That Time Momentum Law Started A Software Company

GainMomentum.law launched in beta in May, 2016.

On the list of innovations we have taken on, Gain Momentum ranks as one of the largest experiments to date. The site grew out of our desire to build our own document automation and simplify the creation of standard contracts for people. This is how it evolved:

Q: Most basic/ simple contracts essentially have 90% of the same content: just how simple and standard CAN we make it?

A: Built this “Legalify” form.

Q: Wait, can’t we make this even MORE simple and provide people with something as close as possible to what they need?

A: Sure, but we need to really standardize these simple contracts and annotate them with notes throughout on where there might be sections needing further legal guidance or changes.

Q: What is the best way to automate this?

A: Build our own system.

Q: Now that we’ve automated this for ourselves, can we turn this over to the public for the DIY crowd?

A: www.gainmomentum.law

Spoiler Alert: If you’ve gone to click on the site, you now know the punchline to this story: we’ve taken the beta site down and plan to make some significant changes before we re-launch. You have to keep reading to know why.

The thought process detailed above led us back to our original thinking when Momentum Law was being designed/ launched (way back, it was called Cornell Law). We looked at the legal document DIY sites and liked the format of www.rocketlawyer.com the best. We liked the subscription model and felt it could be substantially improved upon in a number of ways.

Building a social community into the online legal platform for SMEs and start ups could add a lot of value to businesses experiencing many of the same growth challenges and successes. We planned to do that through chat rooms, webinars, support groups and other proven online social networking applications.

We planned to provide additional content to address frequently asked questions from SMEs and start ups, as well as content provided through aligned service providers such as accountants, investors, marketers etc.

Most importantly, unlike other services such as Rocket Lawyer, Legal Zoom and others, Gain Momentum was not going to refer users to a diverse set of lawyers across the Country (or, Ontario, Canada, in our case) but the platform would refer clients to Momentum Law. It would be more efficient for the clients as they would be supported by the lawyers who drafted the template documents and annotated them. Users could form relationships with Momentum Law and combine a DIY model with firm support as needed.

Gain Momentum became an “evenings and weekends” labour of love of myself (legal content and vision) and my ever-supportive husband (coding, site build and UI design).

In May, 2016, we launched the Beta site with great excitement. It launched with a Small Business subscription (special rate of $25/month in beta) and Start Up subscription ($50/month in beta). Plans to also launch an HR side were put on hold while we managed the initial beta rollout.

The site got a lot of attention and was particularly of interest to start ups. The fact that we were a law firm bold enough to launch our own software company (GainMomentum.law is technically owned by a separate company — that, and the regulatory reaction to that, is another whole post) spoke to them about our commitment to innovation and our understanding of the start up experience.

The site saw significant traffic and a decent list of beta sign ups, especially considering that we dedicated not a single advertising dollar to it. We pushed the site out through social media and let word of mouth locally generate some interest. Our thinking at the time: we wanted to onboard a small number of beta users initially, learn from the use of the site and questions we received, provide a solid and reliable service, tweak as necessary and then grow bigger.

Lessons Learned:

· Although the DIY model (pricing and instant availability) is attractive to both small business and start ups, those who really engaged with us realized that they would rather hire the firm to provide the service at a price they could live with. They wanted to do what they did best, leave us to do what we do best.

· The true DIY’ers have limitless, and free, google at their finger tips. Those who think they know how to do well for their start up using templates sourced on the internet are as likely to choose the free option as the $25 or $50/ month option.

· There were many other users who were perfectly happy to pay for a template, particularly when they knew they could easily have it reviewed and revised by our team, but they really only wanted to purchase the one template, not sign up for a monthly subscription. They were open to paying a one-off purchase price usually equal to one month’s subscription price, to save themselves the perceived hassle of a monthly subscription they would have to remember to cancel and a site they would have to learn to navigate.

· We determined that the “community” and “value added” side of the subscription was key to creating interest and keeping subscribers on a monthly platform. We just didn’t have the resources to dedicate to that side of the project.

· Building, launching and maintaining such a project is a full time job — scaling it takes an investment of time and funds which is extremely challenging to do while operating a law firm which is itself essentially still in start up mode. Rocket Lawyer, for example, has reportedly raised $46m in VC over the past few years, and it has a sole purpose of being an online document platform, not a secondary purpose behind operating a law firm.

The Good:

· The build of Gain Momentum pushed our automation project to the forefront of our innovation agenda and we continue to benefit from that. It has increased our efficiency more than any other project.

· It gave us concrete insight into the processes and challenges (perhaps on a smaller scale) that so many of our clients have gone through or are going through.

· It taught us even more about our clients and potential clients, and what they value in legal services.

· It helped us build a roadmap for future service innovation options and gave us the confidence to take on seemingly audacious projects. We learned what so many of our clients know, but which seems to be completely foreign to most legal professionals: it is ok to start a project which may not succeed, or may not succeed in the way you think it will. The lessons learned usually cannot be learned in any other way.

The Future: GainMomentum.law will be relaunched once it is tweaked to allow for one-off document purchases. The subscription model is still a viable model, we believe, but it requires a dedicated team to build the community and additional value to subscribers.

Famous pivot stories are often failures but you don’t need to fail before you pivot. All a pivot is is a change is strategy without a change in vision. Whenever entrepreneurs see a new way to achieve their vision — a way to be more successful — they have to remain nimble enough to take it.
-Eric Ries