Legal Techie: Teel Lidow
Can the dispute resolution system be fixed using a good UX?
Dispute resolution is complex and costly. The vast majority of people who have a fight, that the courts have an opinion on, don’t ever get the court’s help. The system is too difficult to navigate on their own and the cost of a specialist to navigate it for them is far too high. But what if it wasn't?
I had the luxury to sit down with my co-founder Teel Lidow from Radvocate to talk about the need for innovation in dispute resolution and the enormous opportunity in consumer legal tech for legal entrepreneurs to innovate both the products and the business model.
Teel’s drive to start Radvocate came from a personal passion that was simple - people should have access to the system that they are entitled to. Real access. Not just theoretical. So he started Radvocate which gives consumers, who are in the middle of a customer service nightmare, easy access to the legal system by automating away the complexity of the process.
"Our court systems are pretty horribly backlogged" says Teel. "In a very cynical way, [the dispute resolution system] relies on underutilization to continue to exist in its current form.” The dispute resolution system includes the courts, private arbitration and mediation. If every person who was entitled to access the dispute resolution system did “the system would come to a halt. It would be crushed under its own volume” says Teel. “That seems unacceptable to me from an access to justice perspective.”.
Teel sees this dire situation as an enormous opportunity for legal tech entrepreneurs, especially in consumer legal tech. Intrepreneurs and entrepreneurs such as himself have an opportunity to make the system faster and more efficient. Teel sees a future where dispute resolution is just integrated into your world. Fast. Simple. And fair.
"[In] the consumer legal space you have an area where you have a mysterious operating system for the world that seems highly technical and scary to the average person. They pay a huge premiums for qualified people, who are the attorneys, to interact with it on their behalves. I think that what the consumer legal tech space should be doing is building a simplicity layer over that”
Consumer legal tech entrepreneurs also need to find a way to make a business out of the “simplicity layer.” Consumers are notorious for being reluctant to pay for legal services. For consumers "Legal is fundamentally, and almost without exception, a nice to have service, rather than a necessity service” says Teel. “It is very difficult to get people to shell out their scarce resources for this". So consumer legal tech entrepreneurs need to innovate their business model too. The good news is that legal industry has a fairly unique structure. "The legal industry is inherently networked. Legal interaction doesn't have just one end user. It has a lot of different parties involved and in any legal transaction there is going to be value to multiple parties. And certain parties are going to be very willing to shell out a portion of that value and other parties it is going to be more difficult.” Radvocate has this model, as does FreeWill, who give free will services to consumers and monetize on the interactions with the organizations that receive bequests.
Consumer legal tech has yet to disrupted the way many other areas have been, and the opportunity is huge. There are precisely 325 million individual legal consumers in the United States and the industry is in desperate need of innovate. Teel Lidow thinks that dispute resolution is a great place to start, and there is an opportunity to simplify it for consumers and make a thriving business out of it.
How would you innovate this industry?
Who is Teel most inspired by? The bureaucrats that run the dispute resolution system today, that are agitating for change from within. Go figure!