Legal – just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

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Many of us at boomtime have worked together for many years, starting at our first company, ProLaw Software, which I founded at age 18. That’s an amazing age, with this great combination of thinking you know it all, but actually having no clue whatsoever. But, I was working with an amazing team where we all had the same passion to build something great, even if we didn’t really know what that was.

We started by writing software for all kinds of local businesses: ski shops (ProSki!), medical distribution, water purification, infection control (meaning bathroom cleaner), and the really strange one, law firms. I actually thought a team of five people could tackle five different markets.

It turns out focus is amazingly powerful.

We chose legal not out of some deep analytical process, but because the typical competitor was a lawyer who had hired a Visual Basic programmer and we thought we could create a better product.

I’ve always said my secret advantage in legal technology was my lack of a JD. With no law degree, I had to actually pay attention to my clients, understand what they did, and build tools that solve those problems. I didn’t come in with preconceived notions of how to run a law firm or legal department.

Because of that, we ended up doing something no one had done before: building a comprehensive, integrated system that automated the whole law firm. We’d replace multiple systems every time we installed ProLaw. For mid-size firms, without the IT resources to manage a bunch of disparate systems, this turned out to be a huge advantage. We were also the first to adopt the crazy idea of a graphical user interface, aka Windows.

A significant part of our success at ProLaw was focusing on Word of Mouth. Law firms are inherently referral based. We provided a compelling offering with great client service, and leveraged that in all of our marketing.

Fifteen years and several real-life business educations later, we were the leader in our niche and sold the company to the West division of what is now Thomson Reuters. By selling them our little software company, I got to join the management team of a $2B division and the opportunity to bring the first widely adopted knowledge management system to legal, West km.

The success in building and selling ProLaw gave me the opportunity to start, invest, and advise in a number of businesses, including another legal tech company, Exemplify. We commercialized technology from the Pepperdine Law School and subsequently sold it to Bloomberg Law.

At that point, after bringing three different products to the legal market, I figured my career in legal technology was over. I started boomtime, focusing on the challenges I’d encountered in the go-to-market process, putting all of the things that we had learned to work.

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, but we naturally started working with law firms at boomtime. I started seeing new challenges: law firms have long been rightfully protective of their clients’ information, and have therefore been historically reluctant to move to the cloud. But now, it’s much safer to have thousands of Microsoft engineers protecting your data.

Add to that the COVID crisis and the resulting necessity of working from anywhere, and now law firms have to move to the cloud.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

I feel a bit like the famous movie line, but it is just too important of a challenge to not tackle it. In Q4 of last year, we spun out a new startup from boomtime called Zebraworks. At boomtime, we’ve been helping law firms with their marketing for a while, and it was clear there was an opportunity to help firms and legal departments move to the cloud, which is the focus of Zebraworks.

We’ve already released our first product, Relationship Intelligence (which leverages boomtime technology), in February, and we’re following that up with a second offering later this year. We’re using our experience with practice management to help firms get more out of their investment in those systems while taking advantage of them from anywhere.

My passion is in helping entrepreneurs and business owners succeed. All of the blood, sweat, and tears in creating a great product or service boils down to how good you are at the go-to-market. Without the right approach, all of that hard work never pays off. I’m looking forward to applying all that we’ve learned at boomtime to help Zebraworks be successful. It’s funny/crazy/amazing how things have come full circle.

All the best,

Bill Bice

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