Steve Tover, CEO of AnyLaw Brings Free Access to Legal Research For Everyone
Divorce is emotional, confusing, time-consuming, expensive, and above all else — stressful. While no one can wave a magic wand and make divorce easy, we can (and should!) be cost sensitive and efficient — harnessing technology and modern techniques to save our clients money and time. This interview is part of Divorceify’s Innovator Interviews, a series sharing the stories behind today’s most cutting edge tools and approaches to divorce.
Preparation is one of the key ingredients for a successful outcome in a divorce. That means doing legal research on the relevant laws, rules, legal precedent and prior cases. Even though case law is technically part of the public domain, accessing relevant legal information is expensive – for both professionals and individuals representing themselves. Divorceify sat down with Steve Tover, CEO of AnyLaw, to talk about his innovative free legal research tool, for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
What does your company do?
AnyLaw is a free legal research service that gives users unlimited access to all US case law.
What is innovative about what you do?
Case law is public domain. The collection and curation of the data is the tricky part. AnyLaw is the only free legal research service that provides the same usability as the expensive subscription services. At AnyLaw, everything is free. We have no subscription fee and have no plans to charge any in the future.
AnyLaw provides a complete experience with linked data, comprehensive research tools and filters, the ability to save searches, download cases, collaborate and publish. And as the only open legal research platform we can offer collaboration and publishing functionality well beyond what subscription services can offer, and we are able to create unique vendor relationships.
How does your innovation help divorce clients or divorce professionals?
Divorce clients: Let’s face it, anyone representing themselves in a divorce is trying to keep costs down. As the only free legal research service, AnyLaw empowers these people by giving them free access to the case law they will need in their proceedings and filings.
Divorce professionals: The cost of legal research is getting harder and harder to pass on to clients. Divorce clients are especially sensitive to the ongoing costs of litigation. With AnyLaw, legal professionals can sleep at night. No legal research subscription fees means no add-on cost to the client.
Why did you start your company?
I was doing market research on a project in the legal space and quickly learned that there were no free solutions for legal research. I had come out of another company that was doing quite well using a traffic/advertising model and I was a believer in “if you build it they will come”. It happened in healthcare with companies like WebMD and I felt that there was no reason it could not be the same for the legal industry.
What made you want to do things differently?
I recognized the market need. Legal research is disproportionately expensive and all current platforms are primarily meant for professionals only. I really wanted something that professionals could use in a similar fashion to what they currently use, and at the same be a free resource that could be inviting and useful for self-represented litigants.
How did you bring your idea to life?
Initially, I had to make sure that the idea had legs. I did a deep dive into the legal industry, identifying trends, learning about other legal tech services and gauging the appetite of the market for another service. I also spent several months interviewing legal professionals in different size law firms to learn personal preferences and nuance of how different people do legal research, how often and what services they use.
Once that was done, I put my team together. We had a few tasks at that point: pulling together the data and the crawlers, and validating the accuracy of everything. At the same time we started the UI design and had to decide what would eventually be released when we launched. So we put together our dev pipeline and went to work.
Along the way, we raised some initial capital, did some branding and marketing and walla!!
How long did it take you to bring your idea to life?
The original idea came to me over ten years ago. I decided to pull the trigger 2 years ago and it took about 18 months until we were ready for launch.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Typical challenges. Being the new kid on the block, credibility has been an issue. It takes time for people to believe that we really do have ALL US case law and that we really are free. Not freemium. Also, law firms are slow to change, so even if we are everything a lawyer could want in a legal research tool, it takes time. We move fast, so sometimes we have to put the brakes on.
What has been rewarding about bringing your idea to life?
It’s the “aha moment”. I am in a meeting or on a call with someone and I can see they just get it. It is very satisfying to know we are able to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s a pretty good feeling.
Do you have any advice for others that have an idea for an innovative product or approach, but don’t know where to start?
It’s a cliché but it is true: do not be afraid to fail. You have to do your research, you have to have a plan to execute and you have to eventually put together some money. All true. But you have to believe in yourself. It’s contagious. Give it a shot and see where you idea takes you.
My favorite all time book is Count of Monte Cristo with Shogun running a close second. For fun reading, I am an addict of the Harry Bosch, Jack Reacher and Elvis Cole novels.