Why UpCounsel Launched “15 Minutes With a Lawyer”

I try not to shill for Homebrew portfolio companies too relentless on this blog (for that you have my Twitter account), but I just really love UpCounsel’s new “15 Minute Legal Consultation” product, so wanted to talk a but about it.

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Background: UpCounsel is a B2B marketplace which connects businesses with high quality independent lawyers for project-based work. Their customer base is a mixture of SMBs (10-250 employees) and larger enterprise clients such as Twilio and Airbnb. Platforms like Stripe also recommend UpCounsel to Stripe Atlas developers. The marketplace is growing quite nicely – we invested in 2013’s seed and Menlo Ventures lead 2015’s A Round.

Until recently UpCounsel basically had one “SKU” — a predefined project that a potential client would list for bids from qualified and rated attorneys. When these projects were relatively standard (for example, a provisional patent filing), UpCounsel sets a fixed price in the marketplace and for more complex work, the responding lawyers quote their fees. But this one SKU left a gap, namely the “I don’t know what I don’t know” — the more undefined situations where a customers needs consultation but can’t yet define the project, or even if there’s truly a need for a lawyer. Hence, The Consult.

What makes The Consult now possible on UpCounsel?

  • Critical Mass of High Quality Lawyers on Platform: UpCounsel reached a supply-side inflection point where they felt comfortable being able to fill consult requests with the same quality and speed of more complex projects.
  • Trusted Relationship With Lawyers: UpCounsel earned the right with their supply side to intro another SKU, one that’s non-traditional with regards to offline practices (when was the last time your initial consult with a business lawyer could be just 15 minutes)? Also, the lawyers on UpCounsel know that there’s enough high quality demand for their services on the platform that not every consult needs to turn into a legal project – ie lawyers are doing right by potential clients and able to honestly respond when appropriate that this issue may not require the ongoing attention of a lawyer (versus trying to turn every consult into an upsell). The fact UpCounsel CEO Matt Faustman was a lawyer is essential to understanding his marketplace constituencies.
  •  Blended Use of Consults by New and Existing Clients: Of course Consults aren’t just an interesting product on their own but also an on-ramp to customers engaging with UpCounsel on larger legal projects. UpCounsel has enough new customers each month, enough repeating customers and enough in the “reactivation” cohorts, to use Consult differently with each segment. That is, it’s a SKU which doesn’t just potentially increase new customers but also increases repeat usage and overall LTV.

It was a blast to get into the weeds a bit with Matt about how Consults are being used by UpCounsel customers in the early days of this product. At Homebrew we’re generally interested in labor marketplaces that have dynamics beyond a competitive “race to the bottom” and UpCounsel is an example of one built with care and attention to quality and sustainable economics.