There are a number of firms who have launched digital products for startups: Goodwin Proctor’s Founders Workbench offers founders a user friendly way to file an incorporation in Delaware and divide equity amongst the founders. Orrick made their documents available for startups to grant founder equity, and have expanded the number of available documents since. And Cooley, through their GO platform have followed suit – making formation, seed documents and even cap table pro formas available to startups. All of these resources are FREE.
The intention, however, is to make these lightweight products available in exchange for contact information, as a means of lead generation for “real” legal work, with more substantial legal fees. It’s a good model and these tools can be a really helpful resource for startups, but it’s certainly not the best model. Why do these products have to lead to the thing law firms sell, instead of making them more robust so they become the thing that law firms sell? Products as a form of lead generation seemed to be the standard across the industry, until we met the emerging companies group at Fasken Martineau.
ViaFasken 1.0 enabled users to work through their formation in the Quebec jurisdiction, and leverage their company information to generate certain disclosure documents once on the platform.
The product was an effective entry point for the firm’s startup clients. For ViaFasken 2.0, we wanted to find ways to further increase engagement by improving the user experience, enhancing the look and feel, and by widening the capability of the platform.
One of our hypotheses for the lack of engagement was the disconnect between the way startup founders and their lawyers think about the legal implications of business decisions. For example, when it comes to personnel decisions: a startup founder thinks “I need to hire a sales person,” while their lawyer views the required action as “you need an employment agreement and an IP Assignment & Confidentiality agreement.” Most law firms platforms offer the latter. We wanted to close this gap by synchronizing the actions a startup takes with the underlying legal mechanics and documents of those decisions.
Guiding startups through the various legal activities necessary to build their company.
Manage critical personnel decisions on the platform.
Startups are complex and varied, but there are three core areas of focus in the early days:
(1) Personnel Decisions – the turnover in the early days of a startup is significant. It was critical to provide a way for Fasken clients to manage their personnel, and to trigger the necessary documents for hiring (and firing) employees, consultants, advisors, and board members.
(2) Sales – while the sales processes in place may not be well refined in most early stage companies, we wanted to ensure that Fasken clients would have the necessary documents, easily accessible to sales leaders in an active sales conversation.
(3) Fundraising – not all startups choose the venture backed route. But for those who do, it becomes a full time job. And venture moves fast. Having the ability to quickly produce a term sheet for an interested investor can be the difference between raising a needed round of financing, and possible death (of the company).
Working through user interviews with startup participants, we were able to identify the core features for a first release and usability test a few different concepts before moving forward with design and development of ViaFasken 2.0.
ViaFasken 2.0 is a subscription based platform for delivering legal services to Fasken Martineau’s emerging company clients. The product enables startups to manage their organization with the legal implications of each business decision built in, including: initial formation, personnel decisions, commercial dealings, and financing. In addition to these self service functions, the platform enables Fasken lawyers to stay closer to their clients and support them on more complex legal issues that arise from actions they have taken on the platform, sometimes as part of a bundled package – a model often discussed in the legal industry, but rarely operationalized.
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The Fasken Martineau emerging companies group has proven the value of this subscription based platform, and the firm is exploring ways to expand ViaFasken into additional practice areas. Conscious of the potential for expansion we developed the product modularly, with repeating tools as part of the ViaFasken tool kit. As the desired offerings on the platform expand, we have the ability to quickly stand up new modules with the current tools to increase the products and services available to Fasken clients.
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It has been refreshing to work with a law firm who sees product as a real source of revenue, rather than a giveaway to earn “real” work. We’re excited to work with the Fasken team to discover more opportunities to leverage ViaFasken as a way for the firm to deliver value to clients through new tools and resources.
Interested in learning how your firm or in-house team can build client facing digital product?