We talk about their journey to create a commercial product. Along the way we ask if creativity, innovation, and producing viable commercial products like HyperDraft means that lawyers at firms have to split off from that firm? The answer is a mix of yes, no, and maybe. One thing that both point out is that while the idea may be viable, a young associate really doesn’t have the legal experience needed to understand the nuances involved in creating a deliverable that scales and fits the overall needs of the lawyer and the client. That’s why Tony and Sean stuck around for a few more years to learn the in’s and out’s of the processes before leaving to launch HyperDraft. It’s a lesson that many entrepreneur/lawyers may want to learn before launching their own startups.
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AALL Crystal Ball Questions:
Marlene Gebauer 0:21
Welcome to The Geek in Review the podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.
Greg Lambert 0:28
And I’m Greg Lambert. Well, Marlene, I am back from my very enjoyable trip to Colorado where I attended the AALL annual conference in person for the first time since 2019. And it was really fun catching up with, you know, a bunch of friends and colleagues up there. Bob Ambrogi was there. And so that means it’s just great to see all these people.
Marlene Gebauer 0:52
Yeah, I saw the pictures, I saw everybody sort of posting stuff. And it was so nice to see that everybody was really enjoying themselves and having a good time.
Greg Lambert 1:00
Yeah. So speaking of vacations, I think you are still up in New Jersey. Am I right?
Marlene Gebauer 1:05
Yeah, it’s sort of a work slash vacation time here in New Jersey. We’re looking at schools for my oldest and but it’s been great. I’ve been able to sneak some little trips into New York. And I was able to get to The Shore a couple of times, even even got to do even got to do yoga on the beach, which was really nice.
Greg Lambert 1:28
So it must have been early enough for that. I know the heat is blazing up there, right?
Marlene Gebauer 1:33
Yes, it was it was well before the sand turned into fire.
Greg Lambert 1:43
Well, on the show this week, we have a great lineup. With Thai and Sean Greaney of HyperDraft. And we talked to them about how you know lawyers in large law firms can still innovate and whether or not it’s you know, it’s necessary for associates and partners who find methods of innovation. Do they really need to leave the law firms to actually make it happen?
Marlene Gebauer 2:07
And should they?
Greg Lambert 2:08
Yeah, maybe they shouldn’t. But actually, my my favorite part was we got to talk. She Hulk and the Marvel Cinematic Universe and we geeked out on some other stuff.
Marlene Gebauer 2:18
We did. We did. We did get very hot. We did get very sci fi and superhero I have I have to admit, and it was wonderful. It was so nice to to talk to other people who are into that.
Greg Lambert 2:28
Yeah, we got a we got a list of TV shows that we need to catch up on.
Marlene Gebauer 2:32
Greg Lambert 2:33
Well, before we get into this week’s full interview with Tony and Sean, while I was in Denver, I talked with a few of my peers up there. And we asked them to give us a quick answer to our crystal ball question and see what they see happening in the next, you know, two to five years in the legal industry. And I will play a few of these over the next couple of months or so. So first up, we have my good friend Susan deMaine from the Indiana University Mauer School of Law, and from there, we’ll just jump straight into our conversation with Tony and Sean.
Greg Lambert 3:12
So, Susan, thanks for taking the time here at AALL to come over and talk with me. So we ask all of our guests the crystal ball question which is over the next two to five years, what do you see are some of the changes or challenges of the industry or your profession, and that people should take notice of?
Susan deMaine 3:36
Thanks, Greg, and it’s great to be here. Thanks for talking to me. I am Susan deMaine and I am the director of the Jerome Hall Law Library at Indiana University’s Mauer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana. And to get to your question, I think I’ll focus on law schools and academic law libraries because that is what I know best. And I think that one thing we are going to face very quickly actually already have is inflation. And we are seeing the prices of everything go up. So far. I’m not seeing a lot of it in what we’re purchasing. Except when we buy Office Supplies, those sorts of purchases have already gone up. I’m not seeing it so much in our information resources yet, but I expect that we will. What I am seeing is that my staff need higher compensation to cover their rent. And I had a staff person come to me in June before we heard about raises and say do you have any information about what my raise is going to be because I just heard from my landlord, and I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to cover the rise in my rent. Fortunately, her raise did, but really just barely. And that’s not a good situation to be in. It’s making retention difficult. It’s making attracting people to the field difficult, we’re going to have to deal with budgets that are not getting any bigger, while prices are going up, and we have to increase our salaries in order to be competitive, and get good people. So inflation is my number one thing that I think we need to be thinking about, hopefully in five years, we’re not still in this economic situation. But that’s one thing.
Greg Lambert 5:23
Let me follow up with that. And you can let me know whether we’re there to keep this and or not. But I can hear people that are listening to this, say, well, law schools have gone way above the inflation rate over the past 25 years. What does that mean for tuition again?
Susan deMaine 5:46
That’s a really good question. Yeah, keep this in. I don’t necessarily have an answer. I would anticipate the tuition will go up, which is not great. I mean, we’ve seen tuition in higher education go up dramatically everywhere. Why is a complex question that no one has really been able to answer. I do think one thing, it seems to be an obvious place where money is going is to technology that schools did not have to have even 25 years ago, or we’re just starting to have 25 years ago. And now we have to have technology throughout the building. A lot of that is retrofitting because of the age of our buildings. We have to have IT staff that we didn’t have before. And it’s a constant spend, because that technology has to be replaced every two years. I mean, I don’t know exactly what cycle my school is on. But it’s frequent. And that is just an enormous cost. Certainly one that has seen supply chain issues, all sorts of things that are affecting prices in that regard. I think also, there’s a lot more demand to provide support services that when I was in law school didn’t exist. So we now have mental health services and DEI services, and just a lot of really valuable worthwhile student support services, that cost money in salaries and office space, and all that sort of thing. And so I think in a lot of ways schools are being asked, or not just being asked, have to provide more, and all for good reasons.
Greg Lambert 7:25
Susan deMaine 7:25
It’s a better student experience. And that there’s, this is an upward cycle that I don’t see where the end is. I don’t know. I wish if I had those answers, man, I I’d be a university president. Forget Dean, I would just jump right to the top if I knew those things. There
Greg Lambert 7:41
you go. Well, Susan, thank you very much for taking time to talk to me.
