Katia Alcantar is the co-founder and general counsel of Text A Lawyer, Inc. Find her on Twitter @KatiaAlcantwood.
How did you become involved in legal tech?
A few years into practicing, a law school classmate, Kevin S. Gillespie, told me about his legal tech startup, Text A Lawyer, Inc. He was developing mobile apps—a radically simple and affordable starting place for people with legal questions. Customers download the app, pick a state, choose a legal category, and are automatically connected to a lawyer. That’s it; a single option to instant message a lawyer.
Kevin invited me to be a part of what he was building. Before moving my family from Houston to Portland, I reflected on my experience and Text A Lawyer’s potential to increase access to justice in a big way. I agreed that people need a simple starting place, that the law can be intimidating and overwhelming to those experiencing a crisis. So, I left my litigation practice, packed up my things, and moved to Oregon. My husband and I hadn’t even visited the state beforehand. We wanted a change, and we certainly got it in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
What projects have you been focused on recently?
- QA testing all four of our apps. (Lawyer app and Client apps for Apple and Android.)
- I’ve been learning a lot from face-to-face attorney outreach in Portland, mostly over coffee. We’re constantly refining our messaging and approach to attorneys online based on the feedback I get in person.
- Social media outreach to connect with immigration lawyers.
- We’re experimenting with new ways to reach both lawyers and clients.
- Producing the “K2 Podcast” launching in May, a variety-show style podcast. We’re shooting a half-dozen different short sections. It will be under a half-hour so that we avoid being the podcast that drags on too long. I’ll be handling skits and interviews relating to legal matters, and Kevin will do the same for business interviews and startup skits.
- Refining designs for our new website and various marketing tools.
- Marketing strategies, opportunity cost analysis, and mapping our expansion plans.
- And, of course, preparing to open a startup funding round.
Is there a legal tech resource of any kind that you find yourself returning to or that was particularly formative for you?
For legal-tech specific resources, blogs (like Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites), Twitter’s legal tech and access-to-justice communities, and a special shout-out to Nick Rishwain at LegalTechLIVE.
I’ve been trying to gain a basic tech competency. Node, Jira, Slack, Crashlytics, Native, Full-stack (not pancakes), and many other terms have been a challenge to learn all at once. However, “Silicon Forest” (aka Portland) has an awesome and inclusive tech community!
- In particular, the PDX WIT (Portland women in tech) has been a great resource.
- Code-for-PDX is a volunteer software development effort working on access-to-justice projects.
- We’ve also presented at New Tech PDX, an event that showcases new tech being developed in the Portland area.
- Also, we regularly meet with developers (aka programmers) and dev teams (aka software companies). I genuinely do learn something new every day.
After all, tech is the future of everything.
What technology do you think lawyers could look at in a different way that would benefit society?
Mobile apps ;)
What advice would you give to other women who want to get involved in legal tech?
Steve Jobs did the same thing every morning when he first woke up. He looked at himself in the mirror and asked the same question, “Is what I’m going to do today what I would do if today was my last?” If the answer was “No” enough days in a row, he’d make a change.
If this sounds like you, here’s what to do about it:
- Make a plan and execute. The “Access to Justice” legal tech world is rewarding work.
- What are you waiting for? The water’s warmer over here!
Give a shout-out to another woman in legal tech who you admire or have learned something from!
Twitter is a powerful networking tool. (Follow me, I follow back! @katiaalcantwood). I recently connected with Erin Levine, CEO of Hello Divorce. Erin is a sharp CEO getting things done (and she’s really fun to talk to!). We noticed and analyzed the same “pain points” in the consumer market for legal services. It’s amazing how many similar conclusions we drew.
Is it just me, or are women kicking serious ass in legal tech right now?