Today, the legal services industry faces a double-sided staffing problem. For job seekers, competition is fierce: More students graduate from law school each year than there are jobs available. For small- to mid-sized law firms, hiring is just as difficult. Firms are often so overwhelmed with growing caseloads that they become too busy to scale their practice to meet demand.
Lawyers need help finding work; small law firms need better ways to quickly hire vetted legal talent.
As a lawyer, Bob Meltzer was aware of the problem. As an entrepreneur, he had an innovative solution. His idea was Lawyer Exchange, a tool that could connect lawyers and law firms more efficiently using technology. Meltzer’s vision was to help law firms scale while creating career opportunities for lawyers seeking work—all without the hassle or cost of hiring a temp or legal staffing agency.
With his vision defined, Meltzer considered his options to make it a reality. He saw three options: Assemble his own development team, hire a software delivery partner, or create a mix of both. In exploring these options, Meltzer contacted Forte Group.
“I was really impressed with the level of business analysis that Forte provided,” Meltzer said. “I knew I was getting a realistic estimate of when it was going to be completed and what it was going to take. They gave me the reassurance that they knew what they were doing and that they were going to finish it on time—and they did.”
Lawyer Exchange was a completely new idea in legal services, so work had to start from scratch. Meltzer and his team conducted extensive research with potential users—job-seeking lawyers and small- to mid-sized law firm practices—and drew up mockups for the application. He then brought in Forte Group to define and validate how the application would work from a technology standpoint.
Next, the Forte cross-functional team created a product roadmap. Armed with user research, the Forte team outlined the path to a scalable minimum viable product (MVP), which was built quickly so that the product could be tested and improved with user feedback.
Given the demand for a tool like Lawyer Exchange, accelerated delivery was essential. But, the product also needed to easily scale.
One key to accelerated delivery is to quickly get a product in the hands of users. User feedback gives designers and engineers the essential data that validates build assumptions and guides additional features. Using an agile user stories approach, the Forte team created over 100 use cases, which highlighted a set of core features required to quickly build the MVP.
The MVP had limited functionality, but a working product allowed for the early collection of user feedback that would inform the prioritization of the backlog and features.
Lawyer Exchange was built using a microservices architecture, which allows the product to scale up and down seamlessly. When building in a microservices architecture, each service is independently deployable and runs as a unique process. When built using separate, but tightly coupled modular components, applications are easier to develop, test, maintain, and enhance.
“I’ve been through a lot of builds in my life and no build has ever hit the time estimate like Forte did,” Meltzer said.
Forte feels like a partner. Often, when you have a contractor in any field, you feel like you’re dealing with an enemy. You always struggle with them over what you thought was going to happen versus what’s really happening. The Forte team connects those threads. Not only did we get what we expected, but they also brought things to our attention that we hadn’t even thought of. That has helped to make the entire application even better than what we initially imagined.
Lawyer Exchange transformed from a business idea to a working product in just six months. The platform now helps both law firms and job-seekers collaborate on a project basis, building a community of legal support throughout the United States.
Here are some of the product’s feature highlights:
- Payments integration: The application integrates with Braintree (a PayPal service) to feature secure, easy payment options for all parties. Users can easily view invoices, invoice tasks, and fees within the feature.
- Proposals history: All parties can easily review all proposal history and shared messages.
- Reviews, ratings, and referrals: Review and rating system: Hiring law firms and job-seekers alike can review and rate each other after each project concludes. This allows hiring and job-seeking lawyers to make more informed decisions about which projects and candidates match best. Project lawyers can also request referrals directly from anyone using the platform, dramatically increasing their chances of getting legal work.
- Seamless UX/UI: An interface wizard makes the profile and project creation process quick and easy to understand
“I can’t emphasize enough how Forte put their money where their mouth is,” Meltzer, who leads Lawyer Exchange as CEO and Founder, said. “They delivered what they said they would deliver, and when. The team went above and beyond. When we called about emergencies or to shift priorities, it was no problem—things always got taken care of within 24 hours.”
Even the most traditional professional services can benefit from groundbreaking technology. Lawyer Exchange not only to helps practices expand their legal services with vetted, talented staff, it also connects job seekers and their skills with firms who need those skills. Next up for Lawyer Exchange: added features that expand upon the platform to better connect with the legal community.
“We want to reinforce what we did initially with the MVP, which is to create a platform and community where lawyers can go for help and for opportunities,” Meltzer said. “We’ll continue to add tools that make it easier and more attractive for lawyers to come to that community, seeking work and seeking help.”
By tapping into the power of technology and connectivity, Lawyer Exchange is redefining how lawyers practice law together, one project at a time.