We talked to Marlon P. Valderama of Lexmeet about online legal help, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Marlon P. Valderama: Thanks to God, we are all ok, and coping with the new normal. It is also a blessing that I am able to spend more time with my wife and 2 boys. The silver lining brought about by COVID-19 is, it gave us more opportunity to nurture our relationship with God and our family. It enabled us to think more deeply about the environment and our relationship with one another. In this COVID-19 times, we also learned that we need time for ourselves, a time to unwind and relieve stress. We discovered that our hobbies also play a vital part in our well-being, most especially in our mental health. We were able to cope with the sudden change since most of our operations are digital in nature. Our boys are doing online schooling while I am working from home. Thank you for asking.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Lexmeet.
Marlon P. Valderama: I am the Founder and CEO of Lexmeet, Inc., and the Managing Partner of the Valderama Law Office. My professional dealings with Overseas Filipinos, SMEs, and Startups, and foreign investors have motivated me to establish LexMeet as a medium or tool to obtain legal services and advice for those clients abroad. With my ever-growing clientele in Kuwait, Qatar, Canada, the USA, and the UK, I created LexMeet.
Coming from my humble beginning in the progressive town of Gumaca, Quezon, I persevered and finished my law school in Asia’s oldest university, the University of Santo Tomas (UST). I am a graduate of Doctor of Jurisprudence in UST, Faculty of Civil Law, Class of 2001. My pre-law course is likewise in UST, Faculty of Arts and Letters, Class of 1996, Major in Philosophy.
While studying law, I worked as a legal officer in a real estate company and thereafter, in a trading company of pumps, pharmaceutical, chemicals, car accessories, and other products. Upon admission to the Philippine Bar in 2002 and before entering into private practice, I worked in various government offices, as Legal Researcher of Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and as Associate Solicitor III of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). Thereafter, I ventured into trial practice with the Florentino and Esmaquel Law Office and acquired 10 years of experience as a corporate and litigation lawyer on all court levels and in various government agencies.
I am engaged in all areas of legal practice, specializing in litigation, civil and criminal laws, immigration laws, corporate and investment laws, labor and tax laws, intellectual property and telecommunications laws, real property and agrarian laws, family law, energy, mining, and environmental laws.
I founded LexMeet because I experienced the problem of access to justice for my fellow Filipinos. My inspiration for creating LexMeet are the clients who suffered because of the lack of access to justice. I saw the bad effects of self-lawyering and lack of access to justice to people in my law practice.
One of them is Emma (not her real name), a client who asked Atty. Valderama to share her story as a lesson for everyone. She went to Singapore as an OFW to escape her abusive husband. She stayed for 8 years abroad and met her new love/boyfriend whom she wanted to marry. She sought help from her Facebook friends and was wrongly advised that she could marry again since she was already separated for more than 7 years, a prevailing notion for those who are self-lawyering. Now she is facing a warrant of arrest for Bigamy because of lack or wrong legal advice due to self-lawyering and lack of access to justice.
Another client is Toto (not his real name), who requested Atty. Valderama to share his story as a wake-up call to those who will have major decisions in their life. He is a small computer shop owner who dreamed of having his own place, and from his savings of P500,000, he bought land from the alleged landowner, only to find out after 3 months that the title is fake. Although he sought some advice from friends but no proper guidance was given to check first the title, as he was told, a simple deed of sale is enough. Now, he is facing eviction from the land and about to lose his P500,000. Again, he is an unfortunate victim of self-lawyering and lack of access to justice.
Having a legal problem is no joke. Needing a legal document is no joke either. One who does not have a lawyer will tell you it is a catastrophic life-altering moment. One big life decision without a lawyer’s advice will probably land you in jail. One big life decision without a lawyer-prepared legal document will probably cost you a fortune.
I vividly remember when I talked to Emma and Toto about their legal issues through my first website www.e-lawyersonline.com; they said that if they knew that self-lawyering was dangerous, and there was online access to lawyers, they could have prevented their respective legal problems. I wondered at that time, is it really hard to access legal services in the Philippines? I asked myself if there is an effort to educate Filipinos about the ill effects of self-lawyering and the benefits of preventive lawyering. Thus, with that inspiration, LexMeet was born.
There might be many Emmas and Totos of the Philippines who are suffering because of lack of access to justice. We wanted to relieve them from their hardships through LexMeet.
It might not be that hard for you, but for Emma and Toto of the Philippines, it is. We believe that there is a solution to this problem. We at LexMeet are helping Emmas and Totos of the Philippines prevent or avoid litigation or suffer the same fate by providing them with an affordable, safe and convenient platform to meet lawyers and get legal services and documents.
We created an online legal consultation platform and marketplace of legal-related products and services so that clients can solve legal problems in one place—a one-stop-shop for all your legal services needs.
Together with my long time friends, Rigie Fernandez, who is my VP for Design and Marketing, Gino Carlo Cortez, our VP for Tech, and Carl Magumpara, our Tech Head, we are building a legal tech ecosystem to solve the problem of access to justice not only here in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world.
How does Lexmeet innovate?