Susan deMaine 7:44
Marlene Gebauer 7:48
We’d like to welcome Tony Thai CEO and Chief Engineer at HyperDraft Inc, and Sean Greaney, General Counsel at HyperDraft. Tony and Sean, welcome to The Geek in Review.
Sean Greaney 7:57
Yep. Glad to be here.
Tony Thai 7:58
Thanks for having us, Marlene. Greg.
Marlene Gebauer 8:00
We’ve talked a lot recently about the process of taking an innovative concept and making it a reality. Whether it’s through an innovation hub or an incubator, or even in the garage of someone’s parent’s garage. Tony, you have experienced at a number of big law firms including Bryan Cave, Nixon Peabody and Goodwin Proctor, but if I’m reading the history correctly, about HyperDraft, this began and was supported during your time at Goodwin, is that right?
Tony Thai 8:24
It’s it’s it’s almost right. So it does kind of look like that. But kind of the origin story when I joined Goodwin was, I didn’t want to switch any more law firms, I was actually just about to leave the law firm life altogether and then go run this full time. So I was just very transparent with the Goodwin team. But I met a lot of great people there, Anthony McCusker. Sean wasn’t there at the time yet. And I told him like, Hey, I’m running this legal tech business. Are you okay with that? And be like, sure, whatever, like, you’ve got a good reputation on the lawyer side. So that’s all we really care about. So I didn’t really start it there. But it did gain some additional traction when I was at Goodwin and I met some obviously great people to help pull onto my team going forward.
Marlene Gebauer 9:13
And, it was really that easy? Just, you know, hey, I’m doing this and they’re like, that’s fine?
Tony Thai 9:19
It’s actually a little more complicated than that.
Marlene Gebauer 9:21
It seems like it should be harder than that.
Tony Thai 9:24
No, no , no. The interview process was interesting. I wasn’t looking for a law firm. So they reached out to me much like how they ended up reaching out to Sean. And I probably made every mistake possible in an interview, like say things like, I don’t want to be a lawyer, or work for a big law firm. And they’re like, interesting, interesting, but would you do that here? And I’m like, I don’t think I don’t think you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth. It was interesting, but I met I met the people and that’s really what sold me is, you know, we could get into it later on, but you know, these law firms are so big, it’s tough to really gauge it by just one brand name. And so when you meet the people that you’re going to work with, like, that’s really what sold it for me is like, all those people have since left the firm. They’re all still my friends. So it’s just really, really excited about having opportunity to work to work with a great group of folks.
Marlene Gebauer 10:19
That definitely speaks speaks a lot.
Greg Lambert 10:21
Well, and Sean, I know you, you’ve worked with Tony at Goodwin and you came over to become HyperDraft’s first general counsel at the beginning of this year. You know, I’ve heard your story you’re talking about working at Beats by Dr. Dre just long enough for it to be bought up by Apple. But what motivated you to leave a you know, a partnership position at Goodwin and jump in with Tony there at HyperDraft?
Sean Greaney 10:49
Yeah, no, I always like to let them know or remind them that I came down off my ivory tower being a partner to mingle with lowly non partners. You know that that motivation do we do we have like 30 seconds for like, like the OG origin story mixed with like, oh, perfect.
Greg Lambert 11:07
Marlene Gebauer 11:08
Sean Greaney 11:08
So, to understand where I was, you got to know where I came from. So it’s 2007 I met Kaye Scholer, R.I.P., they’re no longer they’re no longer a firm with a big old international law firm. And as my first day there, I didn’t work in an office job before I started being lawyer. I was like serving a bartending put my way through school. So like I had no idea how to function in an office, or how to do any legal work, right. I’m a transactional attorney is what the position was. And so in the interview naturally, I told them that I wanted to be a transactional attorney since I was six, just because I needed that job after graduation. And so the first thing they had me do was board consent for a Series A financing, which is what I’ve been doing for 15 years. I had no clue what a board consent was. I didn’t know why we were talking like Shakespearean. Whereas now therefore hereto. And so I had no clue what I was doing. I had that partner, right. There’s always that one partner that says, hey, I’m like the associate partner, my doors always open. Come ask me any questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question. So I took this guy up on his offer, and he just didn’t have any time, right? For like two days I’ve been I’ve probably spent like 15 hours on a four page consent, because I had no clue what I was doing. I’m trying to fix commas. And I keep popping in the office calling like, Hey, man, like you got two seconds. You got two seconds. No I’m busy. I’m busy. I’m busy. So it was like 6pm On the third day, I walk up to him like, Hey, man, you got two seconds. He’s like, are you still on that thing? And I’m like, yeah. And he was like, listen, man, I know. I know what you’re trying to do. And am I like, good, thank God, I don’t, somebody knows. He’s like, you’re just trying to get me to do the work for you. Like, oh, no, no, that’s, that’s not it. He’s like, so do me a favor, go back to your office, think intelligently about this consent. And then tomorrow morning, we can have an intellectual conversation and slams the door in my face. So now I’m hot, right? I’m hot. I’m upset. Like, I’m not from the office space. You know, where I come from. We don’t talk to each other that way, like, and so I go back to my office. And right then and there, I made a determination that I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore. Like this is the dumbest job have ever worked in my whole life. I gotta figure out how to get out. And I’ve been trying to figure that out for 15 years. And then I came to Goodwin. So So basically, I’ve caught my whole careers been a guy with maybe a foot out the door of the law firm, sitting on like a 3-0 count, waiting for a fastball to come down and just waiting for my pitch. And I tried it with Beats. I thought that was it. And then I was a W-2 employee for like a total of three months before the Apple deal started kicking up. So not enough time to vest in any kind of equity. And so when I came Goodwin, like Tony, I wasn’t looking to come to Goodwin, I did a deal across from them that made an offer. I took it. A week later, the whole world locked down with a pandemic. But in that week, I met Tony Thai. And we went to a happy hour. He was the head of the welcoming committee, and I’m sitting there and he tells me he’s got this legal tech startup, and I panic, right? Like I’m a partner, but I don’t really care. I’m like, Yo, man, like, I may not look like a partner, but you can’t tell me things like this, right? Because I think I have to go tell somebody. He’s like, no, no, it’s cool. It’s cool. It’s a sanction startup. And I’m like, Cool, man, what are you doing? And he said, LegalTech my eyes glazed over and like great, we’re gonna go have to sell to lawyers, but he gave me a demo the product, it was like the real deal Holyfield. And so then I was like, Okay, this guy, we ended up being boys. So it was like, this is the pitch I’ve been waiting for. It’s a cool product. It’s one of my homies. It was a no brainer. And so I rode that wave out a little bit longer than made the jump earlier this year, a little bit longer than a 30 second origin story, but I feel it was worth it. I really do.
