ALTA Member Profile | Michael Alexander, Founder, AusLaw Concierge
This month, ALTA CEO, Morag Latta, chatted with Founder of AusLaw Concierge, Michael Alexander, to learn more about Michael’s journey into legal tech and gain some words of wisdom to share with other ALTA members.
AusLaw Concierge is an innovative solution that takes the time and effort out of scheduling appointments for legal professionals. I asked Michael to share a little about his background and his journey into legal technology founder. Michael was a qualified solicitor for only 3 months before he came to the Bar at the age of 25, and has been a Barrister-at-Law now for 17 years. His practice is predominantly family law, but he also practices in other areas including commercial litigation.
About two years ago, Michael was becoming increasingly frustrated with scheduling problems and thought that there had to be a better way! He gives a clear example of this, “Say if a solicitor wants to retain me as a mediator, they email me to check my availability. They then email their counterpart to provide some potential dates, who then has to check with their client. By the time I hear back from the solicitor to confirm it could be a week and half later, by which time I’ve already booked over the original time that I provided.” Michael could see much time was being wasted in this resource heavy process, with multiple frustration points along the way.
Focus on the problem
Identifying key scheduling points as a problem, Michael commenced the design journey by story boarding the potential app from the perspective of what he wanted to solve before looking at anything comparable in the market. “I was very specific about what I wanted to achieve” Michael states. Once a Minimum Viable Product was taking shape, a market comparison confirmed that there wasn’t anything comparable in market that was solving this specific problem.
“There were some tensions with the developers along the way” Michael chuckles. “They wanted to automate everything possible. I was very clear that I wanted to keep some of the human element. The law should always have a human component. They kept saying ‘We can do that’, and I said ‘I understand we’ve put a man on the moon, but automating everything would be counterproductive!”
Michael uses this example as illustrative of the tension between solving the specific problem and allowing himself to be guided to a different end point by developers. He believes it is always essential to keep your end goal in mind and keep the solution simple.
Informative road testing
When asked to describe his biggest challenges in the early stages of his journey, Michael identifies two key areas. The first was creating the best UX for a profession that is historically not great at adopting technology or receptive to change. When road testing the initial prototype across a cross section of barristers, everyone identified with the problem but often said “my clerk/secretary deals with that”. So AusLaw Concierge included the secretaries and clerks as part of the process.
The second major challenge was writing code that integrated with any diary that people may have, along with dealing with the usual concern that lawyers have regarding confidential information being disclosed. This informed the design of the app to only identify conflicts and not the meeting details. During the design process, they also discovered a preference for desktop usage for some actions. “Even though we’ve always got phones in our hand, there is sometimes a preference to sit at a desktop for administration that may take longer than 30 seconds” Michael states.
Tenacity goes a long way
When asked what key skills are important for a legal tech founder’s success, Michael doesn’t hesitate: “Tenacity. There were many nights that I would think what the hell have I got myself into? You can go down so many dry gullies. Then the landscape changes with Google or Apple updates. You’ve got to be willing to adapt. And you constantly have that little devil on your shoulder saying this isn’t going to work.” When asked what advice he would give to other aspiring tech founders, Michael has sound advice “Keep it simple. What is the problem? How am I going to solve it? Stay focused and don’t get distracted by monetizing or adding functions just because you can. Stay true to the purpose. Keep going!”
When reflecting on what advice he may have given to his early self in a time of uncertainty, Michael suggests its useful to “pull on the reigns a little and do more market research about the problem.” Michael identifies his bias in early design because he was solving a problem within his own profession. “I went straight to the solution based on what I experienced. When I went out with the solution, people said ‘yes, but what about this’. I could have saved time and money on development with a little more preliminary research.”
Time for growth
And what is next for AusLaw Concierge? Michael developed the product with university students and the company has experienced a lot of organic growth, but in 2023 they are investing in significant growth across Australia, appointing a CEO and GM to drive the growth journey. And next there are a couple of joint ventures in the wings to commence growth into Asia, Europe and the US – amazing success in such a short time.
When asked for some final words of wisdom, Michael says “I can’t emphasize it enough…..stick with it! I thought I had pretty thick skin as a barrister, but sometimes you’ve just got to grit your teeth and stick at it. While you do need to recognise opportunities to pivot, but you also have to fight the voices that challenge you along the way.”
You can learn more about AusLaw Concierge at https://auslawconcierge.com.au and find it in your preferred App store.