Delivering affordable legal services from the cloud

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“To get a proper platform built, as far as I was concerned, there was really no other choice than to be on AWS for security and scalability.”

Startups often begin with a lightbulb moment – the sudden recognition of a challenge or problem that demands a solution.

For Brisbane-based lawyer Katie Richards, that moment came in 2013, when she first realised that three-quarters of Australians struggled to access legal help because of their financial situation or where they lived. So Katie set about bringing low-cost legal representation to all Australians. The result was Virtual Legal, a multi-award-winning fixed fee online law firm that provides efficient legal services across Australia.

In 2016, however, Katie’s life took an unexpected turn, when injuries sustained from an exploding fire extinguisher caused problems with her short-term memory. The result was she could only work 20 percent of her usual hours.

“To keep servicing my clients, I had to find a way to get the same job done with only 20 percent of the time needed,” Katie says.

“So, I created easy-to-use precedents and guides my clients could use, and I had them follow my notes and do as much of the work as they could, and then I’d finish it off. It worked like a charm.”

Providing affordable legal representation

Without intending to, Katie had created digital processes for legal self-service that non-legally trained people could easily learn and use. Katie also found herself with a new idea for fulfilling her original ambition of providing affordable legal representation.

So, in 2018, Katie founded her second startup, Law On Earth, which today provides services that enable people to act for themselves for between 80 to 90 percent of their legal requirements.

“Law On Earth saves up to 90 percent of the cost of using a law firm, so the 73 percent of the population who can’t afford lawyers can now access justice,” Katie says. “It also opens the un-serviced market up to be serviced by the law firms at their normal rates, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”

While the business got off to a strong start, it also received an unexpected boost during the COVID crisis.

“Before COVID, the whole concept of never meeting your clients was difficult for some people to get their head around,” Katie says. “Suddenly, everyone needed help remotely and had become comfortable using video conferencing.”

A founder’s experience and advice

As a non-technical founder, Katie says she faced some initial challenges when trying to build the technology behind Law On Earth. However, she gained important guidance from other startups and from the team at her cloud service provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“I tell every new tech founder that they need to be with AWS if they’re serious about their startup,” Katie says.

“To get a proper platform built, as far as I was concerned, there was really no other choice than to be on AWS for security and scalability,” Katie says.

Among the most important lessons Katie has learned has been the need to be diligent when forecasting expenditure and monitoring cash flow, and the importance of market testing a product before spending large sums of money on its development.

“Just because you and your mum think it’s cool, doesn’t mean someone will get their wallet out to pay you,” Katie says. “If you’re not solving a pain point for the customer or bringing some sort of meaningful benefit to their life, it probably won’t sell.”

And she has also been more than willing to help other startups where she can.

“The Australian startup scene is so active these days and founders try to help one another out,” Katie says. “I often have startups reach out to me via the Law On Earth platform to get feedback on their presentation decks, business structuring, and managing risks within their startup.”

Scaling an award-winning business

Law On Earth has since won a range of awards including the 2019 Innovator of the Year in the Women in Digital Awards and the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Business Award for Outstanding Micro Business in 2022. The company has also been listed as an approved legal service by the Queensland Small Business Commissioner.

Because Law On Earth is built on AWS, Katie says it has been made possible for her to extend the service into new markets, and she plans to launch Law On Earth around the world, starting with the United Kingdom this year, ahead of further expansion into Europe and the United States.

“The UK market saw the value of our platform immediately,” Katie says.

She says AWS had also helped out with engineering support, and because AWS provides the most secure global infrastructure, she has been able to give comfort to risk-averse clients that their data is safe. Being able to host customer data in the same country as her clients means Law On Earth can also remain compliant with local privacy laws.

AWS Services Used

Amazon Aurora

Amazon Aurora provides built-in security, continuous backups, serverless compute, up to 15 read replicas, automated multi-Region replication, and integrations with other AWS services.

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Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon Elasticache

Amazon ElastiCache is a fully managed, in-memory caching service supporting flexible, real-time use cases.

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