Sean Greaney 11:08
I think it was.
Marlene Gebauer 13:59
Absolutely worth it.
Greg Lambert 14:43
And having worked in law firms and I think both both of us Marlene in 2006-2007 I mean, the the money was pouring in. So I think you know it was perfectly fine for the the partner who was supposed to be over the associates and helping them, not actually helping and just letting you kind of turn those hours out. Because, you know, no one was really checking. But 2008-2009 whole world change and thus, why certain firms are no longer,
Sean Greaney 15:14
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. After 2008 clients actually started looking at their invoices and going like, Wait a minute.
Marlene Gebauer 15:21
Like, hang on a second.
Greg Lambert 15:22
Marlene Gebauer 15:24
Before we jump into the weeds for HyperDraft, I wanted to pick your brains on what gave you the inspiration to want to develop a product to help you better do your day job as a lawyer. And when did you think that this product could be my day job?
Tony Thai 15:39
Alright, this is? Yeah, so I’ll be very frank with you on this, right. I never wanted to start this damn company. I didn’t want to. I shopped around, you can ask people. My professor from law school was also an investor in our company now. In law school. I said, this is ridiculous. After my first year, as a law student, I got a summer job at a law firm, which by the way, I’m an idiot. So I didn’t realize that you’re supposed to do an externship. And then somebody told me that I was supposed to apply for that. And I said, Oh crap, how much do they pay? And they’re like, nothing. And I’m like, well, that’s stupid. Like, how am I supposed to pay the rent? So I go work for this corporate law boutique, which apparently was a tough gig to get, I had no idea. I do the job. And I realized there’s a lot of corollaries between any practice of law and software engineering is very, very similar. There’s a lot of corollaries. And because there’s a lot of these parallel processes. I’m like, as an engineered, dude, we’ve solved for so many of these problems, we seldom reinvent the wheel, we try to be as efficient as possible. Not for the sake of efficiency, but mostly because engineers are lazy. I admittedly am what I like to refer to as aggressively lazy. So I will spend 100 hours to avoid doing like one minute of work. But I’ll spend 100 hours engineering it. But after that summer experience, I started searching for tooling, thinking somebody, it’s definitely someone who’s smarter than me is definitely sought for this. And I kept waiting and talking to people and reaching out and being promised, like, when we’re at certain law firms promised me that they’d have document generators done. And like two years in, they come to me and shot and tell us like, so we have it done. It’s not perfect. In fact, it is far from perfect. In fact, here’s a memo of all the things that are wrong with it. And at that moment, was when I thought to myself, now is the time. Because I’ve been developing this in the background, just for myself, with the intention of commercializing it only when it was ready. And I noticed that like the industry wasn’t doing it. So the moment I started working on this was the moment I learned and started practicing corporate law, the moment I decided that it’s time was when we were told this product, which we been waiting for for years was ready, but inadequate, was when I knew the market needed us to make this a full time gig. So it’s really more out of obligation than anything.
Greg Lambert 18:05
And just curious who within the law firm was developing it? Was it just a set of developers? Or was it actually the lawyers?
Tony Thai 18:16
I think they went through three different interations. So it started with outside contracting firm that didn’t get it done. And then they went with a mix of outside and in house kind of working together, that didn’t work for them. And then they went to a third option, which is they hired lawyers specifically to help them code the agreements, which got them to that last iteration. So at least they got something out of it.
Greg Lambert 18:41
It’s a story as old as time.
Sean Greaney 18:43
You know, and, and I always, always tell people this I, you know, what’s, what’s HyperDraft secret sauce. It’s the fact that Tony can speak both lawyer and engineer, because they, they are different languages. And, you know, if I’m a lawyer, trying to describe to an engineer, what I want, you know, an engineer who’s not a lawyer, we’re like, Why? Why do you need that we could do it this way. And it’s like, listen, I like my defined terms, sometimes to be bold and italicized. But sometimes underlined when I’m feeling like, you know, a cleaner, you know, a Monday and I’m trying to have a skinny Monday kind of deal. And so I need optionality for both. And they look at that, and they go, we don’t, we don’t really understand. And so you kind of get garbage in garbage out, you know. So there’s always a little bit of lost translation when it goes from the lawyers to the engineers, and back again. And because Tony speaks both and understands both camps, like we’re able to knock out features and things like that, where we were on one call, and I can’t remember what who with but it was basically we’re looking to collaborate with someone that was kind of in the space. And they made a quote that kind of made us laugh. It was we’re so good at engineering, we’re talking like months, not years. And we were thinking like, do we talk hours, not days and when we could turn around engineering stuff, and then it was like, Okay, you’re not you’re not moving at the speed where we’re at. So that’s, that’s our secret sauce. So is that, you know, it’s a for us, by us kind of kind of thing.
Greg Lambert 20:03
Yeah. And I think I was joking about stories all this time, as far as you know how law firms develop products, and it’s one of the reasons why I always remind IT, you know, law firm IT people that, you know, we’re a law firm or not, we’re not a development shop. And so you know, get out to play to your strengths. But typically in and we’ve had a number of people that have done startups, the story goes, you know, it’s usually one or two younger associates, they, they hate how inefficient the work is that they’re doing, there’s got to be a better way. They find that better way, they then spin that into a business idea, develop it, and then eventually, you know, quit their high paying associate jobs to do the startup, and you know, and then it hopefully become the multimillionaires that they want to be. But, you know, that whole idea of taking an inefficient process that is part of their day job, making it better, and then having to basically leave the firm in order to do this. Is that how that story has to be? Is that that how it has to progress? Or if I’m the managing partner at a big law firm, and I’ve got super talented people that are working for me, is there a way that I can I can keep them and help them develop this idea? And be part of it? I mean, are those two ideas even compatible?
