We talked to Kim Chan of DocPro about legal technology and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kim Chan: We are doing well; thank you. Schools have been on and off for some time, and now we are all getting used to Zoom. COVID actually helps us to keep the family together even more. The good thing about starting DocPro as a Saas company is that everyone can work from home when COVID is bad. Everything can be done online and on zoom; we just need to set clear targets for everyone to meet.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded DocPro.
Kim Chan: I graduated in the late 90s when the internet was just taking off, and I have always believed in bringing law online. At that time, I had been offered a job at a top international law firm, and it would have been an enormous opportunity cost to give up a highly paid job as a lawyer to pursue something uncertain. In the end, I opted for the safer route – I worked for top law firms and major international banks, thinking that I would make enough money to start a LegalTech business in 10 years’ time. Then I got married and had kids, and my business plan was again delayed. It took me 20 years to gain sufficient financial security to start DocPro.
Hopefully, I was not too late in the game as LegalTech has not really taken off in any big way in the past 20 years. Unlike other sectors, there is no household name like Amazon, Airbnb, or Uber that people will instinctively recognize when talking about LegalTech. LegalZoom is probably the most well-known of all, but it is mainly U.S. based. Some of the reasons why the LegalTech sector is so behind are:
- LegalTech startups are scarce since they need to be founded by lawyers, who are not likely to give up their high paying jobs to do this.
- Lawyers tend to be more conservative and believe LegalTech will undermine their fees.
- Lawyers are generally not good at doing online business and marketing.
How does DocPro innovate?
Kim Chan: Contrary to popular belief, it is not easy to find good document templates online. Let’s say you are searching for a lease; you need to go through hundreds of ads and search results before you can find a suitable word template. What’s more, most of the documents online are under U.S. law, which may not be applicable in your jurisdiction. To make matters worse, you might have downloaded a landlord-friendly version, which may put you at a disadvantage as a tenant.
DocPro’s mission is to “Democratise Documents” – we hope to make a difference by providing quality and affordable legal documents to businesses and individuals around the world through cutting-edge technology. We are providing variations of document favoring different parties instead of a one size fits all approach. Rather than confining our business to one country, we try to cater to all common law jurisdictions by having our documents drafted generally and a proprietary engine to select the right governing law and jurisdiction for the document. We are also creating a sharing community by encouraging our members to share their documents by awarding them with free credits. Our legal team will review the documents and add them to our extensive library of documents (1500+). We also allow our members to request new document templates.
Now is the right time for the disruptions of the legal industry with the maturity of A.I. and Blockchain technologies. It is now possible to prepare simple documentation through A.I. Blockchain technology will also make it easy for document authentication and management. With the advent of smart contracts, contracts can be automatically negotiated, executed, and settled. In 10 years’ time, many things currently done by lawyers will be automated, at the same time driving up efficiency and driving down legal costs for the clients.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kim Chan: DocPro’s mission is to make legal documentation affordable and accessible to everyone. That is why we are pricing our documents at around 90% discount to our competitors (from $2 to $6). We are also striving to make our platform as easy to use as possible. Our users can find the document they want through a simple search box, then customize it with a few simple clicks through a simple step-by-step guide. As a Saas company carrying on our business online, we are less affected by COVID-19 than businesses with a physical presence.
COVID-19 is especially challenging for startups, with very limited resources and the inability to raise further financing. Since March, DocPro has re-focused on offering COVID-19 related documents to our users, such as a request for waiver of school fees or loan moratorium, and those documents have been generating the most traffic in the past 6 months. To keep our staffing lean, we are getting everyone to work from home; that way, we can keep a tab of our remuneration costs and our rent by giving up some seats at our shared office.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kim Chan: The most difficult decision we had to make was the transition from working in the office to remote working as a young startup, especially when we had only started on team building and culture building. However, the increase in the number of COVID cases was rendering it unsafe to travel to work, and we needed to make a decision fast to protect our employees.
We have been remote working since April, and we found that our employees are just as productive as when they were working in the office. These are the measures we have taken to keep our employees engaged while working remotely:
1) Pay for and send them all the required applications, log-in details, and set up of the company’s remote access. Assist them if they have issues with I.T.
2) Send them the relevant company policies, a guide to using the system, and the tasks you are expecting them to do so that they can spend a day getting familiarized with everything.
3) Ask them to do simple tasks that they will be able to do from home. Set a target to ensure that they are productive and efficient.
4) Have daily review and feedback by Zoom and by phone on what they have been up to. We could also track specific tasks (such as blogs) done by individual staff that are bringing in the traffics. This positive feedback encourages them to do more.
5) Have a weekly team meeting to see how everyone is doing. Help staff to stay engaged as a community. It helps to keep a small office for a weekly zoom meeting just to maintain morale and the team together. We plan to have a physical meeting and lunches as soon as it is safe to meet up again.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Kim Chan: I wake up at 5 am and plan my day early. If my day is well planned, and I achieve the bulk of what I want to do in the morning, it helps me deal with stress and anxiety. So long as you keep yourself and your staff motivated, you can work toward a common vision and mission. It is also useful to break up the long term vision into shorter-term achievable goals. Every time you achieve a goal, you have some type of internal celebration. That helps your team stay motivated and reduce stress. The person at the top should give more direction; otherwise, the whole team might head to the wrong path.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kim Chan: The biggest players are based in the U.S. – LegalZoom, and RocketLawyer. There are also players in other common law countries, such as Law Depot and Law Path. Wonder Legal is the biggest player in civil law countries, and Zegal is the largest competitor in Asia. Competitions mostly focus on specific jurisdictions. Currently, there is no provider of legal documents across all common law jurisdictions.
DocPro distinguishes itself from the competition in the following ways:
1. Best Value Proposition -> Supply of Quality Legal Documents at Low Costs
2. Growth Loop -> Documents attract Users to Law firms, Faster Market Penetration
3. Global Reach -> Proprietary Jurisdiction Engine and Partnership with Local Firms
4. Breadth of Documents -> Large Database of Documents to Lure Repeatable Purchases
5. Scalable Ecosystem -> Sustainable Subscription-based Business Model similar to Netflix
Your final thoughts?
Kim Chan: DocPro is here to help startups to resolve the following pain points:
• On average, SMEs encounter more than 8 legal issues a year with significant adverse consequences from commercial legal issues.
• 70% of respondents say that legal documentation is not easy to understand
• 8% say that legal fees are good value for money.
• Only 1 in 5 SMEs rate law firms as ‘good’ in terms of ease of access.
• Legal Services are generally jurisdictional specific, making cross border innovation in legal tech difficult.
We have a database of 1500+ documents to choose from, and we charge less than USD10 per document. Please do come to DocPro.com and try us out.