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Building bridges between students and startups

by Rebecca Siegel

We are grateful for all of your support for our first cohort - we really could not have built this program without you!  

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Even as we support legal tech startups, LexLab itself remains very much in startup mode. This term we hosted a well-attended weekly speaker series, shared our mission through speaking engagements around the country, and held our very first Demo Day (whew!). However, perhaps our greatest accomplishments to date can be attributed to the three startups who made it through our inaugural cohort.

We kicked off this Spring with a welcome breakfast with every team member of our startups and members of our advisory board. We set the goals for our semester and connected the founders to some of the advisors who would go on to help them shape their growing businesses. We were also able to identify our own goals with our community - to help identify a new semi-permanent home for us as UC Hastings embarks on a major transition in campus space, and to help establish external lines of support for LexLab.

So much of LexLab’s success this year can be attributed to the deep connections we forged between our student body and the startups in our accelerator. This began in early February during our first event open to students, a roundtable of successful legal tech entrepreneurs discussing How They Built This. The speakers, Gavin McGrane, CEO of Pacer Pro, Adam Hahn, Co-Founder of Judicata, AJ Shankar, Co-Founder of Everlaw, and Jake Heller CEO of CaseText, shared the crazy stories behind growing their successful legal tech startups. This event sold out in minutes (although we suspect this may have had something to do with the catered Chipotle…), and we had a great crowd of students and members of the legal tech community. The startups were motivated after hearing about the successes of the founders on our panel, and the students were excited to think about different ways to practice law.

Several times throughout the semester, we hosted more events intended for both our student body and our accelerator. Each event featured speakers from across the legal tech spectrum. Toward the end of the semester we hosted an event entitled Alternative Law Firm Models, with an all-star panel that included Patrick Palace of Palace Law, Sameena Kluck of Paladin, Nick Long the Executive Director of Gravity Stack at Reed Smith, and Augie Rakow ‘07 (Go Hastings!) Co-founder of Atrium LLP. This event was a great way to show students that the traditional ‘law firm’ model might be changing, and an even better way to show our startups how innovative firms use technology to improve deliverables for their clients.

Our final open-to-the-public event - Lyft Off! - featured three UC Hastings alumni who have shaped the unicorn startup, Lyft, from the beginning. Kristin Svercheck ‘07, Loni Mahanta ‘08, and Lindsay Llewellyn ‘08 spoke about what it means to run an in-house legal team at a fast moving startup, and how the role of in-house counsel might include responsibilities you didn’t expect.

In addition to a slew of events for both our startups and our students, we also hosted weekly curricular events designed just for our accelerator participants. These “lunch and learns” were always meant to be casual conversations, so we held them around a big conference table. Topics ranged from How To Fund Your Startup to How To Sell to Law Firms. Our speakers included members of our advisory board - Maya Markovich, Director of Product at Nextlaw Labs; Stephan Eberle, General Counsel of Scale Ventures; and Derek Duarte, CEO and President of Blackstone Discovery as well as some interesting members of the greater legal tech community. In particular, we appreciated the insights of June Liebert, firmwide Director of Library and Research Services at Sidley Austin; Thornton Schaaf, Co-founder of Headnote; James Wilson, VP, Early Stage Practice at Silicon Valley Bank; and Dan Rubins CEO and Robot Overlord at Legal Robot. Our weekly lunch and learns became an intimate way for the startups in our accelerator to make connections with the legal tech community and ask questions that pertain specifically to their businesses.

As the semester progressed, one of the four startups that began in our inaugural cohort decided to dissolve. While it was sad to lose one of our companies, it was a reminder of what happens when you are working with real startups - each day is a new day and brings on unforeseen challenges and adventures.

The final three startups in our cohort thrived throughout the semester, and each gave a great presentation at our first Demo Day. Traditionally, Demo Days are intended for venture capitalists to preview startups they are interested in investing in. However, our startups all told us that the most valuable insights for them would come not from investors, but instead, from possible customers and legal tech influencers. So, we sourced the judges for our inaugural cohort’s Demo Day from across the legal community. The panel included Joe Green, Senior Legal Editor (Startups & VC) at Thomson Reuters Practical Law; Stephanie Corey, General Partner at UpLevel Ops and CLOC co-founder; Samantha Von Hoene, CLO at Enjoy Technology, Inc.; and Aravinda Seshadri, Partner at Silicon Valley Legal. We wish we could tell you just how much each startup grew over the course of the three months of our cohort, but we encourage you to find out for yourselves. You can find out more about, Syntexys, and DueCourse by clicking on those links .

On the curricular front, Building A Legal Tech Startup - a business class offered by our CEP, Professor Alice Armitage finished its second semester at Demo Day as well. 8 students pitched their ideas to a panel of judges that included members of our advisory board; Eric Zaarour from Ping and Bob Ambrogi, of Lawsites Blog. This semester, we invited the startups in our accelerator to many of the Monday AM classes to hear interesting guest speakers like Ariana Beach - Privacy Counsel from 23andMe and Building a Legal Tech Startup, and Andy Raskin, pitch coach for a number of successful startups. Building a Legal Tech Startup is part of the law and technology curriculum at UC Hastings.

This semester, we hosted visits with delegations from law schools around the world- including the University of Copenhagen, Guangzhou University, Singapore Academy of Law, University of Amsterdam, Bucerius Law School, and the University of Hong Kong. These international visitors were eager to learn about the truly innovative path LexLab has forged for UC Hastings.

Again, we couldn’t have achieved any of this without your support, your attendance at events, and your kind word of mouth to other legal tech enthusiasts. We hope to see all of you in the fall.

Applications for our Fall cohort are now open! If you know of any legal tech teams looking to boost their startups’ growth, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Thank you for staying involved! See you soon!