're aware of the problems that exist within the industry that you want to go in. And then you move into, you start a tech startup and you, you do it through initially, but am I right in thinking you've been funded as well at some point?
[00:20:12] Um, how, how did that happen? And like what stage did the steps occur?
Yeah, so, um, in terms of kind of the transition from being a lawyer to starting a tech company, um, A lot of what the law is, is it's rules-based and that ends up being what a lot of software is as well is you, you, you follow certain rules.
[00:20:37] It's a lot of, if then logic, it may be very complex, but that's what, that's what tech is. And that's what we're building for our clients as well. Um, and then what we sort of did is we bootstrapped for. A big portion of the, the beginning of our, of our platform. And at the end of last year, we just raised around, um, specifically because we wanted to be able to scale quicker.
[00:20:59] We, we thought that if we could build features out quicker for our customers, expand our engineering team and provide more support that we could, that we could grow quicker. So that's been, um, really great for us as
well. Must have been moving from a lawyer to a CEO.
Yeah. Uh, you have a lot more, you wear a lot more hats.
[00:21:22] Um, as a CEO, I'm still a lawyer for our company, but you know, you have to learn a lot about sales and marketing and pretty much every other aspect other than engineering. Cause I still don't know how to do that. And I leave that to my engineering team, but it's been really fun. I mean, I. There's, there's a huge learning curve at the very beginning.
[00:21:42] Um, but I feel like you start to start to find your feet and it's, it's really incredibly exciting. Um, it's an emotional roller coaster at times as I'm sure many of the other founders, um, think too, and you probably have felt about maker Pat as well, but, um, it's, it's a really great experience
and let's talk about the no-code space in general.
[00:22:03] So you are fitting into one. Like portion of the space and like automation is like one of our favorite topics. It make part. And I know it's one of the most popular topics like in the community and the wider community in general, just because this was something which was previously reserved for people who could code.
[00:22:22] And now non-technical people have access to tools like Documate and other automation platforms out there. And that it's almost feels like magic. And it's the magic that software developers, I guess, feel. Maybe hopefully every day, but I guess more until they get sort of becomes like second nature to them that, yeah, of course, of course I can do this thing.
[00:22:43] Like to us, like every new automation we create and I don't know if it's the same for you when you you're automating like a new process or for a new client or for a new platform. That moment like feels like magic. So what do you think about like all the other let's let's narrow it down sports summation platforms.
[00:23:01] What. Enjoying about like the no-code space in terms of like automation, seeing like more players come into different areas. I
think it's, you really just touched on it. It's it's about people who thought they would never be able to build something like what they're able to build on Documate. Getting started and very easily within the first few hours, having something that they can show to their calling show to their clients.
[00:23:27] Um, and the messages that we get are just amazing and above and beyond. And that's what keeps us going every day and wanting us to, to continue adding features is the delight that our customers take and building and making and, and realizing their dreams so quickly. And without having to learn to code
[00:23:48] The most common piece of feedback for say like an average size customer who uses Documate, who is prior to using the platform, probably spending like a lot of manual hours creating these things, but also the most common thread the year
from, from us to them, or like advice that we give to them or advice they give
them to you, like after they get it.
Um, so right now, what we're working a lot on is, is data integrations, um, and database access. So we were, obviously, if you build a one-to-one native integration with any tool like we have with some of the legal tools like Cleo, um, that's very easy for our customers to connect, but in many situations, Our clients have other databases that they want to connect to.
[00:24:37] And so that's one of the big pushes that we have for this quarter. And next is to allow you to do basically anything that you want to with data and with your, with your external database, without necessarily needing to write some SQL to get exactly what you want.
Got it. So you're making it more, no code friendlier.
[00:24:56] It sounds
like. Exactly. Yeah, exactly.
Do you use any other no-code tools in either like personal life or the professional setup? I get work. Do you use any, um, like database platforms, any productivity apps? So what, what are some of your favorites, if you do.
Definitely. I mean, we, we of course use Zapier.