Tony Thai 21:44
Yeah, I mean, for me, I think it’s absolutely compatible. And frankly, I think that as law firms evaluate, and especially in this market, and the way that the economy is going, evaluating their their assets, and figuring out okay, how do I make, make my assets scale and work like a business? I think you hear a lot of those stories, right? The two or three Junior mid level associates that leave the law firms. And I thought you’re going to ask me, you know, is that the right way? And I’d actually say, I think it’s the wrong way of doing it. It doesn’t make any sense to me, B, and it’s largely why I stayed around. And it’s not like, Oh, if I stay around, then I have no left. Like Sean says all the time, like it doesn’t count unless you say it, or you’ve said it somebody and I’ve said it to plenty of people. So they asked me like, why did you stay around, I’m like, I still need to understand the practice of law. It took me eight, nine years to figure that out, at least, you know, kind of getting to the higher levels, there is much more to doing diligence than just doing diligence. There is a deliverable around it, there’s a business objective around it, there’s a deal objective around it. And where a junior associate, you don’t really know that yet. So the benefit of coming at it from a top down perspective, like being a managing partner, or head of a particular group, you understand what service you’re trying to deliver. And so then it’s your job to figure out the right people, whether it’s on your current team or to go out and recruit who’s going to help me build tools to improve service delivery, whether it be through efficiency, or quality or speed any of those things, right? But you’re gonna know it way better than some first year associate doesn’t know how to write a written consent, take some four days keeps pestering me about it, you know, like that. That is not the guy I want writing my software. No offense younger Sean. Like that is not the guy that I want to rely on for business critical items. Yeah, that’s, that’s my perspective. Maybe Sean has a different.
Marlene Gebauer 23:48
But let me just just ask one thing is like, but firms, the me we’ve had people on the show where it’s like, firms seem to have a real challenge incentivizing people to do that, and having people at the top levels, know how to get the right teams and get those teams, you know, through all, you know, whatever red tape there is to, to get the project off the ground and get it accomplished. And we just hear it over and over and over again. So you know, what, what thoughts do you have about that in terms of, you know, if the right way is for firms to be more involved in this, you know, how do they get there?
Tony Thai 24:32
I do want to give Marlene the playbook which I’ve been willing to give to everyone right of like how we approach it. I can sum it up with one conversation I had with the C suite at a very big law firm, and they were grilling me on the uses of our tech they had hired like 20 people to help build the same thing… or, continuing to build the same thing that we had already built in three months. And I just said like, Guys this, take it or not, I don’t know I don’t care all that much, if I’m being honest with you, and he’s just like, what? What do you mean? You don’t care? He’s like you, you can’t just do that, Tony, like you’re, you’re practicing law this. And I said, Hey, man, you want to know a little bit of a secret here? Everybody on my team are lawyers, we could practice law if we wanted to. Right? So my backup was always we just spin up a law firm and do it ourselves. Thankfully, we don’t have to do that, that we don’t because we have good clients. And, frankly, too many at this point we’re trying to ramp up. But my backup plan was always I’ll just do it myself. I don’t care. You know, we know how to practice law, we have a good reputation in it. But to answer your question directly Marlene like you asked, like, what is it going to take? It’s going to take an existential threat. It’s kind of like, I hate throwing out too many sports analogies. But, you know, people are familiar with the Golden State Warriors, right? Basketball team up in the Bay. I’m not the biggest fan because a lot of bandwagoners with those guys. But they fundamentally changed the way basketball teams are operated and recruited. And a lot of people don’t know this, right? Like, when the newest, the latest owners went in to purchase the team, they wanted to pick one that was one affordable that they could mold. But what a lot of people didn’t understand is they were very stats oriented and model oriented. And they realized, hey, our ROI on shooting three pointers, much higher than just banging on the paint and hoping that we’re going to get an an one, we should recruit a lot more three point shooters. And what used to be a roster of like, you know, two, three mid size guys, maybe one point guard that smaller and one really big guy, they started to average it out where, everybody’s about the same height. And everybody about had about the same shooting percentage outside the perimeter. And that’s what fundamentally changed the recruitment and roster for every other team trying to make the the old model work. So for us, the question was always going to be either people start to adopt it naturally, because they realize this is a threat to my business if I don’t, or we would just spin up a law firm and do it ourselves. But yeah, that was always the playbook.
Marlene Gebauer 27:11
One of the things that’s in the promotional materials for HyperDraft is that it uses artificial intelligence to improve overall process. Listeners of The Geek in Review would be disappointed if we didn’t mention that AI raises a lot of red flags for us, because everything is AI.
Greg Lambert 27:26
Marlene Gebauer 27:27
So what is it that you mean by AI usage in HyperDraft? How is AI used in the product that actually improves overall process and not just textbox on marketing material that goes out to potential buyers of HyperDraft?
Sean Greaney 27:40
Skynet! We mean Skynet. That’s, that’s basically what we got. Right? Judgment Day in ’97 didn’t happen. And so
Tony Thai 27:47
Dude, you can’t say that! I knew you’re gonna go straight to the Terminator reference. So yeah, so two things. One, you have to understand we do do some of the marketing keywords because of SEO. And because of that stuff. Two, I absolutely hate the usage of AI and you never hear us ever talk about it in a pitch ever. Right? We don’t use AI, anywhere in our sales process or sales materials. Maybe in the marketing side, just because we have to compete with everybody who’s sells AI products. It’s fascinating, the people that sell AI products don’t have any background in AI. It’s quite fascinating, right?
Marlene Gebauer 28:35
A lot of the salespeople that’s true.
Tony Thai 28:37
Yeah. So as a practitioner in AI, you know, the limitations. And you recognize that, you know, we can’t even do something as not relatively simple with as grand of a data set as kind of name and voice recognition, converting the names to, you know, written in a written format, that’s that’s more accurate, or speech to something that’s more accurate, let alone make judgment calls on legal questions. That’s just absurd. So the way that we use AI is not something I openly talk about all the time, but it has to do a lot more to do with the back office tooling. So it’s, it’s about our service delivery side of things. And it’s always working underneath and behind the scenes. What if we ever bring up AI, it’s to promote a feature that users can readily gain value out of. It’s not one of those things where we’re like trying to auto suggests stuff. It’s, it’s usually contextual recommendation engines that help our users get to where they want to a little bit faster.
