Build a product that offers flexibility and work-life balance to workers in a staid industry, and the growth will follow.
That's the principle on which two former college classmates built Lawtrades, a marketplace that helps companies lower their legal expenses by hiring remote legal professionals. Founded in 2016 by Ashish Walia and Raad Ahmed, who graduated from St. John's University in 2009, Lawtrades's online marketplace enables lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals to work directly with clients and monetize their work in new ways. With clients including DoorDash, Yelp, and Pinterest, Lawtrades's founders say the company is bringing innovation to the legal profession.
Last week, Lawtrades announced a $6 million Series A fundraise, bringing the company's total funding to $9.7 million. Ahmed says he plans on using the funding to grow the current team of 15 employees to 30 by this summer and expand into Europe. He adds that he's also considering making the product available for other industries like management consulting or independent financial professionals.
When Covid-19 accelerated the need for remote legal help, Lawtrades was well-positioned to meet demand. Revenue during the first year of the pandemic doubled compared with the previous 12 months, according to Ahmed. Between 2020 and 2021, as more lawyers left law firms to work for themselves amid the Great Resignation, hours of work logged on the platform grew 200 percent. Ahmed expects Lawtrades's January 2022 sales to be almost four times that of January 2021.
The demand for Lawtrades's service is part of a larger trend of industries being reimagined through digital innovation and a more entrepreneurial workforce, according to Ahmed. "There's a huge supply of folks and workers who are looking to have more freedom and flexibility to work remotely, have direct access to their clients, and make money from home," he says, adding that digital innovation in the post-Covid landscape is about empowering individuals. A typical career path for a lawyer, for example, would start with graduating from law school, working at a big firm, and staying there for six to nine years, hoping to make partner. Regardless of whether the individual is made a partner or not, the hours are often grueling. Lawtrades is banking on more legal professionals choosing a different path, one that lets them join a platform, get the tools to work directly with brands, and set their own hours and rate.
The idea for the New York City-based startup came after Ahmed's law school graduation, when he saw his classmates struggling to find full-time work, let alone jobs that paid enough to cover student loan payments from law school. Looking to create a better self-employment option, Ahmed and Walia first launched Lawtrades as a software platform aimed at early-stage founders and startups in need of legal help. But they quickly ran into a big problem: Many startups quickly went out of business. "It was a noble pursuit," Ahmed says of helping early-stage founders. "But we struggled a lot in the early days."
Looking for a needed pivot, the co-founders took what they learned from graduating from the 500 Global Flagship Accelerator Program, a San Francisco-based accelerator that helps companies including online education marketplace Udemy and design software maker Canva. They decided to morph Lawtrades into its current marketplace model and target larger businesses, which in 2019 helped the company grow monthly revenue from $70,000 to $700,000.
In creating products for the future of work, Ahmed warns entrepreneurs to not get too excited about a new product without putting in the work. It's a lesson he learned firsthand. The smartest founders, he says, are testing, experimenting, and homing in on the product as much as possible.
"You can build something that you think they want, and then they don't," he says. "Then you've wasted like six months of your life creating something that actually doesn't flow."