[00:25:17] That's, uh, very helpful for all kinds of connectivity. Um, but I've also recently started using Webflow. We originally had our, our platform built on WordPress and, um, we're moving over to web flow because it's just so easy to use. For someone like me and I, as, as a founder, I want to be able to have my engineering team focused on features for our clients, as opposed to focus on our marketing site and making small changes to text.
[00:25:47] So, um, for me to be able to take over that process, that's been really powerful as well.
Zapier using Zapier to do, um, integrations that between internal systems, you mean you're using it for things like notifications, like email forwarding, what's the most common use case.
Yeah. So both. So we use it within our application for our clients. When they want to connect different tools, but we also use it internally, mostly from a sales function.
[00:26:17] So for example, Stripe and Salesforce and our email system, and we use reply for automated emails, all of that kind of connects together so that we have a single source of truth in terms of our data as well.
Got it. Like I was going to be a lot of automation fans that are going to be enjoying the conversation and enjoying the fact that you use it for internal processes.
[00:26:40] I think that's like one of the core things that benefits teams the most when using automation. Yeah. You can use it for sending things to clients, but like we use it heavily and make bad for internal processes like updates or workflow site. Um, Enrolling like new members into our community and sending them onboarding emails and adding the right tags in the email platform.
[00:27:05] Like before this existed, we just have like, no idea how we do it without paying like multiple staff. So she'd do it manually. So it's almost strange to think what would happen before this existed. Makes sense.
Yes. I feel like if there's something that you're doing more than once it should be automated there's, there's no reason that you can't find a tool out there right now to help you do that more efficiently.
you have any exposure to. Things like Zapier before working a Documate or did your Medicaid automation journey, if you can call it that start at day one of Documate.
Not really. So I didn't have a lot of exposure to tech at all. Um, when I was at a law firm, because the only job I had before starting Documate was where I was working as a lawyer.
[00:27:54] And especially at bigger law firms where I was, there is a lot less use of technology, although that's changing quite a bit now, um, even with just the, uh, the acceptance of cloud-based infrastructure and cloud based tools, which. 10 years ago was not a thing. Like no law firm would be on anything that was other than on-premise.
[00:28:17] So, um, at my, when I was at a firm now, when I look back, there's so much that we could have used automation tools, even automation tools that existed 10 years ago for, but we were just reluctant to use. So it's been a, it's been a whole new world for me since, since starting Documate and getting exposed to new tools and new ways of, of making your practice more efficient and your business more efficient.
Got it. There's going to be a lot of people who actually try and sell like no code solutions or automations or like business posts, automations into companies. So could you give like, shed a bit of light onto the stack that say like a modern, like maybe early adopter law firm would use in terms of like SAS products in general?
[00:29:02] Is there any that.
Definitely. So what we see for those of our lawyer law firms and lawyers who are building tech products, and sometimes that may be within the law firm. So they may have the tech tool as there as a tool for their primary law firm. Sometimes they build a tech company alongside their law firm, so that it's a separate entity.
[00:29:23] And it kind of depends on how they, how they want to do things. Yeah. But the, I would say there are probably three high level tools that, that, uh, well maybe for high level tools that people would use, one is some sort of front end website building tool. So I love web flow. We actually actually did a blog post a few months ago about, um, you know, different landing page tools that you can use, especially if you want to do like subscription legal services and what they provide.
[00:29:49] So. Your website builder then, I mean, obviously I'm going to say some automation tools. So if you want to use Documate, that's amazing. And what, what we like to do is, uh, have some sort of. Single sign on between the two tools so that it feels like you're cause you can white label everything that's on our platform.
[00:30:06] So that feels like it's a seamless interaction and transition between the two. Um, third is Zapier will allow you to take those clients, put them into email marketing systems, um, translate them throughout your, throughout your firm. And then finally some sort of practice management system because. What you're able to do when you, when you build a legal tech company and you build tech tools is you can unbundle a lot of the areas of law that you were previously providing to your clients.
