Talking with Tom Martin, CEO and Founder of LawDroid, a bot automation company striving to promote “Justice Everywhere,” at ILTACON 2018.
Kevin O’Keefe: Who am I talking with?
Tom Martin: So my name is Tom Martin from Vancouver.
Kevin O’Keefe: And what do you do, Tom?
Tom Martin: So I have a legal tech company called LawDroid.
Kevin O’Keefe: What does law droid do? And droid is d-r-o-i-d like in droid, obviously.
Tom Martin: Like R2D2. Yeah. So what LawDroid does, it’s a legal AI company that’s dedicated to helping lawyers and law firms automate their office.
Kevin O’Keefe: So what does that mean? Like, I’m a lawyer, what does it do for me that is a result of that?
Tom Martin: So there’s, there’s two categories: there’s bots, and then there’s voice. It’s actually a suite. There’s ReceptionBot, ParalegalBot, and a legal health check bot and reception, you know, receives people on your website, tries to convert them into leads; ParalegalBot takes care of the standardized questions and intake, , and document collection. And then you have the health check bot, which is just triaged legal issues and really helps you to get deeper into the weeds with a particular potential client.
Kevin O’Keefe: When did you start the company?
Tom Martin: Two years ago.
Kevin O’Keefe: Where’d you get the idea to say, okay, I’m going to do this?
Tom Martin: Well, so one thing is I have dabbled in legal and tech for the past 15 years. I’m a lawyer myself for 20 years, and [have experience] solving a lot of my own problems. And so two years ago I read this article about Joshua Browder and so I have to admit that that’s where I got my inspiration. I saw him doing the Do Not Pay Bot, where he got people out of parking tickets – like 150,000 at the time – and literally the hairs on the back of my neck and my arms stood up, thinking this is a huge opportunity and it’s one I didn’t want to miss.
Kevin O’Keefe: So you said that’s it, I’m doing this. That fast?
Tom Martin: Pretty much, yeah.
Kevin O’Keefe: So what did you do? Where were you working at that time?
Tom Martin: Well, my own firm for a dozen years. And I’m fortunate enough that I have good help, good staff, good lawyers that work for me. And so they were able to help me leverage that practice so that I continue to manage it, but it’s at this point it’s so systematize with the systems that I’ve created that I could also dedicate time to this.
Kevin O’Keefe: So that kind of covered my next question. How do you make that transition from, from here to there? I mean you, you had a law firm, the law firm could generate some revenue. The family isn’t going to go hungry if dad runs out and quits his day job. So do you still have the law firm today?
Tom Martin: I do.
Kevin O’Keefe: And from LawDroid two years ago to where it’s at today, has there been a low point where you go, is this going gonna make it or not? Maybe it hasn’t happened yet, because it’s a relatively short period of time and you’re probably pretty optimistic.
Tom Martin: I think anybody would be lying if they said that it’s been great all the way. Well, we were talking a little bit earlier about family and sometimes I talk to my wife about what I’m doing and she just kinda looks at me like, “what, what is this?” But there’s been ups and downs, but I think especially lately there’s been a lot of traction. The bots had been picking up people. It was actually once I reframed them, and named them, Reception Bot, Paralegal Bot, Legal Health Check Bot that it clicked. It clicks for people – they understood what it’s supposed to be, and then the voice that we have now is a voice assistant specific for the legal industry that works on top of Clio. It schedules appointments, tasks, all that kind of stuff.
Kevin O’Keefe: How many people do you have working with you at LawDroid?
Tom Martin: There’s only about four right now. We’re small.
Kevin O’Keefe: That’s okay. There’s other companies here, and I had no idea they were getting so much done with four people. I was guessing 40 or 50 and I was blown away. The people that you had to go out and hire, that were different than hiring at a law firm, who are those people?
Tom Martin: Oh, definitely. Well, I mean the biggest investment in the first one is your development partner and so it took a while to find somebody. You know, you have to develop trust, work on smaller projects, find a communication style that works for both of you. And we all work remotely!
Kevin O’Keefe: Because you’re not a technologist by training.
Tom Martin: I have some basic PHP, HTML, CSS skills which are really outdated now.
Kevin O’Keefe: So you mean you couldn’t do the coding all the way through this?
Tom Martin: No.
Kevin O’Keefe: And that’s, that’s pretty common for entrepreneurs. They don’t have the technical chops to get done what needs to be done to deliver their goals or their vision. How does one that’s like you, where you were a practicing lawyer, go to the point where you can start a company that’s based on machine learning and hire people that can help with that? You started to allude to it maybe with the trust and relationship of working with people.
Tom Martin: The people are the foundation, and you have to trust them, and they have to have skills and talents. But I think it’s just a matter of conviction, really. You just need to know that you see what it can be. You know, you see the opportunity, but you also see the promise and dedicating yourself to it and working at it like anything else, Spend 10,000 hours on something to become an expert. And I know that I’ve learned a great deal in the past two years.
Kevin O’Keefe: And in those two years there also have to have been moments where you go, “this is going to work. I now see it for sure.” That connecting the dots here is going to work. Have there been those moments too?
Tom Martin: Yeah. I think one example of that is I have a client who is using the Reception Bot, so it’s on his website and it’s interacting with his visitors. Now I have to give him a ton of credit, because he has so much traffic going onto his site that he naturally is going to convert a whole bunch of leads. But when we married what he was doing with his ebook and his notoriety together with the Chat Bot, I mean, one time I had to review what he was up to because I was getting so much volume. 50 percent of my bandwidth was him and I was like, what is going on? And he was converting two to three leads per day off the Chat Bot. And so that just for that alone, you know, when you add that to his traditional marketing he has going on, was very significant.
Kevin O’Keefe: Yeah, so then it’s going out and finding other people like hi. How do you get your work today? Word of mouth? Relationships? How does it come?
Tom Martin: A lot of it right now, it’s word of mouth. The people that I’ve worked with, they’ve had good experiences and they tell other people. I come to conferences like this and happen to meet some more people, or get introduced, like just this morning, to a new potential client. And so that’s been great. But I also started reaching out through Lawyerist just recently to try to reach more lawyers that are forward thinking and progressive.
Kevin O’Keefe: The entrepreneur and founder is a huge salesperson in this thing because of their beliefs. You just don’t hand that off to another salesperson to go out and talk to everybody. I mean, I don’t know how you view it, but it’s a huge role in that the entrepreneur has to be 1) in hiring and 2) in selling. Those are roles that just aren’t going to disappear very soon, if ever.
Tom Martin: True. I wish I could clone myself but you can’t quite automate that into a bot yet. I wish I could.
Kevin O’Keefe: So to wrap it up, what’s the number one thing you would tell an entrepreneur then today, when they’re thinking about doing this? Is it the time?
Tom Martin: Well, if we’re talking about legal tech, now’s the time.
Kevin O’Keefe: Now is the time. Jump at it.
Tom Martin: I mean, as, as you’ve seen, over the past five years, 10 years. This is the time people are jumping into it. There’s a ton of interest, capital’s behind it. So, just do it is really my message. You got to be somewhat practical, you know, like I was with mine, trying to hedge things so that I can support my family because if you have a family, it’s important to make sure you’re there for them.
Kevin O’Keefe: Thank you very much, Tom.