Marlon P. Valderama: Innovation should be humanized. It should be for us people with real problems and geared towards a humane solution. Our innovation always begins in empathy. There are genuine problems with respect to accessing justice, and these problems come from real people. From my real experiences of dealing with clients’ legal problems, we are always looking for a product innovation to give them safe, convenient, and affordable ways to solve those problems. One example is our product called “Works”. We discovered that clients always have a hard time getting lawyer’s fee proposals for their requested legal works. We empathize with them because it is really challenging, especially for those who do not know any lawyers. Thus, we created an innovation by making this product “Works”, a free lawyer’s fee proposals crowdsourcing platform wherein clients can request proposals from hundreds of lawyers without talking to them one-by-one. Clients can compare, select, and finalize those proposals without leaving the comforts of their home using our “Consult” online video conference consultation platform. Once they finalize the proposal, clients and lawyers can use our escrow legal delivery system platform to ensure that lawyers are paid for the work they delivered, and clients are also protected against non-delivery or late delivery of legal works. Innovation starts with empathy and ends with it.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Marlon P. Valderama: Our challenges are the same challenges being experienced by any other startups in the Philippines, such as problems with mobility, economic hardships, among others. Our solution is very simple. We are operating very lean, and we continue to operate as lean as possible.
We keep fighting for our business because it is our passion and advocacy. Life is tough now with the effects of quarantine, and legal issues and conflicts are now prevalent among the Filipinos because of the economic downturn. When people are hungry and angry, chaos will follow. We believe that we are an instrument of preserving the rule of law and social order. It is our belief that it is our duty that in these difficult times, we should be with the Filipinos in informing their rights and obligations under the law, and give them access to legal advice and uplift their hopes of attaining justice and protecting their rights to due process of law so that they would not think of taking the law in their own hands. We have a duty to help society prevent chaos by ensuring that the public has a friend who will give them access to justice online, COVID-19 free.
Our motivation to push through despite the pandemic is our reason for being, our reason for existing, and our higher purpose. When tension is high, when conflicts are everywhere because of economic hardships, we are motivated to continue to help the government maintain peace and order. We believe that when people are misinformed of their rights and obligations and when people do not have access to justice, and when people feel that they are deprived of legal representation/advice, they would be encouraged to defy the law and take the law into their hands. This will result in anarchy. The presence of LexMeet is a calming presence that reminds people that there is still access to lawyers which they can turn into to help them with their legal troubles during this time of distress. We are motivated by the fact that LexMeet can be an instrument of preserving the rule of law.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Yes. Being a startup founder, it is very difficult to choose between your original idea and what should be the product. In creating a startup, you start something that is ideal, but as you progress, sometimes, that ideal situation changes, and you have to make a sacrifice. We usually start with the idea of really helping people with our product, but sometimes, you also have to think that it is a business that needs to earn in order to become sustainable. I learned that as long as you are passionate and persistent, you can learn anything regardless of status, background, or age. My educational background is in social science, Philosophy, and Law. However, it did not prevent me from learning technology (coding), UI and UX, design, branding, marketing, and finance because I am passionate about LexMeet. I want LexMeet to succeed, and one thing I learned, it is not late for me to learn how to run a business.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Lexmeet in the future?
Marlon P. Valderama: From my childhood until adulthood, I was trained to cope with stress and anxiety. I came from a simple family but what I truly admire from my family is no matter what the problem is, we always cope because we always just smile about it and help one another to solve it. It comes with the territory of being a lawyer, it being a very stressful job. While it is also stressful being an entrepreneur or a startup founder, my coping mechanism did not change at all. As long as it is your passion, stress and anxiety can be brushed aside, as it is part of the game. Playing video games with my two sons, drinking and watching films with my wife, playing with my dogs and reading books, travelling, and eating is my way of coping with stress and anxiety.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Marlon P. Valderama: There are many local as well as foreign online legal consultation platforms that we may consider as our competitors, such as Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyers, etc. However, we would like to stress that our competitors are those unscrupulous people who are posing as lawyers, “fake lawyers” that are tainting our noble profession, defrauding online clients in social media, and creating havoc in the legal profession and administration of justice. We have been in the business for 4 years now, and we plan to stay in the game of legal tech using our core values for a very long time. We believe that these core values would keep us in the game. We Innovate Legal Solutions – We are always looking for other ways to make legal services convenient, affordable, and secure for all stakeholders. This value excites us to work every day – we can always think of new products to help people. We Seek Justice Together – Although we are a legal tech company, we are not robots. We empathize with people seeking justice, deprived of legal services, and looking for legal guidance. We know how they feel, and we want them to relieve them from their hardships. We Provide Dignified Services – We put a premium on integrity and dignity. We believe that in any endeavor, most especially in legal services, integrity and dignity are the hallmarks of a great platform where confidential information is at stake. With our core values, we are positive that we can stay in the game.
Your final thoughts?
Marlon P. Valderama: Thank you for this opportunity of informing the public why LexMeet exists. Our deepest purpose is to help others. We are here to help! We are here to solve legal problems for you. As our company started with answering our “Why”, our employees also started with us with their “why”. Our company’s culture starts and ends with the “why” of our lives. From our collective “why “s, we get inspired, we act on our inspiration, and we deliver an inspired result. We believe that law and order is the pillar of our society, without which chaos ensues. You don’t want that to happen. Neither do we, so we are here as an instrument of preserving law and order, preventing injustice, by making legal services accessible. We make legal information, documents, and legal professionals readily available to the public in order to solve legal problems the soonest. It so happens that we deliver them in an innovative, fast, convenient, and secure way, in just a click. Our company’s tagline is “technology meets legal”. We want to use technology to help our legal professionals and at the same time pave the way to help people at large to solve their legal problems. Hence, our mission is to bridge the gap between clients and lawyers by giving them the facility and technology to meet and solve their problems. Our vision is to see people seeking legal services without leaving the comforts of their home through technology. We aim to make legal services readily available and affordable to our OFWs, SMEs, and other people hindered by time, distance, and money. In short, our deepest purpose is to help society in preserving the rule of law. Join us in our journey as a startup in providing legal help to those in need.