[00:30:34] So previously you might have cases have to be start to finish. Now you can take. Pieces of that case and sell portions of it. So maybe you just sell the document prep document preparation portion. Maybe you just sell the document review portion after someone's created their documents, or maybe you want to take them all the way to litigation.
[00:30:53] And so having your practice management system integrated with those is going to allow you to go piece to piece by piece or a full-fledged
process. Has there been anything that has set off another light bulb in your head that if you seen legal tech companies like building maybe proprietary software for themselves that you thought.
[00:31:18] Damn. That's like a really good idea. I wish we could do that. Like as well as what we're building and Documate, maybe it falls like slightly outside of scope for you guys to build. Is that like another area you can see like another tool like being created and like dominating like another little area of law.
That's a really good question. I think one of the areas that we haven't really incorporated as much, which we would like to, and it's not really currently within our current scope is. Lawyers wanting to build in more machine learning and their contract process. So. We get this question a lot, actually, where they'll say, well, we, you know, a client will say, we know you have tons of other lawyers on, on your platform and they may be doing similar document types to ours.
[00:32:06] Is there a way that we can get suggestions within our platform of other clauses that we could be using as alternatives to our, to the causes that we already have in our documents? So, um, yeah. That would be sort of an interesting, interesting add on, uh, but we haven't really gone into that yet.
Yes. That kind of Springs up the like, do not pay, so do not pay the robo lawyer about, yeah.
[00:32:35] A lot of law, like follows is really like linear paths in terms of like problem. And then like the things, whether it's like trying to settle a case or whether it's a lodge, like a rebuttal on something or whatever it is. Yeah. That's usually pretty linear. And then if you've got thousands of law firms following the same, the same paths and just doing things like slightly different, which is the differentiator of maybe, I don't know, the tiering system in the law world, but like a top tier law firm will do sings slightly, not massively different, I guess, but slightly different to make another percentage of the cases or what have you, whatever is the measurable, um, To make them the top tier.
[00:33:18] So I guess getting those recommendations, if you're not a top tier firm and trying to leverage tools as effectively as possible, it could be epically valuable.
Very true. Actually, it's interesting what you've touched on because we sometimes get questions from folks saying why don't you just build all the different areas of law and sell that to lawyers, but they don't want that because every lawyer has their, you know, they've spent.
[00:33:44] 10, 20, 30 years in their own practice, honing their documents and determining why theirs are the best. So they don't necessarily want the ones that the law firm next door has created. Um, so there's, and a lot of our clients are building those do not pay like platforms.
Got it. What do you think is going to be the, like the knock on effects of something like do not pay cause on.
[00:34:09] What'd you think he going to be the, like the knock on effects of something like do not pay obviously, um, Dhamaka, so a different tangent, but on the case, on the side of both, like the law firm side is obviously good for consumers who want to solve, as let's say parking tickets, there's a famous example that they were first like established for, but now they're going off in those different directions.
[00:34:31] We'll say the knock on effect for law firms of systems rising up like this.
Yeah. So I think a lot more law firms are building tools like that. Like the do not pay like tools. So for example, we have clients who are building divorced platforms or willed platforms, or we had one that was a little more, um, Like I do not pay style.
[00:34:53] One that went viral recently where they were trying to get, um, there were a group of law students actually who built this, where they allowed you to go online and get a refund from airlines in Canada for during the COVID-19 crisis. Um, so there are a lot of tools like this being built and. What ends up happening is it, it sort of segments some of the work that you're able to provide.
[00:35:16] You're able to provide that billable hour work, but you also have these online tools that you don't necessarily need to interact with clients to provide to them. So you, you collect the payment there, maybe it's a subscription platform. There are so many new ways that you can product your, your legal work as a result.
Okay. Yeah, we talked about this on a previous conversation you had recently where the topic came up of like automation and like the fear of everyone's jobs being replaced by automation. But if you look back in history like innovation, doesn't really, um, destroy people's income. Like people just find, find different jobs like freeing up humans for creative work is obviously the goal like monotonous manual work, doing the same process over and over again is.
