Kevin speaking with Richard Marvel, a Solo Attorney and founder of FirmTRAK, at the 2019 Clio Cloud Conference. FirmTRAK was created by Richard to maximize firm efficiency through reporting and analytics.
Kevin O’Keefe: Who am I talking with?
Rich Marvel: Rich Marvel.
Kevin: And what does rich model do?
Rich: I’m a practicing attorney by day and at night I’m the legal tech guy. I’m trying to be, I’m trying to be, anyway.
Kevin: Where are you from?
Rich: I’m from central Illinois, so I’m from Farmington halfway between Chicago and St. Louis.
Kevin: I know where it is.
Rich: The cornfields of McClain County. That’s what I always say.
Kevin: I’m from Wisconsin from Lacrosse.
Rich: I saw that.
Kevin: And so Clio was in Illinois? I think last year, was it Southern Illinois University?
Rich: Southern Illinois is Edwardsville. Further South. Yeah. You made a good idea getting out of Wisconsin and going to Seattle.
Kevin: Oh, somebody told me it was my first company and they said, “that’s an interesting idea, but the chances of somebody giving you the millions of dollars, you’re gonna need to do that. In Wisconsin, they put a little dot on a piece of paper”. They drew a big circle and he goes, “you know what that is?”. I go, “I’m starting to have the idea”. He goes, “yeah, you go to Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, or Boston. That’s how many people were back that idea”. So I was really became that
Kevin: (1:03) Yeah, I had to do that. Um, what do you guys do? I mean, what are you trying to build at night, that’s got you away from practicing law for part of the night? So, we’re building and an analytics platform for attorneys, right. Built by attorneys. And the goal is to provide, you know, better dashboard visualization with respect to what lawyers do on a day to day basis. So really looking for those metrics that will drive their law firm. Not necessarily for top line revenue, but where they can get the most efficiency, the most bang for their buck, the most utility out of the time that they have.
Kevin: What data are you collecting?
Rich: Well, right now we have the Clio user integration. So coming out of Clio, we use basically all the data coming out of Clio.
Rich: Time entries, timekeepers, expenses, payments, invoices
Kevin: All masked, you’re just viewing the data.
Rich: All of it, right? I mean we use all of it.
Kevin: That’s amazing. So it’s Clio. And how do you draw that? Could they have an API that you’re drawing?
Rich: (2:01) We have an API. So we’re an integrated partner and we pull their API data and we have some other integrations of course, but like basically the time or the data, the right now that we’re.
Kevin: When did you get that idea?
Rich: Um, you know, as I was growing my firm, I had some problems with managing what I call the “spinning plates”. So I needed a way to better manage my own internal operations. So I hired a project manager and we started to play around with pivot tables and spreadsheets and CSV downloads. And then I started to think about the types of data that I’ve been collecting for 20 years within law firms and my law firm practices. And I came to the conclusion that most of the data that’s collected is somewhat similar to the 80-20 rule. So if I can take advantage of 80% of the data that’s the same and provide high level metrics based on that data, then I should be able to connect to a variety of different platforms because 80% of the data collections is the same.
Kevin: (2:52) So when you’re drawing this information off of all of Clio’s data, which has huge amount of data that you have access to, what happens and how does that product ties back out to a firm? How do they use that information?
Rich: Right? So once the integration is made, they get a sign-in for FirmTrak, which is a separate web program, software as a service. So it’s a separate program. They open up the portal, they set up their user defined variables and targets. So at that point we’re putting in, uh, full time equivalencies. So basically we’re trying to get into team management and like what your capacity is as far as how many employees, how many people you have able to work. And then once you identify that, then we can do resource costs from costing. Then we can do billing targets and projections. And then once we get that, those parameters put into the system, there’s some accounts receivable information that we’re playing with and they can set up variables. But once we get the variables set up, then that data is and transformed and lays on top of the Clio data to provide a dashboard that we call “firm track visualize”.