Greg Lambert 29:40
So Sean was just kidding about Skynet?
Tony Thai 29:42
No, he’s not. He’s not. I’m just legally not allowed to talk about it because our patent attorneys would be absolutely up my butt right now.
Sean Greaney 29:50
That was a whole lot of words. And all I heard was Skynet. That’s pretty much all I heard.
Tony Thai 29:57
We were on. We were on a call with our patent attorney. And I don’t know if you guys know a lot of patent attorneys, but they’re generally pretty dry. Just generally, that’s fine. So they are more on the cognitive and intellectual side, at the end of our session, the one of the guys was like, Oh, shit, yeah. That got Sean really excited. He’s like, Oh, wow, this is there’s a lot of math talk for not a lot of.
Sean Greaney 30:20
Yeah and I didn’t understand any of the technology. And it wasn’t the patent attorney. It was the science nerd that he hired to validate the patent. So like, you know, because most lawyers, even patent attorneys, right. They haven’t agreed this was like the guy who was working on top secret stuff. And even he paused and he was like, Oh, shit, and I’m like, dang. Okay, now, we’re cooking with gas here, right? Like, I’m not really sure what happened here. There’s a lot of like formulas and acronyms thrown around. But if we impressed the Science Guy, we’re all right.
Tony Thai 30:49
He was he was making me sweat. It was the first time I mean, we’re paying them and they were making me sweat asking all these complicated questions. I’m like, that’s a really good point. And like, oh, have you thought about this? And like, No, I haven’t actually. But yeah, no, sorry, Marlene to answer your question finally is we don’t try to sell AI as a key differentiator we try to sell value and time to value. That’s that’s what we try to sell, and kind of improve for our clients. Everything else is how the sausage is made. And frankly, as a as a end user, you don’t really care. Right.
Greg Lambert 31:23
Tony, before I get too far into the next question, one congratulation, we all just found out that you were recognized as fastcase 50. Member today that you so you join the prestigious company of Marlene and me. So, you know, I’m not sure anyone that would have Marlene and me as members is worth it.
Sean Greaney 31:49
You guys can’t see. Congratulations, genuflecting. Right now I didn’t realize I was I was I was in the presence of the holy trifecta.
Tony Thai 32:02
That should be our group. I want to I want to make a group. It’s just me, Marlene and Greg just call it calling ourselves the wholly trifecta.
Sean Greaney 32:09
I’m the one who has to take the picture, though, because I’m not in the group. So
Tony Thai 32:15
Next year, we’ll get them nominated
Greg Lambert 32:16
Next year, Sean, next year. But Tony, I was looking at your website, and there was a there was a quote on their on the or statement on there that caught my attention. And that was you say we created HyperDraft to accelerate the legal industries transition to modern technology tooling, and a more sustainable future. So one, and I think we kind of mentioned it earlier, as you know, it’s like law firms, the legal industry isn’t exactly known for being on the bleeding edge of modern technology tooling. So what do you see as some of the challenges out there on getting things like document automation into everyday legal practice?
Tony Thai 33:00
First off, I mean, how ridiculous is it that we still have to talk about document automation, this is feels like this conversation should have happened like two or three decades ago, right? Like, I run into some old timers. And they’re like, Yeah, back in my day, we were still working on that. I’m like, oh, that’s doesn’t that doesn’t bode well.
Greg Lambert 33:17
Tony Thai 33:23
Excellent. That’s such a good reference. And I’m gonna leave it right there. I know those guys are they’re gonna get
Greg Lambert 33:29
integrated was WordPerfect 4.2.
Tony Thai 33:33
Was it Lotus docs? Did you guys ever use Lotus?
Greg Lambert 33:36
Tony Thai 33:38
Yeah, Lotus Notes? That’s right.
Greg Lambert 33:40
Actually, I think some firms still have that.
Tony Thai 33:46
Alright, so you know, the way I’d frame it up is let’s talk about some trends first, and then I can talk about how I see the firm’s reacting to the trends, right? First and foremost, like there’s a few kind of forcing mechanisms in the industry in the markets that lead me to believe that there’s going to be greater adoption. One, and with the pandemic, that was definitely a forcing mechanism to get people to adopt Zoom, which agitates me a little bit because we went from like, conference calls being perfectly fine. And I could, you know, be laying in bed while I take them to, oh, no, you gotta at least dress the top half and then jump on a Zoom call for no additional benefit, besides seeing my face. Things like remote work, and trying to adapt for that, is a good kind of market indicator. The second part that isn’t talked about as much, which is kind of surprising for me, is evaluating demand for legal services versus supply. I don’t know if you know this, but there are only so many people in the world. And there are only so many lawyers, and there’s only so much time, right? And it all it all takes X number of hours to do Y project, and you only have Z number of people, one, you can calculate the total profitability of a law firm pretty easily. Two, if demand starts to exponentially grow, which it has over the past decade, you’re going to outstrip the ability for the supply side to keep up. And that’s what has been happening over the past few years. Nice thing whether depending on your perspective or not, is there’s been a market correction. And then there’s starting to be more of a market correction. So there’s gonna be less demand for certain types of work. So what firms recognize in 08-09, with that kind of first initial recession, with the layoffs and certain firms being turned into verbs, is that they don’t want to scale too aggressively on the hiring side. And so this last round, most firms were pretty responsible. But even then, they overhired, and so you’re going to start to see riffs happening for certain practice areas. And so those market trends lead me to believe that as firms try to figure out how to scale their business as a whole, they have to rely more on the tech side, more on the KM people so that they can scale out and make their kind of capitalize on their current human assets. And that makes it sound so transactional, but that’s the reality of it, so that they can scale up and scale down their businesses without risking the reputational damage, and really the organizational damage of having to hire too many people and then fire them or lay them off if the markets don’t keep up with the demand in a particular area. So all those market indicators, kind of position companies like mine pretty well. But in terms of forcing mechanisms that we can do to help that out is one, when we talk about law firms, we often kind of just talk about in one huge tranche, the big and midsize firms. But those are those the minority, like the biggest chunk of law firms are actually your solo and small boutiquee shops, which is what we’ve been targeting and what we’ve been supplying with our tools. And so once those guys can, and gals can can compete with the bigger law firms, there is no reason to go to a big law firm for a certain tasks that can be more easily held or done and executed well at a lower rate from a smaller firm. So you’re seeing some upward pressure coming from the smaller boutiques, kind of pressuring the bigger law firm and mid sized law firms into adopting this tech so that they can offer rates and packages that are competitive.