[00:36:07] Not good for anyone apart from the person who employs them. So I think the more we can do that, like automate the mundane is, is going to free people up for more exciting stuff.
Yeah. And I mean, in the legal sphere, you're also talking about an, uh, hugely expanded market of consumers that are able to purchase their services.
[00:36:27] Who previously, everything you had was unaffordable to them. Um, I mean, it's, I guess still sort of similar to the no-code movement. We want to bring everything back there. It's it's folks who were never building software in the first place who are now building it out and within legal you're you're providing services to people who would have tried to do things on their own by going online and Googling something.
[00:36:52] And instead you're providing them a much easier way of, of getting that service.
You started this conversation with talking about. Um, solving the problem of, uh, legal aid for domestic violence. You been able to like split your time, time between the things that you're clearly passionate about and being like a, a CEO during a pandemic, trying to build a venture funded startup.
Yeah. So with respect to our clientele, we, um, and we now provide our software for free to legal aid organizations. So it helps us not have to necessarily go after them and market them and need that marketing to be cost-effective because we know they need our tools. They, uh, we provided it to them for free.
[00:37:44] They're doing amazing things for the public, with a lot of the tools, they build the, for example, one of the tools. Actually two of our legal aid organizations built in the past few months was a, an eviction defense platform that relied on orders related to COVID-19 that allowed people to stay in their homes and abided by the, by the moratorium, the eviction moratoriums.
[00:38:05] So there are just really cool tools that, that our legal aid organizations are building. And the fact that we provide it to them. For free means that they spread the word internally and we don't necessarily need to need to put a lot of marketing power towards it. Um, but at the same time, we also need to, uh, you know, we need to grow and we have, uh, duties to our investors as well, and we want to want to expand.
[00:38:28] So that allows us to focus all of our marketing power. Towards the for-profit law firms who are also doing amazing things for cause cause we, we don't really think that just because we're selling to a for-profit law firm, it necessarily means you're not doing good, um, in that way, because those people are also reducing the cost of legal services overall.
[00:38:49] Um, economically
it must be, feel quite good having to also be able to turn your hand at something during such like a tough time and actually like help out, like in a really big way.
Definitely. I mean, I'd give all the credit to our builders because they are the ones who get out there in the field and look at what's necessary and put the, put these tools out into the world and provide the follow-up support.
[00:39:15] Um, so they've, they've done. I mean, the legal community has come together in an amazing way to provide services to the public.
Incredible. Let's talk about something which. CEOs and especially founders less things to this, either on like a similar path to you or wants to be on a similar path of like building a product, getting customers and getting investment, et cetera.
[00:39:37] How do you like switch off? Because not only building a startup, which is in your wheelhouse in terms of like expertise, but also, I guess you've got these. Personal interests in like helping domestic violence and helping people receive like legal aid, something evicted within a pandemic. I'm sure that this probably takes up 90 plus percent of your mental capacity in every single day, seven days a week.
[00:40:10] So how do you, how do you detach.
Very true. Um, get a dog. That's that's the solution. Yeah, my, my dog forces me to go take walks and take, uh, take a breather. And, um, she's been a nice companion during the pandemic as well. So, um, I think she's an English bolter. Like, do you know the target dog or spuds McKenzie or give you lots of, lots of references there?
don't know spuds McKinsey, but I know the English sports area.
He was the Budweiser mascot for a while, until it became inappropriate to have a dog who's cute and kind of cute and cuddly, um, advertising alcohol, because children were watching these commercials. So they thought it was inappropriate. So they took them off.
But. Got it. What's it like being a founder in LA? So this is like a question which prior to, um, 2020 it's called at that price is 2020. A lot of people were building their businesses where they lived and that was kind of. Not even like moving that say, or even thinking about the location where you are, depending on the situation that's happened, wasn't even like in the conversation, but now, especially in the States where there's lots of variety in places that you can live.
