Start-Up City: Book It Legal
Book-It Legal Puts Law Students to Work in the Gig Economy
If you’re feeling peckish these days, you can use Shipt or Waitr to have snacks delivered to your door. Seeking a sitter? Ask Wyndy if it’s kids or Rover if it’s pups. Need a ride? Open your Lyft or Uber app and expect a driver in minutes.
The gig economy is changing the way Americans do business, offering flexibility and just-in-time resources when customers need them. But it’s not just consumers who are taking advantage of these convenient services—business-to-business companies are also getting in the game. Sites like Fiverr and 99designs, for example, broker projects in design, photography, video, and other creative fields.
Book-It Legal, founded in 2016, offers clerking gigs on behalf of law firms—mostly solo practitioners and firms with fewer than six attorneys on staff—to top law students at schools across the country.
Co-founder Jack West says that law firms usually only have access to student clerks in the summer, and that after they head back to school in the fall, the work piles up. Book-It Legal connects lawyers and students year-round with project work that can be done remotely. Attorneys post a project and a price, and students can claim a project they’d like to complete. Students are paid online, through tools like Venmo, and Book-It Legal earns a service fee from the attorney based on the price of the project.
Book-It Legal got started by winning two high profile local opportunities. They were members of the first class of startups at Innovation Depot’s Velocity Accelerator and they won a prize of $50,000 from Alabama Launchpad. They currently have their sights set on capturing the Georgia legal market, home to the nation’s sixth-largest bar association.
1. What’s your elevator pitch? What’s your value proposition?
Book-It Legal provides a software platform connecting attorneys with top law students across the country for per-project legal tasks such as research, brief-editing, and document review. Our service gives attorneys a resource for low-cost, on-demand assistance when they need an extra hand and provides students with a more convenient and flexible way to gain experience in a variety of practice areas and network with attorneys they may not otherwise meet.
2. Tell me about your founders and their experience. How many employees do you have?
After working with a local law firm practicing in the areas of corporate and securities law, I left traditional practice to start Book-It Legal. Making the transition from attorney to Founder/CEO of a tech company has been quite a journey—exciting and certainly a new challenge. Our CTO, Dan Tidwell, joined the company full-time last year after working as an engineer with Alabama Power and Alloy (a local web development and digital marketing firm). We’ve also employed marketing and QA interns from Birmingham-Southern College and UAB.
4. How did you get the idea to launch Book-It Legal?
Book-It Legal was born out of my experiences as a law student and as a practicing attorney. In law school, I was always looking for a way to gain experience in areas of the law that interested me (and to earn some extra money), but it was hard to juggle work around a hectic academic schedule. I also wanted to get my foot in the door of a legal market in another state where I didn’t have a lot of connections. When I was practicing with a firm, we had summer clerks work for six or so weeks over the summer, which was great because I could delegate some lower-level tasks to them. But once they went back to school, all of those tasks fell back to me. With Book-It Legal we give students a way to work with attorneys in markets across the country and give lawyers a quick way to get a student working on a project whenever the need arises.
5. Why now? Why Birmingham?
Technology is changing the way many people work, and the legal profession is no exception. Historically, lawyers have been slow to adopt new technologies, but that is changing, and we want to be part of it. Birmingham has a great ecosystem for tech entrepreneurs—from meetups to Innovation Depot to the Velocity Accelerator to competitions that can help startups get funded. It’s also a very affordable city (which can really help when you’re starting a company) and is a regional legal hub.
6. What are your competitive advantages?
We’re the first company to focus on lawyer-to-law-student connections and modernizing the legal clerkship. Other companies have created marketplaces for lawyers looking to outsource work to other lawyers, but we want to help improve opportunities for students.
7. Where do you want the company to be in five years?
Startups always get asked where they want to be in five years (my least favorite question). We’re focused on the next five months and driving attorney user growth and project volume. In the longer term we see opportunities to flesh out our platform with a recruiting component that will help students connect with recruiters and hiring partners at firms across the country.
8. Who would you most like to connect with right now?
Right now we want to raise the visibility of our company and get in front of as many lawyers as possible. We recently made the list of the top 25 legal tech startups for the American Bar Association’s Techshow in Chicago next year, and if we make it to the top 15, we will get to pitch at the event. That could significantly raise our visibility in the legal community. ∞
Type of business: Legal Clerking
Location: Innovation Depot
Founders: Jack West and Dan Tidwell
In business since: 2016
Number of employees: 2