Kevin Gillespie started out like any other entrepreneur—he had a common problem, didn’t know of an existing solution, so he decided to create one himself. Taking inspiration from a class project, Kevin created Text A Lawyer: a mobile application that allows anyone, anywhere, any time, to hire and ask a lawyer a question for only $20.
Read more from Kevin below:
The spark that inspired the birth of your concept: Easy; Professor Jeanne Eicks at Vermont Law School. In 2015, I took her Legal Hacktivist course. Our assignment was to “code” a mobile app using prototyping software to solve some kind of a legal problem. My idea was Text A Lawyer, and Professor Eicks encouraged me to pursue the concept.
The problem it solves: 80% of all legal need goes unmet. That means every lawyer in the country only services 1 out of 5 legal issues; the rest go unresolved and end poorly for the unrepresented. Other e-lawyer websites try to do too much. Their plethora of offerings and options is enough to intimidate a person without advanced education and legal experience. We make the process simple; you choose a state and category, then submit a question to the highest-rated available instant lawyer.
How you came up with the name: I believe the best names are simple and tell you what it is because then your name itself is marketing. My previous businesses followed this formula; I started a 501(c)(3) charity feeding the homeless refrigerated pizza so I named it Cold Pizza, Inc. Text A Lawyer was the same; you aren’t using SMS texting (our platform is encrypted) but you are able to have an SMS-style texting conversation with a lawyer qualified to answer your questions.
But to answer the question: The name and 90% of the concept hit me all at once, a true light-bulb moment.
How you are different than your competition:
- We offer actual legal advice, not generalized legal advice. Our competition goes out of their way to avoid creating an attorney-client relationship. We take the opposite approach; clients hire their lawyer on a pay-per-question basis and the attorney-client relationship is severed at the end of the chat.
- My competition is very smart; their offerings are numerous and detailed. However, they fail to make a simple way for people to get affordable legal advice. Text A Lawyer removes most of the options and streamlines the process of hiring an attorney for quick legal questions and answers.
- We don’t break the Rules of Professional Conduct (legal ethical rules attorneys must follow.) The entire platform was built to be ethically compliant. In fact, our lawyer app is 100% free for them to use; we don’t charge the lawyers anything to use Text A Lawyer to make money and meet new clients.
- We are the world’s fastest way to hire a lawyer. As the average attention span drops to zero, industries must adapt and the practice of law is overdue to adjust. People just want to connect to a lawyer who can answer some legal question, or just help with their lives. Lawyers are problem solvers, and a lot of the time people aren’t even sure if their issue is a legal one. Our aim is to bring back the counselor-at-law with a modern twist.
How you make money: We only charge on the Client App. Our revenue comes from two sources of value we provide to our customers (aka the lawyers’ clients.)
- We charge a $4 once per attorney-client connection as a Verification Fee. This fee includes verifying the attorney’s license to practice, keeping informed of disbarments and suspensions, and verifying identity through a required selfie each time the lawyer logs in.
- We charge a $1 per question software license fee on every question.
Clients pay $20 to connect to a lawyer and for a little “get to know you” chat before answering the client’s first question. Many (most) issues will result in follow up questions, which are $9. Therefore the lawyer makes $15 on the initial question and $8 on each follow-up question.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur: We create the future.
The biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date: People who are much more experienced and respected than me are pushing me to succeed. I’m amazed at how supportive and hard-working my team is on a regular basis.
Your biggest success: Success is a process, not a goal or achievement. But my biggest achievement is getting Text A Lawyer developed and ready for launch this month.
Do you have a failure story to share? Oh yeah. Chill Tours. Chill Tours was the idea to start a Segway tour business in Crested Butte, Colorado in 2011. The summers are so short and the liability was too high in winter, so it died because three months of revenue couldn’t support twelve months of overhead.
What keeps you up at night? My development team; they are night owls and I’m an early bird. I sleep very well because I’m usually exhausted.
The best entrepreneurial advice you have received: Warren Buffet said something to the effect that the top ten things to succeed are all the same; never give up. I’m naturally persistent and I think that is the key aspect of a successful entrepreneur. Also, failure only becomes a mistake when you fail to learn from it. Y
Your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: If you’re in this because think it will be fun or a way to make a lot of money, don’t do it. If you’re not truly self-motivated, don’t do it. But if you are so passionate about your business that you would do it for free, then you might be in the right place. And chances are good you will indeed do it for free for a while.
The #1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur: It depends on what knowledge and skills you need as an individual; a one-book-fits-all approach doesn’t cut it for busy entrepreneurs, and may end up wasting time. If you have a background in tech maybe read up on entrepreneurship. If your background is in business then maybe learn a little bit of code. If you have the needed skills but are overworking yourself then maybe read for fun to achieve a better work-life balance. Whatever you read, or don’t read, the goal should be to maintain and improve your personal human capital.
The song that best describes your entrepreneurial journey: I have to give two based: The first half of the journey is American Pie by Don McLean, the second half is Thunderstruck by AC/DC.
What wild success looks like: You and most of your friends and family have used Text A Lawyer on occasion. Maybe once, maybe a couple of times, or maybe not at all but you know people who have tried it. It’s the kind of thing you tell your parents and neighbors about.
Your favorite local business: The mom & pop food trucks in downtown Portland. They are the epitome of the American dream; come to America and open a business with grit and hard work alone. I’ve had a number of jobs in the restaurant industry and couldn’t imagine doing that all day in a small trailer. They have my respect; I have their tacos.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: All I knew was that I wanted out of Texas. The humidity/heat was intolerable for me. As an adult, I’ve lived in Colorado, Vermont, California, and now Oregon. I’ve always been torn between the convenience and stimulation of downtown city life and the serenity, beauty, and outdoor activities provided by mountainous terrain. Portland just seems to click for me. I like to analogize it to a musical instrument. Everywhere I’ve lived before I’ve been out of tune. After moving to Portland, my instrument is in tune, and I can play music for the first time.
Is Oregon is a good place to start a business? Yes, especially for me. I moved from Bend to Portland to have Text A Lawyer developed. I found a Beaverton-based mobile app developer and I’m finding the Oregon Bar Association to be friendly. I’ve also started businesses in Colorado and California. Neither had a welcoming entrepreneurship network and both had more red tape.
Anything else? Borrowed from a larger-than-life Houston furniture entrepreneur/philanthropist, Jim “Mattress Mack” MacIngvale: “Late to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise!”
Also, I have 13 other unique and viable business ideas in queue. Interested in starting or funding a business? Reach out and let’s grab some lunch to chat about creating the future.