William Palin earned his JD from Suffolk School of Law in 2012. He launched two LegalTech apps in 2014 that were recently featured in the Boston Globe, and has one more on the way. William also practices Family Law in Massachusetts, is Adjunct Professor of Law at the his alma mater and has guest lectured at MIT on Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology.
LI: In your own words, what do your Apps do and what problems do they solve?
WP: My projects/products solve numerous problems or create new ways to think about old ways of practicing law. The three apps I have released tackle different aspects of the legal practice. My health care app does one thing well: it allows the user to quickly and efficiently fill out a legal document which they can store, share or print in seconds. The problem it solves relates to advanced directives and plans for end of life care.
My goal was to minimize the hurdles for hospitals and patients to fill out these forms and share them with those who need to have them.
The family law app allowed me to quickly and efficiently create and store family law documents for my practice, essentially allowing me to create the documents for my work documents on the go, and not be tied to my computer. But I also built it to enable myself to send a document to my client, collaborate on the documents with them and get signatures without having to meet up, or even change an error on a document I notice in court and sign it right then and there.
The third App hasn’t been released yet, but it’s a tool to change how we think about building contracts as well as negotiations.
The tool allows for an infinitely (nearly) customizable way to build standard contracts in a matter of seconds. Something that would take half an hour on my computer takes me 60 seconds on my phone. But the tool which I haven’t released was built to enable two individuals with the App to negotiate the terms by pushing the document back and forth.
It doesn’t really solve a problem from a negotiations standpoint, but the first half allows me to remove my computer from the equation. By creating a more flexible and powerful tool on my phone I can do more work faster and tailor my skills to my clients in a very unique way.
LI: As the lawpreneur behind three new LegalTech apps, what advice do you have for businesses trying to build products and services for law firms?
WP: I would think long and hard about: this.
Decide if you want to be working for the future of the legal and societal market or the current one.
LI: Have your business models changed significantly since you first started?
WP: Not really. I create cool tools, and sometimes share them with the public, and sometimes I hold on to them.
LI: Do you have any new products or upgrades coming that we should know about?
WP: Yes, but nothing I care to mention at the moment.
I would say that I hope something really exciting comes out of the class I am teaching at MIT this January. I am teaching a LegalTech class linked below. If you want to know more about it please don’t hesitate to ask.
We have some interesting proposed projects that I hope to guide the students as they build them. So stay tuned for some cool LegalTech projects brought to you by the smart kids at MIT.
LI: As a lawyer, what inspired you to get into LegalTech?
WP: Happenstance. I started my own solo practice right out of law school, but I couldn’t afford the software that was on the market. I decided I would teach myself how to code my own software. So last Christmas I checked a book out of the library on objective-c. It was motivated entirely by selfish necessity.
LI: What advice would you give to lawyers looking to break into LegalTech?
WP: Learn to code, find a problem, solve that problem with some code. It may not be easy to execute, but the strategy is relatively simple.
LI: Knowing what you know now, would you still go to law school?
WP: Absolutely. I couldn’t do what I’m doing right now without the legal education I received. My law degree lets me see problems and analyze ways to fix them. But that being said, I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.
LI: Who has been your mentor and main source of guidance and motivation?
WP: I would say the first person to recognize the value in my work was a Professor at my Law School, Gabriel Teninbaum. He not only saw value in my work, but encouraged me to compete in hackathons which was truly a valuable piece of advise.
From the technology side, I would say Brian Semiglia, a developer in Cambridge, MA, who helped me get over some of my early tech hurdles. He’s been molding me into a better programmer than I could’ve hoped to become on my own.
WP: I’m launching a Legal Hackers Meetup Group for the Boston Cambridge area this month. And as I mentioned earlier, I have collaborations at MIT in the LegalTech space. I really expect some great open source projects to come from this class.
LI: How much does being a lawyer help you in your current job?
WP: So I currently hold many hats, but I know being a lawyer helps in each of them.
I will be teaching Lawyering in the Age of Smart Machines next semester as an Adjunct Professor of Law.
I still practice, albeit on a smaller scale, and as a developer, being able to spot the legal issues that I want to tackle make my law degree important. Although I wouldn’t say essential.
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