[00:41:38] And things like differences in tax differences, in like regulation and governance, similar sort of thing. How's has that changed since 2020 started in terms of how you thinking about it as a startup, as a company? I know there's been the famous accidents of people from San Francisco to Austin, for instance, like, is that something that's happening there as well?
Yeah. So for me personally, my family's from Southern California. So I think I'll always have to pay the high taxes and stay here. But, um, but as a company, you know, it almost doesn't matter where you are anymore. My, um, sales customer success colleague, he spent part of the pandemic in Hong Kong and just worked us hours and talk to our customers as if he was in the U S and now he is in Arkansas.
[00:42:30] Um, just hanging out there and, you know, working California hours. So it really doesn't matter where you are anymore, as long as you're available and you have a computer and they're connected and you can talk to your customers. So that's been really nice. And I think from a, from a founder perspective and wanting to make sure that your, your employees are happy, they, this is something that comes up for us as a company, is that people enjoy that flexibility and being able to.
[00:42:58] Work from anywhere and, uh, be able to just get their work done and not necessarily have someone micromanaging them because we were, we're all a team. We're all working towards the same mission. And, um, we all have the same goals.
Got it is, have you always been fully remote as a company?
We haven't actually.
[00:43:17] So we had an office at the beginning of the pandemic, so March and then we were now remote. So we're not during the pandemic. We've actually hired two people outside of California. So we're not. Completely sure what we'll do after. I mean, we think that there are many people want to be in an office and be able to talk to their talk to their colleagues.
[00:43:41] So we'll probably have some sort of office at some point late 20, 21 when things go back to normal. But, um, but we're, we're very much more open to being remote, hiring people across the country. And it gives us a lot, uh, uh, much bigger access to the talent population, the talent pool across the country.
Yeah. So I was gonna S I was gonna mention that. So the, the hiring side, do you, do you still hire US-based you obviously, it moves from being able to get in the office. Like, that's the most obvious thing you don't have to actually just be in the office so that by default expands it to the larger area.
[00:44:21] Have you, would you employ like internationally potentially, or are you going to try and keep it on the same time zone?
We haven't yet, but we definitely aren't closed off to it right now. I mean, the time zone does matter because we do stand up every morning and we continue to communicate. But I guess as long as they're willing to wake up a little early, we'd be willing to do that.
[00:44:45] We're still, we're still a pretty small company. So I haven't thought about expanding internationally yet in terms of our, our employees. But that's definitely not something that we're, we're closing off now. And it's shifted our minds mindset.
Yeah. So as like a mindset shift going from like in an office to remote work is quite different.
[00:45:08] I know when I first did it, I think three, three years ago now it was one where there's obviously like the time that, you know, you're going to start like at this time. So your schedule kind of fits around that and then there's like an end time. I know it can be quite difficult. For some people to emulate the same sort of environment at home when there's things like external distractions, like you're in the comfort of your own home.
[00:45:33] And you almost have to have like, artificially create something which mimics that in a way, whether it's like a walk followed by breakfast, followed by, I go to work. How have you found that tricky? Like you personally and as a team, or has it been like a fairly smooth transition?
Yeah, I think that having goals and the goal setting process lends itself to allowing that kind of balance.
[00:46:00] Because if you're sitting down before the quarter starts and saying, we're going to get these things accomplished during this quarter. And I don't care. When do you want to work? And you know, whether you want to work in the middle of the night or during, during the day, or how many lunches do you want to take, but this is what, what we're all expected as individual participants of this, of this collective group to get accomplished.
[00:46:24] It makes it a lot easier for you to calibrate your work across the board. And also, um, you know, doing things like stand up where you all meet in the morning and talk about what you're going to do that day and having. You know, we, since we can't do real lunches, doing virtual lunches and, and chatting with each other, um, doing virtual coffees, although I know people are starting to get, get sick of zoom, those definitely help the it's never going to be exactly the same as being in the office, but they definitely help calibrate your day and, and make sure that you're, you're balanced.