Kevin: So is the Clio data some sort of baseline that they can compare to or what? I’m trying to understand how, what’s the relationship between the Clio data and the data that the firm is sharing as far as their metrics?
Rich: (4:14) Right. Well, the data that the firm shares is the Clio data. So if you have a user base that has five attorneys and four paralegals, we’re pulling all of the metrics for the five and the four into our system.
Kevin: Already from Clio?
Rich: Already from Clio. And then we lay our variables on top of it.
Kevin: These are, these are Clio users that then you’re doing it.
Rich: Yes, exactly.
Kevin: You’re creating something on top of what Clio already has available?
Kevin: Okay. Right. I get it. I was just thinking somehow the data.
Rich: Like our goal is to lay on top of the data providers to be the best analytics platform for attorneys, period.
Kevin: (4:51) And how do the potential customers hear of FirmTrak and the opportunity to work with you, based on the fact that they’re a Clio costumer? Do you just go out and contact them? Do you have a list of Clio customers? How does that all work?
Rich: Well, reaching the customer is the hard part in the legal segment. So right now it’s social, social media is the way, and we’re a direct integration with Clio. So if you search under metrics and like assessment tools within the Clio space, we’re on the dashboard so they can make the direct integration like that. Um, we’re trying to develop, you know, strategic partnerships with.
Kevin: Okay, so you’re doing it the other way. It’s not like you’ve got this list of Clio customers and you’re out contacting them?
Rich: No, I wish Clio would give us some customers, but they’re not doing that quite yet. I’ll talk with them about it.
Kevin: I’m sitting here as one of the Clio integration partners. I’m going, “who’s this guy? What does he have that I don’t?”
Rich: “I want to get access?”.No, no, no, no.
Kevin: You’d be telling me each one of their salespersons mentions me.
Rich: I’m trying to get that done actually. Enough incentives and we’ll see. But no, they’re not sharing their list with us. I wish, you know, but we’re following, you know, there’s user groups, just stack ways.
Kevin: It’s a good, it’s a good idea and a good product, you know what you’re creating? Um, what have been the challenges, you know, maybe it’s, you know, getting a hold of those customers and connect to customers, but what’s been the biggest challenge for you?
Rich: I think part of the biggest problems that we have with legal tech in general is the momentum of old habits. So finding lawyers that are willing to embrace change in a way that can generate a lot of ROI for them. Without looking at the, you know, the small dollar incremental dollar costs to see what the long term value play is. So, you know, the momentum of habits, old habits.
Kevin: (6:37) And had you ever been in the time that you’ve been practicing law, have you ever run a company or done a company on the side before this?
Rich: No. No. I haven’t. I haven’t.
Kevin: And so why you? I mean really like, it’s like, okay, there’s a lot of other lawyers that practice law like you did across this country and here it is, you goes, “you know, I could take the way that I do things, leverage this data at Clio and create a company”. I mean, why you, what was it in your DNA?
Rich: I don’t know if it was just something that I’m always a proponent and highest and best use. So, I want to try to get the most value out of the time that I have available in the day. Considering all the other balances that I had. So, so my goal honestly, was to try to produce a product that provided me less stress, more free time, more revenue. So, when I started to look at it, I had some things align with perspective people and capabilities and capacities. And I knew enough about data and statistics that I was just able to think about how I can apply it.
Kevin: So it was almost like, “why not?”.
Rich: It’s was almost by “why not?”. You know, and in my presentation, I indicated that I was doing some, I looked for a solution., right. I’ve tried to find one and I couldn’t. So I went ahead and I took the time and the effort to try and put one together.
Kevin: (7:53) It’s almost how every entrepreneur I talk to over the years, it’s the same thing. I mean that’s what it look like for me. So when somebody tells me I’m the national leader on blogs for lawyers or some speaking event in San Francisco, and I’m going, “what are they talking about?”.
Rich: It’s crazy.
Kevin: I’m baying $495 a month for this thing. And people come up and say, “can you help me do what you’re doing?”. I’m going, “Shit, I’m scared you found my blog. I’ve got to find somebody to help me make it look good and tell me what I’m doing”.
