Chatbots and Lemonade: Reflecting on our 2020 ABA Techshow win, pandemic silver linings, and a year of tremendous growth
Jessie Hoerman Feb 25, 2021
They say necessity is the mother of invention. And boy, do I know that to be true.
I was leading the marketing efforts for TorHoerman Law (THL). After years of testing and refining various strategies, we successfully cracked the code on legal marketing, bringing tons of potential clients to our door. We did everything we were supposed to do -- except the one thing that ultimately mattered: we neglected to figure out how to sign up clients. Our staff struggled to keep up, using 2010 solutions for clients who had come to expect instant access to products and answers in the age of Alexa.
Long story short, drinks on the patio with a software developer friend in 2014 led to developing exactly the solution my team at THL needed -- a platform we would eventually name SimplyConvert and share with law firms across the country.
In December 2019, SimplyConvert was selected as one of 15 legal technology startups to participate in the fourth-annual Startup Alley at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Techshow conference from Feb. 26 through 29, 2020, in Chicago.
Holy cow. We intended to build a better normal for my law firm. Here we were, presenting a disruptive legal intake solution for attorneys and law firm intake teams that wanted to better serve the legal consumer’s changing needs.
We checked all the eligibility boxes and then some: our product helped lawyers or legal professionals, we had achieved some demonstrable traction, and we were new to the scene. Most importantly, we were innovative and addressed a need that other products or services in the market weren’t serving. The ABA provided us with exhibit space and a 2.5-minute chance to face off in an opening night pitch competition. (Think Shark Tank, but without the high dollar investment from Mark Cuban at the end.)
I pinched myself, took a deep breath, and walked up to make our pitch. And, as it turned out, we struck a nerve: nobody knew better just how outdated today’s legal intake tools are than the legal tech crowd and SimplyConvert was voted one of the top three most innovative companies!
It was an incredible moment.
All the time we spent brainstorming, drafting, wireframing, coding, testing, refining, retesting, late nights and early mornings -- it had paid off. We were ready to show lawyers a better way to do client intake. We were just getting started.
And then all hell broke loose.
Headlines about the terrifying virus that had felt very distant all of a sudden came crashing home. Schools and businesses closed, and the terrifying realization that the U.S. wasn’t immune from the pandemic set in. Suddenly we had to send our entire team home—what a time for our startup to start picking up steam.
But soon, the realization set in: the timing was ideal.
First, legal intake teams were not equipped to operate remotely and in the immediate scramble phone calls went unanswered. Firms that outsourced intake were no better off as live chat companies and call centers clambered to figure out how to transition from corporate offices to employee living rooms.
Second, steady streams of car crash clients dried up as highways went quiet. And with everyone hunkered down at home, legal clients searched for assistance at odd hours. As the number of potential clients decreased, future caseloads went to the law firms that were prepared with a 24-hour legal guidance solution. Those without, needed to diversify fast.
SimplyConvert’s AI-powered bot kept on chatting, unphased by office closures and available to people searching for attorneys at all hours of the day or night. Law firms used our referral platform to pivot from car accidents to other practice areas. Our chatbot spoke the language of law, could carry on a conversation on more than 50 mass tort litigations, did a better job of engaging website visitors, and didn’t need a vaccine.
We turned the proverbial lemons into lemonade: Covid-19 brought the need for law firms to strengthen their tech stacks into sharp focus, and SimplyConvert was there to keep the cases flowing in seamlessly.
2020 was a year of tremendous growth for the SimplyConvert team. We refined our technology, welcomed new team members, and brought new law firms onto the platform.
But when I look back, what makes me most proud is how much fun we had along the way. Every day we have the privilege of creating something that ultimately helps people access the justice they deserve. And we get to pour ourselves into work we’re passionate about while creating the kind of company where our eclectic team wants to work.
How fortunate we are.
I’m so grateful for the journey so far and I can’t wait to see where we go next.
Cheers to 2021!