Welcome to the inaugural edition of my new blog series, “Artists & Innovators,” a series of interviews with campaigners, entrepreneurs, artists, and advocates who are solving problems with passion and innovation.
My first interview subject of 2016, Basha Rubin, is co-founder and CEO of Prior Legal, a curated marketplace that connects businesses with a network of vetted lawyers at below-market rates. Priori was launched in 2013 in New York City. All lawyers offer Priori clients at least a net-17.5% discount off their “rack” rates and exclusive flat fee packages.
Rubin speaks and writes extensively about how technology is changing – and will change – the market for legal services. Her writing has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Inc, Women 2.0 and Under30CEO. She holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a B.A. from Yale College and is a member of the New York Bar. She also sits on the boards of A Blade of Grass and the Rubin Museum of Art and is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.
John Dos Passos Coggin: Was entrepreneurship something that interested you before law school?
Basha Rubin: Not consciously, no.
JDPC: Looking back, can you see the seeds of Priori Legal in your early development?
BR: My father started his own business and brought an entrepreneurial approach to bear on every aspect of his life. I inherited–whether by genetics, osmosis or both–a gnawing desire to improve everything around me and quickly. While I was in law school, I discovered my personality was far better suited for business than law.
JDPC: In law school, is there pressure to pursue a trial law career track?
BR: Not really. There was definitely some pressure to go a more conventional path–if only because those are the kind of opportunities law school is setup to provide–but years later, more and more of my classmates are leaving the law.
JDPC: Is starting a business a common choice for law school graduates?
BR: Not common, but also not unheard of. There are some incredible founders from my tenure at Yale Law School. I think a JD can prepare you for a host of different careers. I was certainly unusual in foregoing traditional practice altogether, but five years out, there are a lot of folks not practicing.
JDPC: What did you enjoy the most about law school?
BR: There was little I didn’t like, honestly. I met some of my best friends, had the opportunity to study with intellectual giants, worked on fascinating problems…
JDPC: What are the benefits of starting a business in New York City?
BR: The wealth of talent, availability of resources, density of potential customers… The main drawback, as you might expect, is the price tag.
JDPC: What principles/techniques are important in building and maintaining the trust of small business clients?
BR: Transparency and responsiveness. We are laser-focused on ensuring both. There is no worse feeling than a customer thinking we’ve fallen short on either count.
JDPC: What are some common barriers that prevent small businesses from seeking legal advice?
BR: Inability to identify when to seek legal counsel, time investment to find the right lawyer for a specific need, inexperience assessing the quality of lawyers, opacity of legal pricing, fear of the billable hour and a general skepticism of lawyers in general.
JDPC: In brief, how has technology changed the legal services marketplace?
BR: In so many ways. There are tools that help lawyers do their jobs faster and more efficiently–from billing and analytics to diligence and ediscovery. There are marketplaces like Priori that make the process of finding and hiring lawyers more transparent and efficient. There are DIY solutions like Shake and LegalZoom.
JDPC: What core traditions remain unchanged by technology?
BR: We believe there is no substitute for legal advice. The changes to the legal profession will make the delivery of the advice more efficient and cost-effective, but will not fundamentally alter its substance.
JDPC: What recent achievement (s) at Priori Legal makes you proudest?
BR: In response to client demand, we launched a new subscription product called FlexCounsel that allows businesses to purchase packages of hours across different lawyers on a monthly basis.
JDPC: What are your goals for Priori Legal in 2016?
BR: We’re looking to all sorts of ways that will make Priori additive for lawyers and clients throughout the lifecycle of a representation… Stay tuned!