Rich: I’m trying to find that “maybe I’m not doing this right”.
Kevin: I mean, cause I don’t have a clue. And the best I could find seriously the best I could find. Who was the woman in Florida, and she goes, “I could only help you via email because I got kids that are loud. So we can’t ever talk on the phone”. I’m thinking, “Well, that ain’t gonna work for these large firms that are asking me to help them”.
Rich: I completely understand the fear that you had at that time. Believe me, believe me, I would’ve have never thought that I would be here doing all of this. It’s very exciting, it’s crazy.
Kevin: You’re speaking. There are people listening to you. Yeah, so how’d that all happen? Yeah. What’s been the real high? What’s been the most rewarding?
Rich: Um, I guess the rewarding is some, it’s certainly the Clio launch. You know, finalists, you know when, right when you get a call from Clio and they said, you know, out of 80 integrations and you’re one of the top five, you can present. So it was a high, when I found out that I was going to be top five and it was somewhat of than a low and I’m like, wait a minute, I’ve got to get a four minute pitch. So I’ll have to come around with that. But basically the recognition that we have from Clio has been huge and really the positive feedback. I mean we get, I mean we’ve been slammed.
Kevin: (9:23) That’s great.
Rich: People are clamoring I think for data and data analytics and trying to get deep insights.
Kevin: Here you have Jack and the team constantly talking about it. You know, and be able to use information, so that you can get more value out of your life.
Rich: Right. Right.
Kevin: You know, it’s the rare lawyer. I mean, I always was, so let’s find out what we’re the best at and let’s do those things and reduce all the other static from our life. Let’s not have a lawyer do what a lawyer is not required to do. Not to demean anybody, but we could have other people doing things that are more fun that other lawyers were doing.
Rich: Right. Well, this is totally got me back to enjoying my practice. I mean, outside of what I’ve been doing with FirmTrak, my practice, I’m enjoying my practice more with it, with the balance that I’ve been able to achieve. So it’s been helpful that way. And then just the opportunity to help lawyers. I mean, I’m a small lawyer, you know. I’m a solo practitioner and, I wanted to create a tool that provided value to other small lawyers to have the ability to use technology in ways that larger law firms are using it. I knew that there was a way that they could do it and I’m kind of passionate about that space. Um, because I never was like large law and had like huge discretionary budgets.
Kevin: (10:37) Who did the first, you know, coding and technology work for you? Were you were able to do it or do you get you got somebody to help you?
Rich: I’ve had someone help. So we’ve done some, you know, when you got the pivot tables and excels and then we started to think about how we could use the data in combination. So um, I’ve had certainly, you know, you stand on the shoulders of those that are around you. I’m certainly reaping the benefits of many of the talents that I have on the team.
Kevin: And like five or 10 years ago you weren’t familiar with API and now it’s you’re calling.
Rich: It’s funny how many conversations and I start talking about API’s, like I know what I’m talking about and I really don’t. Fake it until you make it, I guess.
Kevin: Oh, we were just talking about that with somebody else. The nomenclature that, you know, lawyers were sitting in here using these things, which we know some basic things. The things we don’t know, we can’t. I can’t code.
Rich: I can’t code. I cannot code.
Kevin: So, I can’t do that thing. But that’s a great thing that you said, I mean you’re, you’re solo lawyer serving small area and now you have a technology company that you’re running while you’re still practicing, which I bet a year from now you’re going to say, “I don’t know if I can keep the practice going hard or it was closed.
Rich: I hope that maybe it’ll open some opportunities up long term for us.
Kevin: And you’re reaching people nationally, if not internationally. They’re your customers.
Rich: We have users all over the country, all over the world, at this point. Hong Kong.
Kevin: Which is great. It’s very cool.
Rich: It’s super exciting. It’s crazy. It’s really crazy.
Kevin: Thank you very much.
Rich: Thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity.
Kevin: It’s a great, it’s a great story.
Rich: I appreciate that.