Sean Greaney 37:44
I totally agree. And so the bulk of my career after I got out of the the firm, formerly known as Kaye Scholer, I went to a corporate boutique out here in LA, and spent on and off, you know, before Beats and after Beats. Pretty much a decade there. And so you know, so having to pitch a boutique law firm to a client, right? A lot of the time, the pitch is why you don’t need big law and why you can use us. And so there’s a hunger there, when we, when we sell to the boutiques, it’s an easy sell, they get it, the people whose names are on the walls are still alive and making decisions. So there isn’t a committee after committee after, you know, a board after a management meeting. Right? Like they understand the value and they’re always looking for an edge. And so the analogy I always do it, it’s like your auto repair. Right? When you find when you find a shop that’s like your guy, right? They do everything, right, you go to them, because I don’t need to go to the dealership for that. But if it’s a factory, if it’s a warranty recall, or there’s those certain type of specialists, obviously, we go to the dealership, and that’s how those boutiques live, right? They they just like listen, right? You don’t need to pay $1,200 an hour to get your company formed to do your venture financing deals, options and all that kind of stuff. But listen at the DOJ comes knocking because you violated something. Yeah, you gotta go to the dealer for that. And so that they’re always looking for an edge, and they’re always looking for they’re on the forefront of, of basically technology. And it’s it’s been an easy sell little more of an upsell uphill battle with the big law firms just because it’s committee after committee after committee. It’s an international law firm, they gotta get 1200 People buy in if they want to do an enterprise license, you know, so it’s kind of you know, like, like Tony said, when we say law firms, there’s there’s a trillion different sizes and fits and looks and feels that you can come at,
Greg Lambert 39:36
Makes sense. So, you know, when we were setting up this, this interview, and I was talking with the head of marketing there, Ashley Carlisle, who will probably tell Tony Don’t Don’t ever say that again.
Marlene Gebauer 39:49
She’s gonna have some work.
Greg Lambert 39:52
So she mentioned, Tony, that you’re a gamer and a sci fi geek just like us. You’re also really excited just like I am with the with the new She-Hulk, MCU mini series about the launch on Disney plus in a in a few weeks and we’ll put a pin in that we’re coming back to that one. But actually this, you’re like the second guest in a row that we’ve had, that has really been a fan of gaming, and how that has influenced the user experience that you’re applying to your business. So can you tell us a little bit more about how your experience in gaming has influenced how you’ve approached user experience and interface for HyperDraft?
Tony Thai 40:41
Yeah, we get that reaction pretty quickly, when we show the product to our customers is like, the first response is after like, 30 seconds, they stopped business, this is by far the best looking legal tech tool we’ve ever seen. And I’m like, you know, the bar is kind of low there, but I’ll take it. I’ll take the I’ll take the compliment. But yeah, I mean, like usability, you know, as people, we’re just we’re shallow. We’re shallow animals, right? We make judgments within the first 5-10 seconds really, whether or not we’re going to enjoy working with something. And you know, if you’re going to do a job, like why should you be happy, kind of enjoy certain parts of the process? So we looked at it from, like, enjoyability and interaction standpoint, and we want to reduce the number of inputs. So like, what industry works on that day in day out? It’s the gaming industry. Like their UI UX designers spend hundreds of hours making it so that it’s easy for somebody to just use a controller to control user interface faster than somebody using a mouse. And so I got a lot of inspiration from that I have a lot of friends in the industry. But I mean, at the end of the day, it’s really about you know, I showed this before I built this with the ulterior motive, like if nobody wants to use it, at least I’ll use it. And so I wanted to build something I would want to see day in day out and I built certain aspects of the interface because I knew that gave off like 80s video game vibes and I knew that would capture attention pretty quickly.
Sean Greaney 42:15
Just chum the water. Just chum the water with booth Miss Pac Man yellow putting that came I came running.
Tony Thai 42:23
Yeah, I sent him the demo and then like immediately text he’s like, Is that is that is that a PacMan reference?
Sean Greaney 42:29
MS. PacMan. The greatest game of all time, you can’t change my mind Ms Pac Man, the arcade version, tabletop or standalone, I don’t care. Like it’s it’s hands down. And the just the load up screen was like Ms Pac Man and Pong had a kid and I was I was in, I was in.
Tony Thai 42:49
You know, doing something like like building stuff, and legal tech, or just technology in general that people don’t appreciate as much as the time it takes to design good user interfaces, takes, at least for us longer than it takes to actually write the code for the functionality. So we’ll probably spend like a two to one ratio of we built a functionality. Now just gotta make it usable, and people in and user friendly. That’s the fascinating part.
Greg Lambert 43:16
Yeah. We, when I was working in, in, in an IT shop, we had a saying that was, you know, making something as easy but making something easy as not. And so I think, you know, that’s that’s the part is, when you have an interface that’s intuitive, and is easy to use. There’s a lot of work on the back end that goes into making it look easy.
Marlene Gebauer 43:40
Yeah. I mean, I imagine you do a lot of testing on that to make sure that it is in fact,
Greg Lambert 43:45
he just runs it by Sean to make sure his eyes light up.
Sean Greaney 43:50
I usually approach legal Tech with my arms folded, right? I’m all defensive out of the gate for that reason, right?
Marlene Gebauer 43:57
It’s like, it’s like Mikey likes it?
Sean Greaney 44:06
No free advertising, but shout out Life cereal. The you know, it’s one of those things where the reason why I don’t like most legal tech is if it takes me more than 30 seconds to figure out what the hell I’m doing, like my old man way is much faster. And you know, we all it’s usually when one of those like legal research companies comes in, right? They’ve got their sales rep, and they do all these fancy search terms, and they find everything and you’re like, holy crap, I’ve been doing it wrong. Okay, cool. And then you go back to your desk, and you have no idea how to do it and can’t remember the shortcut search terms. And if you do that, if I have to call you up, just to figure out how just to do it, basically, you’ve lost and we’ve failed as a company. That’s kind of our approach and
Greg Lambert 44:47
That’s why you need to hire us librarians to do it. We’ll do it for you.