Got it. And as he moves inside the last few minutes of this chat, let's talk about specific tools that you use for remote work. So is it like the normal, the normal stacks, Slack, zoom, et cetera? What, what is your go-to tool set? Freshy communication as a business. Yeah,
we're probably not all that atypical.
[00:47:16] We definitely use zoom. We sometimes use Google meet. We use Slack. Um, we use, uh, JIRA for, for tracking. We use Trello a little bit. Um, those are mainly our tools. I mean, Salesforce and that's where a lot of the collaboration on between me and sales happens. But, uh, I guess we use notion a little bit too for, for keeping notes and, and making sure everyone's on the same page about.
[00:47:44] Procedures and process, but probably not call that atypical from your, from your typical startup.
Yeah. Procedures and processes are becoming increasingly important, especially in a remote, remote working world. Is there anything that's, in your opinion, missing from the no-code space in terms of tooling,
in terms of things that are missing, I'd probably go back to that.
[00:48:10] Issue on, on database because that's still the biggest factor that we, we within our own software. And I see it within other no-code softwares that we're seeing is, is the missing piece. Um, being able to do that without any code and not having to have my engineers get involved when we're, when we're trying to integrate different pieces of data between multiple varying systems.
Got it. So if anyone's working on a no-code robust, scalable, well database, then
exactly call me out
on potential customer slash lead. Nice. The funnel. I want to two more questions actually. I've got first one is what advice would you pass down to another founder who is following in your footsteps for maybe a year earlier?
[00:49:00] What are some of the things that you've learned?
Yeah. Um, I mean, get your product out there and start just, just, if they're right on it, don't be embarrassed of what you have. Um, find those early adopters or early adopters and have them test your product and take their feedback seriously because they are going to live with you throughout the life cycle of your, of your product.
[00:49:24] And they're also going to be your early evangelists. Um, some of our very, very first customers. Are still, even at this stage, the biggest source of incoming interest for us because they go out there and they talk about our product and they talk about how much they love it. And their enthusiasm is so much more powerful than any kind of sales effort that we could put forward.
[00:49:47] Um, so find those people nurture them. Exactly. It's like free marketing, um, find them, nurture them and carry them through your, through your process and make sure they feel involved during, during that entire time.
Like it sounds like great advice. And final question is what are you most excited about?
I am very excited in the legal field about the way that lawyers are becoming more open to practicing in different ways.
[00:50:18] And that involves a lot of no code tech building. I think there were no longer in a place where. To be, to be a legal tech company you're entering the technology sphere and you're, you're now a technologist, rather technology needs to be incorporated within legal and it's. And it's a duty that all of us as attorneys have is to incorporate that into our practices.
[00:50:40] And so I'm really, and about the way that people have opened up to collaborating online with their customers and building new business models. And I think that's only going to accelerate and transform more and more in the coming years. Uh, one of the things that I've seen quite a bit within, within our sphere is building different forms of bundling your products.
[00:51:03] So where you may previously have just provided legal services, people are providing business models where they could, they combine legal services with. Some other, maybe they joined up with a court reporter or with some other business and provide a package of services. We see that in other businesses, in other industries, but we haven't seen that as much in legal.
[00:51:25] So that's, that's going to be really interesting to see what innovative models they come up with.
Got it and personally, something that you're most excited about, anything to do with maybe achieving an end, this ever going rolling series of lockdowns. That seems to be happening in both of our countries.
Um, and personally, I'm just excited about growing our company and reaching more, more lawyers and allowing them, empowering them to do what they want and democratizing the development process.
Where can everyone find you online? Uh,
so they can find us online www.documate.org And they can find us on Twitter at @documatelaw
amazing Dorna. I think that's a great place to wrap. Thanks very much for joining me, love the conversation. You've got a bunch of interesting insights into legal tech and you are doing great work on the forefront. And so congratulations everything so far. And thanks for taking time to speak to me.
Thank you so much for talking to me.
[00:52:30] Thanks so
much for listening. You can find us online @makeupad.co. Well, we're on Twitter @makerpad.