Interview of Kim Felton
Kim Felton graduated from Albany Law School (2018) with over 1,300 hours of pro bono service. She's been working for herself ever since, initially doing contract-based work for immigration lawyers and then founding her own immigration law firm.
Even before COVID, I wanted to launch a virtual law firm, but it was difficult to find resources and guidance because that just wasn't a very popular idea. Then COVID happens and the virtual law firm becomes the norm for nearly everyone, so I made plans and formally launched my virtual immigration practice in October 2020.
How did you get started building legal apps?
I made my first legal app in early February. It allows people to come to my website and screen themselves for DACA.
On my website, I have a free guide about DACA eligibility that acts as a lead magnet...
A lead magnet, also known as a lead lure, is an e-book or guide that you can only access after providing your email address. This is a common, and effective tactic, in a broader email marketing strategy. Learn more about lead magnets and other strategies in our Law Firm Marketing Guide 2021.
...My legal app is part of this DACA eligibility guide. The app acts as a short quiz where you can describe your personal circumstances and see how that impacts your DACA eligibility. If you don't meet the criteria, the app tells you right away. This prevents you from wasting your time.
The other purpose of the DACA eligibility app is to build trust with prospective clients that don't feel ready to pay for a consultation. The app gives them a safe space to anonymously get answers to their questions.
That makes sense, especially if we start with the premise that most people don't want to begin the journey of handling their legal issue by immediately calling a lawyer. Calling a lawyer sounds expensive, at the very least it's a Big Deal, and at the start of my legal journey I'm interested in taking small steps.
Absolutely, and I'm the same way. I'm an attorney myself but for a long time, and frankly even now, I don't feel like I could afford one. Whether that's true or not is besides the points, it's how I feel and I think a lot of people feel like that. A legal app that helps you take the first steps in dealing with your legal issue, anonymously and free, that's a very different proposition.
How do you justify the investment in making a legal app like this?
I can see how many people are visiting my site and downloading my guide, and something must be working because in just the last 28 days my facebook page received over 9,000 visitors, but honestly I am not keeping strict tabs on the metrics of the legal app.
But I am happy building legal apps even if the only reason is to get practice and learn a new skill set, because I'm certain this exploration will spark new ideas for how I can automate my practice.
This is something we're hearing about more and more, that lawyers are playing with technology in a way that's traditionally seen in the software engineer community. There's a saying in that community, "what the smartest people do on the weekend is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years" (Chris Dixon).
Do you see yourself as a tinkerer? A hacker hobbyist?
No, not at all. This is a wholly new world to me.
Let's talk about your other legal app. How did this one come about?
My original plan wasn't to make another app, I just wanted to offer free 15-minute case evaluations for people with concerns about waiver eligibility. There was just too much information to get through in 15 minutes, even with the help of a 13-page intake form I created. My expectation was that people would complete this intake form before the case evaluation, but what ended up happening is we would do the intake form together during our call.
So, I needed a way to make the 13-page intake form more approachable. I wanted to create a step-by-step questionnaire that only asked you for relevant information and provided guidance for challenging questions. That's how I started building another legal app.
What kind of feedback have you received about this new process?
We deployed it and it's going great! It has led to people booking consults and has allowed us to offer VAWA screening for those who can't afford private representation. So with them, we are able to give them the result sheet and refer them to a non-profit that has the capacity to take on their matter in a way we can't.
I started this app only because I thought it would make things easier for me. I didn't consider that other law firms might find it useful.
Interested in the entire conversation with Kim Felton? Listen to our podcast interview where we go into more detail about motivations for lawyers building tech, changing needs of clients, and using technology to create a healthy work/life balance.