Sean Greaney 44:48
Tony Thai 44:53
Maybe we’ll start sending you guys the demos and then you can figure out Yeah, yeah, I mean, is actually one of our design tenants is, is I refuse to build anything if and we won’t release anything that requires training. So if it’s not intuitive enough, or there’s not something built in the UI that makes it very obvious how to do something, we won’t release it. Which sucks.
Greg Lambert 45:18
The true reason that I brought you guys on here is because I know you’re also excited as I am about the She Hulk Attorney at Law mini series that’s coming out. So and unfortunately, the tape wasn’t rolling. But I think we spent about 20 minutes before talking talking about this. So hopefully, we still have some some energy on this. But Tony, tell me your thoughts. Are you excited as I am on on She-Hulk coming out?
Tony Thai 45:48
I mean, I’m excited for something new. This feels like, you know, Sean, I’m not gonna speak for Sean but Shawn might say, Oh, they’re starting to dig deep into that well, because they’re running out of material. But I mean, I’m excited for it seems like it’ll take a more human approach to kind of the universe and I’m excited for I don’t have any predictions on on what it’s going to be like, just given the kind of mishmash of of, of material that that Marvel has pushed out recently. But listen, any new property and especially anything that relates to being a lawyer isn’t, you know, I’m not gonna thumb my nose at.
Greg Lambert 46:29
I’m excited because they have a Superhero Practice Group. Yeah. Superhero Defense Practice Group in this law firm. And I’m like, oh, man, I want to I want to run that division. That’s, that’s what I want to do so and, and I will admit, I am old enough that I actually bought the original She Hulk and still have the original 25 issue run from I think it’s like 1979 or 1980 is when of course I you know, I was two at the time right? No? Well close enough. So I was old enough to walk in and buy comic books at the comic book store. So let’s just leave it at that. So
Tony Thai 47:17
I don’t I don’t have the full original series but my uncle got from my uncle. I have I think three of the comics She Hulk and it’s mint conditions are like one of my prized possessions.
Greg Lambert 47:29
Wow. Very nice. Very nice. So yeah, I’m I’m super excited about it.
Marlene Gebauer 47:34
So if we’re not excited about She-Hulk, what are we excited about from a sci fi perspective?
Tony Thai 47:41
Sean, what was the HBO show that we were just talking about? Forgot now
Sean Greaney 47:44
Greg Lambert 47:45
Sean Greaney 47:45
Expanse is amazing. Fast is one of the greatest like that expanse is amazing. That was one of those I you know what these shows? I’m so excited when I come to them late, because they already got like four seasons, right? You don’t just binge your 10 episode and you’re like crap, where are we on the production cycle? I gotta wait 18 months for that for the next series to drop. So I like coming too late but Expanse was amazing. We were talking about it Ms. Marvel. I’m pumped. I’m cautiously approaching She-Hulk because because in no spoiler alerts on this one right but I wasn’t a fan of how the new Doctor Strange wrapped. I felt they they betrayed my trust a little bit and no spoilers, right? Because that’s not what we do here. So I’m approaching with some caution. But Ms. Marvel’s got me some hope I’ll do what I always do a roll in with the arms folded all defensive. See what it’s about. And then you know, probably just you know, hard hard candy outer shell soft and soft and warm in the middle is where I’ll end up so.
Greg Lambert 48:42
Just like you do with legal tech?
Sean Greaney 48:43
That’s exactly right.
Greg Lambert 48:47
But if you know Sean, you’re gonna get typecast here.
Marlene Gebauer 48:51
He found an approach and it works!
Tony Thai 48:54
Just to pull it back that what the reaction I got from Sean Sean always thinks he’s got like the amazing poker face he really doesn’t and so when I told him I started legal tech company he literally with his eyes just be like.
Sean Greaney 49:04
Yeah, immediately I was looking around the restaurant going like, who else can I sit next to this guy just got to talk about selling stuff to lawyers for for like, the whole world’s locking down and he’s gonna talk about selling software to lawyers. Great.
Tony Thai 49:16
Marlene and Greg. Like if you guys haven’t checked out The Nevers yet on HBO. Yes. You guys have
Greg Lambert 49:22
I have. I have it’s awesome.
Tony Thai 49:25
No spoilers. Marlene just commit. Just commit. I told Sean, Sean wasn’t a believer. Sean wasn’t a huge believer for a while and then he’s like, oh Tony, this is good.
Sean Greaney 49:37
It was cool, right? I’m watching the first episode. I’m trying to figure things out trying to get names. Everything’s cool. And about like the fourth or fifth episode, you’re like, Oh, damn, this is what this is about. Like, holy crap. I’m all in like, you literally sat up in my chair. And I’m like, Alright, I gotta go back to I gotta figure out what’s going on. So like that one. Very rarely do you blindside me and catch me off guard like that these days, but it was wonderful. Once I was like, oh, okay, you got everything I need Check, check check in the Sci Fi show. Yeah.
Marlene Gebauer 50:05
Cool. I’m just wrapping up another series so I’ll start that one.
Sean Greaney 50:08
Which one are you wrapping up?
Marlene Gebauer 50:10
So I just wrapped up The Boys.
Sean Greaney 50:12
Yep. Okay, so it’s on my to do. The latest season?
Marlene Gebauer 50:16
You guys haven’t seen The Boys? You haven’t seen the latest season? Have you watched it at all?
Tony Thai 50:20
I’ve watched the first two seasons not the latest season.
Marlene Gebauer 50:23
And Sean has not watched it at all?
Sean Greaney 50:24
Yeah, it’s it’s in the queue. I usually get distracted very easily by like, teenage vampire shows. So like, you know, it’s my guilty pleasure. So you know, you you give me some teenage vampires and some witches and things like that. Like I’m all in.
Marlene Gebauer 50:39
what was the one that I watched? What was it was that was it an HBO I can’t remember. There’s one. It’s like
Greg Lambert 50:44
Sean Greaney 50:44
Kiss first first first kill.
Marlene Gebauer 50:46
That’s it First Kill. I watched that one too.
Sean Greaney 50:49
I just wrap that one up. I was, you know, like you I was kind of like, you know, everything gets compared to Vampire Diaries. And I’m like, Okay, what? What poor man crap. Are you going to throw at me here? But I was like, Okay, here we go. I’m not too I’m not too upset. So yeah, Tony always last to me. I have two daughters who are eight and six, I might be off by a year on that. They’re not gonna listen to this. So it doesn’t matter. But I’m already paving the way for all that genre like I just live in there for for like a good solid 18 months.
