As part of The Startup Magazine Founder Interview Series, we interviewed Mr. Felix Shipkevich. Felix is a business attorney and regulatory counsel, but is also a LegalTech innovator with his Hotspot Law platform. His practice focuses on providing counsel to FinTech and financial services firms, including financial technology, payments and emerging digital currency space. He has some great advice for startups and businesses of all size. Here is more of his story in his own words:
TSM: Describe the Hotspot Law product in 10 words or less:
A new platform providing consumers free consultations with local attorneys.
TSM: Tell us a bit more about what Hotspot Law does? (Share with us what problem you’re solving)
With more lawyers in the US than ever before, marketing legal services has become increasingly difficult. Consumers rely on search engines and pay-to-play rating sites to find legal counsel. Attorneys have a lot of options to market their services to consumers, but not all are effective. Local firms no longer want to be a “best kept secret”. The new era of legaltech is making the process of reaching new clients easier and faster than ever before.
The “Uberization” of legal technology has impacted all facets of the business– not just the a la carte legal work side but the business development side as well.
Hotspot Law believes that the free consultation is still the most effective way to connect consumers and attorneys. Consumers like its easy-to-navigate interface and the ability to book a consultation same-day at no cost.
TSM: How is your company impacting the world/your clients?
Being a small-firm lawyer is not like it is in the movies with a fancy office, plentiful staff and heartfelt courtroom platitudes. Rather, many of today’s solo and small-business lawyers struggle to make a living and pay their expenses. The US lawyer population has increased over 15% in the last ten years, but demand for legal services has remained stagnant. Hotspot Law provides attorneys with an easy-to-implement, long-term strategy to increase business. Attorneys simply sign up and accept consultations with consumers at the time(s) that suit them. Hotspot Law completely transforms the process– once agonizing and time consuming– into an easy win.
TSM: What are the disruptive factors in Legaltech that make it so promising?
The legal world, like other industries, has been majorly disrupted by technology. Yet our field has barely changed because attorneys, more than any other profession, tend to do things the old-fashioned way and hesitate toward change of any kind. Doing something in a digital manner leaves many old-school attorneys feeling a bit unhinged. We are here to help small and solo law practices who struggle to build their client base.
On the consumer side, Hotspot Law is transforming the often frustrating process of finding legal counsel for common issues (divorce, DUI, bankruptcy) allowing consumers to find and compare attorneys and book free initial phone consultations on a super easy-to-use app. Attorneys can quickly and cost-effectively get a new influx of inquiries and clients, doing consultations between meetings, after hours or while traveling. Hotspot Law was created with the fundamental belief that streamlining the connection between consumers and attorneys will lead to more justice served.
TSM: And how is your work crossing into Fintech as well?
As founder of Shipkevich PLLC, I often deal with financial technology issues and have a long history studying and understanding how financial technology, its legal aspects and regulations impact my clients. Hotspot Law serves consumer attorneys by providing a sophisticated platform. We have a low monthly fee model for attorneys, and free for consumers.
TSM: Did Hotspot Law have any major pivot points where you had to adjust strategy, and what was the impact on the company?
Hotspot Law was founded by an experienced team of legal, entrepreneurial and marketing professionals with a passion for justice. To date, we have not needed to make any major adjustments; we researched the space for years before carefully creating our strategy. We are always studying the field so we may always offer the right marketing options for attorneys and consumers.
TSM: As your company grew, what were the primary challenges? Hiring? Quality control? Capital?
While attorneys and consumers are already using Hotspot Law successfully, we are still at the emerging stage. This means our challenge has been building out mobile and web platforms, which have to work in sync. We want to provide all users a seamless, best-in-class experience to remove the pain points from both sides. A high-quality user experience is our number-one priority.
TSM: With your capital raise, what have you learned about dealing with investors and the process?
Raising capital is an exciting stage for any startup. Investors like that Hotspot Law is the first tool of its kind serving lawyers. We recently wrapped up our seed round with relative success. Investors want to know the market growth and product’s potential, and we believe Hotspot Law offers both: a great product with truly exponential growth potential. Existing tools in the legal marketing services space have primarily focused on attorney case management software and e-discovery tools. Not much activity has taken place in the legal marketing space. We are currently gearing up for our Series A round of financing, the first round from venture capital. We are honored at the interest we have received.
TSM: And what characteristics do you have that particularly contributed to your ability to jump from a startup success to a scale up success?
I am hardworking, passionate and curious. I came to Brooklyn at age 12 in 1990 as a Russian-Jewish refugee. My parents were incredibly hardworking people who were fleeing political oppression and dedicated to a a better life. Growing up with them also taught me to be a problem-solver. Hotspot Law aims to solve a critical problem for consumers looking for attorneys, and the problems attorneys face with business development.
When it comes to business development, most attorneys either hate it, don’t have time for it, or a combination of the two. After two years of development, we launched earlier this year and continue to scale as lawyers join. As more lawyers sign up, consumers have more attorneys to select from; and as more people hear about us, more people download our app. Our number-one goal currently is to skyrocket adoption on both the attorney and consumer sides.
TSM: As you have a history of building early stage companies, what is the most important thing you tell startup founders?
As an attorney for over 16 years, as well as law school instructor and running my own international law practice in New York City, I knew there was a problem with the way lawyers market themselves today. Lawyers I knew, who were great at what they did, struggled to make ends meet and gain new cases. Attorneys had to use dubious marketing services, such as websites that sold ratings– who became embroiled in legal battles of their own. There had to be an easier way to connect consumers and attorneys, and so Hotspot Law was borne.
My advice for startups would be to make sure the problem you are solving truly is a problem.
Too many people go into business without understanding their market. Surround yourself with people of strong integrity and character; your business depends on them. Lastly, build something that helps both parties. Your idea has a very good chance of success if everyone wins.
TSM: What is one interesting fact about you that people may not know?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for almost two decades. I have founded and co-founded a number of companies with my own funds, with successful exits. I enjoy building start-ups from the ground up. I love creating value and building something from scratch. I believe if you can touch people’s lives for the better, and provide the world with greater access to justice, you will have succeeded.
TSM: That’s both admirable and inspirational. Thank you for your insights, Felix. We’re excited to see where HotSpot Law goes next.