This Chicago tech company brings a lawyer to your living room

by Andreas Rekdal
January 12, 2017

For people in need of legal assistance, major logistical challenges can stand in the way of getting a lawyer. Whether the closest attorney’s office is too far away or difficult to get to, or they simply lack the flexibility and the savings to take time off during work hours, these consumers often forgo seeking legal help altogether.

UpRight Law, a Chicago-based legal tech company, wants to make it easier for those people to lawyer up. Its platform lets attorneys provide their services online, allowing consumers to receive legal advice wherever are.

“Our overall mission and purpose is to bring the law office to the living room so that we can increase access to consumer justice,” said Chief Executive Ed Scanlan. “The concept is making it approachable, making it comfortable and making it an environment where they’re not intimidated.”

UpRight Law got started in 2013. Scanlan and Managing Partner Kevin Chern had worked together at Total Attorneys, which provided lead generation technology to small law firms across the country. While running Total Attorneys, Scanlan and Chern noticed many of the people seeking legal services whom they tried to pair with attorneys did not end up with representation. For a variety of reasons, these individuals were falling through the cracks of the legal system.

“Every single month, we would have as many as 20,000, or sometimes even more, consumers who were looking to work with an attorney, but we couldn’t find anybody to help them,” said Scanlan. “Because the lawyers didn’t want to market more than 45 minutes or an hour away from their offices.”

At the same time, they knew many attorneys were struggling to find clients. Scanlan said studies have found that many attorneys at small law firms spend less than three hours a day on billable client work.

The problem, the pair discovered, was that small law practices were completely structured around the ability of clients to stop by an attorney’s office.

Sensing an opportunity to meet a massively underserved market, Scanlan and Chern started discussing what it would take to deliver legal services through an online platform with attorney Jason Allen.

At the time, Allen was a Total Attorneys client who ran a traditional brick-and-mortar law practice. Scanlan and Chern ended up joining Allen's firm, and together the three rebooted it as an online-based practice.

Scanlan said working with UpRight Law is a lot like working with any other law firm. But in addition to having the option to meet with one of the company’s more than 350 attorneys in person, consumers also have the option to communicate via video chat and do screen sharing.

Because cases are tracked through the company’s platform, consumers can check in on their case status at any time without having to contact their attorney. And if they have questions, UpRight Law’s staff is available, even outside of traditional office hours.

Right now, UpRight Law focuses exclusively on bankruptcy cases, but its long-term plans are to branch out into additional fields. Scanlan's hope is to eventually give consumers the same quality of tech-enabled legal representation that major corporations receive.

“Corporations have had lots of investment driven into technology, through law firms and other service providers, to help them understand their rights and exert them,” said Scanlan. “What we’re building is the same platform and tools and technology, but for consumers, allowing them to have the luxury of the same advantages that a [major] law firm provides for Coca-Cola.”

Judging by the numbers, UpRight’s co-founders appear to have been onto something. The team has nearly doubled in size every year, adding between 50 and 60 new employees in 2016. And the company is still hiring in a big way. But to Scanlan, the most exciting part of UpRight’s growth has been the opportunity to make a difference in consumers’ lives.

Scanlan said he remembers hearing from a woman who had felt trapped in an abusive relationship because of debts she shared with her spouse. After working with UpRight Law to resolve those debts, the woman and her child were able to leave the abusive household.

“We take eight to 10 client testimonials and hand them out to employees at our all-hands meeting and go through them,” he said. “As their photo and the testimonial comes up on the screen, someone in the company reads what the person said. It’s really inspirational when you hear — with all the hard work you’re doing, sometimes you forget that this is the impact you’re having.”

Images via UpRight Law.

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