Marlene Gebauer 51:21
All right. So we’re gonna do the crystal ball question. Now. It’s like, we’ve talked about this forever. But we’re going to do the crystal ball question. So Tony and Sean, we ask all of our guests to pull out the crystal ball and look into the future for us. So what do you think the future holds for the legal industry when it comes not just to document automation and creation? But where do you see the industry advancing in tech and process improvements? You know, over the next five years or so? And I don’t know who wants to start?
Sean Greaney 51:51
Tony Thai 51:52
You can tell? Yeah, you can tell the type of students Sean was right. Like he’s the guy doing the group presentation. Just all the guys out present. I’m like, but you didn’t do any of the work? I’ll present?
Greg Lambert 52:07
I’ve been paying attention.
Sean Greaney 52:08
Go to Tony first. And I’ll already tell you my answer. Totally agree.
Tony Thai 52:14
That’s why we are good partners. Yeah. So when I think about what’s what’s in store for the future, you know, I just look at kind of our relatively recent recent developments, which is like you, we’ve seen over the past decade, exponential growth in alternative legal careers, right. So like, Legal Operations Managers, Legal Operations Divisions, people will act as like Project Managers for lawyers themselves, kind of act as a buffer between business stakeholders and the lawyers. And with that trend, I see kind of the same thing happening for the legal industry at large, right, a greater reliance and expansion on the alternative legal services side of things, law firms starting to offer their own services like flat rate services, similar to LegalZoom. Just stuff that can be done and automated, but with their kind of flavor and branding. So I see a lot of law firms move that direction over the next three to five years. But like I say, I don’t know if this is too aggressive. I’ll say it anyways. I’ve said aggressive things on this call all day. So that doesn’t matter now. We’re not here to compete with the current legal tech companies. We’re not. A nd we’re not even here to compete with the current legal, you know, the lawyer population at large. We’re here to service the population that’s incoming, in five years, who are used to these day to day conveniences, and refuse to do what we did. Right, like refuse to stay up until two or 3am Every night, because they had to get signature packets out for written consents, or, you know, get a closing set together, they refused to do that, because they care more about work life balance, and frankly, more power to them. Right, like great, that’s good. That’s, that’s a good transition. So the way to look at it I at least the way I see it is, you know, when I was at a big law firm, like we were already starting to see the next generations coming in and being less and less willing to grind as hard. And so you must build tools and opportunities for outsiders to come in and help alleviate a lot of the work so that the lawyers don’t have to suffer as much and make it more sustainable practice.
Sean Greaney 54:33
Tony Thai 54:33
There it is!
Greg Lambert 54:35
There you go. Sean, your your crystal ball just told you what your answer was gonna be.
Sean Greaney 54:42
Funny that how that works.
Greg Lambert 54:45
Well done. Well, Tony Thai and Sean Greaney of HyperDraft It’s been extremely enjoyable talking, both the legal tech and some going geeky on some other stuff as well. So But before we go, where can listeners go to find out more about you and HyperDraft If they have questions?
Sean Greaney 55:08
Sean Greaney 55:09
I actually have an answer to this one. Yeah, you could check us out on our website. That’s hyperdraft.ai. HyperDraft – one word – no underscores.ai. Check us out. Book a demo, you get to talk to me and Tony live. You know, it’s always it’s always better in person. So
Marlene Gebauer 55:27
You should be an announcer.
Tony Thai 55:31
Marlene, you’re really gonna do that to me? You’re really gonna do that?
Marlene Gebauer 55:35
Sean Greaney 55:36
That’s it announcing and eye candy is what I was really brought on for, I feel.
Greg Lambert 55:40
There you go. Tony, Sean, thank thank you both.
Sean Greaney 55:44
Marlene Gebauer 55:44
Tony Thai 55:45
Thank you guys. Thanks for having us.
Marlene Gebauer 55:49
Well, I gotta say, that was one of the most fun podcasts. I think we’ve had an in a long time.
Greg Lambert 55:56
Yeah, definitely. Yeah,
Marlene Gebauer 55:58
And people don’t even know that we had like, so much like we were talking about afterward. And before, which had, of course, nothing to do with legal innovation. But
Greg Lambert 56:06
We went through all of our likes and dislikes of Dr. Strange and whatnot,
Marlene Gebauer 56:13
We got a bunch of new shows to watch. So this is this, this, this was very productive. You know, and I, you know, there were just some really great nuggets, I think we took away from this. And, you know, one I’ll highlight is that I was really taken by the fact that, you know, Tony was saying, Look, you know, we don’t want to develop anything where any training is needed. And I was just like, that’s brilliant. Is it a lot of hard work? Absolutely. But when we’re talking about trying to get adoption, like event, you know, we know, I mean, if anybody has to do anything extra. They don’t want to they don’t want to do it. But I mean, if it’s so intuitive, that you can just do it without thinking, you know, then you’re then then you’re way ahead of the game.
Greg Lambert 56:57
Yeah. And that’s, that’s the thing, especially dealing with lawyers is if it’s, if it doesn’t make sense to them right out of the box, it’s really hard to get them back. And so there’s a lot of firms out there with a lot of shelfwear in there that could take some lessons from Tony and Sean, on actually making sure that something is is easy and intuitive to use. So, so thanks again to Tony Thai and Sean Greaney, from HyperDraft, for taking the time to talk with us about legal draft and all this other stuff that we talked about. So it was fun, guys.
Marlene Gebauer 57:52
And of course, thanks to all of you for taking the time to listen to The Geek in Review podcast. If you enjoy the show, share it with a colleague. We’d love to hear from you. So reach out to us on social media. I can be found at @gebauerm on Twitter,
Greg Lambert 58:29
And I can be reached @glambert on Twitter.
Marlene Gebauer 58:32
Or you can leave us a voicemail at The Geek in Review Hotline at 713-487-7270 and as always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DeCicca Thank you, Jerry.
Greg Lambert 58:43
Thanks, Jerry. All right, Marlene, I gotta go been some TV shows now.
Marlene Gebauer 58:47
Yeah, go go go.