#LegalTechLives with Lauren Sturdivant, Founder and CEO of Case Status
“It is important to remember that no one is going to build your company for you, so if you really want to pursue entrepreneurship, I would suggest you start working towards it today.” This and more solid advice from a lawyer who’s made the leap.
Lauren Sturdivant began her career as an attorney in Ohio and South Carolina. During her years of practice, she saw the disconnect in communication between attorneys and clients, which led her to develop Case Status. Since then, Lauren has made it her mission to improve the lives of attorneys and their clients through technology. Lauren is passionate about mentoring young women, helping them develop confidence, and guiding them towards an actionable plan that will help them achieve their goals.
Ava Chisling: Case Status is a relatively new company. What is Case Status and what does it do?
Lauren Sturdivant: Case Status is a communication and referral tool for attorneys and their clients. It is an app that provides clients with real-time updates regarding the status of their case. It allows clients to read what to expect as their case progresses and it lets attorneys and clients message each other quickly. Case Status also allows clients to refer their attorneys to others with a click, and it tracks those referrals. Case Status is designed to save attorneys time so they can focus on working on/resolving their cases, while allowing clients to feel more connected with their attorneys and their cases than ever before.
AC: What precipitated you wanting to start your own business? Did you have a “a-ha” moment?
LS: Case Status was born out of a pain point I experienced during my years of practice. Along with colleagues, I struggled to get actionable work done on cases because we were so inundated with calls from clients requesting status updates. Thus, in order to get work done, we often didn’t do the best job communicating with clients. This was a frustrating problem that fellow attorneys and I often discussed.
On the other hand, I recognized that clients were going through a difficult time in their lives and desired consistent updates. Further, it was clear that when clients did not hear from their attorneys, they felt as if their cases weren’t being worked on. This disconnect often led to distrust, and sometimes even a breakdown in the relationship.
After seeing and dealing with this problem first hand, it became my mission to create a tool that sets expectations and keeps clients informed, yet saves attorneys time so they can focus on their work. Further, considering Case Status is a referral tool, it allows clients to do the marketing for attorneys. This feature is extremely important considering legal marketing is expensive and competitive. Referrals are the lifeblood of every law firm and Case Status has the ability to capture and streamline those referrals.
“It took a long time to recognize that even though I love the practice of law, my true passion related more towards improving a very real problem that exists between attorneys and their clients.”
AC: What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?
LS: It was a very difficult decision to leave my well-paid attorney position to jump into entrepreneurship. Further, it was difficult to leave the day-to-day practice of law. Like so many others, I spent my entire life working towards being an attorney, and it was my identity. It took a long time to recognize that even though I love the practice of law, my true passion related more towards improving a very real problem that exists between attorneys and their clients. When I was honest with myself, I realized that I had no other option but to pursue my mission.
AC: Do you think these challenges are keeping good people out of entrepreneurship? Is there a solution here — or is the answer for people to simply be less afraid?
LS: It is extremely difficult to leave the comfort of a job and jump head first into the unknown. Even more so, there are often several other factors involved — and other people to consider — when making this leap of faith. However, I do think there is a solution for those who have a good idea and really want to pursue entrepreneurship. My suggestion is to work backwards. Where do you want your company to be one year from today? Now, what steps do you need to take to get there? Set achievable expectations month by month to reach that goal. It is important to remember that no one is going to build your company for you, so if you really want to pursue entrepreneurship, I would suggest you start working towards it today.
AC: The idea of Case Status — a quick and easy way for a law client to follow his/her own case — seems pretty simple. Were you surprised it didn’t exist before?
LS: I was both surprised and not surprised. I was surprised in the respect that the disconnect between attorneys and clients is such a palpable pain point, and there was no real solution that existed before Case Status that honed in on this problem. On the other hand, I was not surprised in some respect because there is great case management software that cater to attorneys’ needs, and not their clients. Because Case Status was designed by attorneys for attorneys, it recognizes that by empowering clients with information and case updates, it is helping attorneys exponentially by saving them time communicating with clients. This communication and time save reduces stress for both attorneys and clients.
AC: Can you see Case Status branching out into other areas, like health or even car body shops?
LS: Case Status was designed to provide a solution to a very real problem for attorneys, but it is a client communication and referral tool at its core. Our team has been approached by accountants, lenders and different service businesses, and we are testing it in other markets. Case Status is currently available to other industries upon request, and it will officially launch into other verticals in 2018.
AC: What are the top three things you REALLY wished you knew before you started your law career?
LS: I wish I would have grasped the cost of law school. The amount of debt you incur is extensive, and law schools need to do a better job explaining what that burden looks like upon graduation. Secondly, I wish someone would have told me that law school does not prepare you to be a practicing attorney. Being an attorney is not just about knowing the common and state law, it is about knowing the court system and different nuances that cannot be taught in a classroom. Further, being a great attorney means being really great with people, and being able to grow and maintain trusting relationships cannot be taught. Lastly, I wish I would have been aware of the stress and pressure attorneys face regarding their firms (as employers) and their clients. Being an attorney is difficult considering you are attempting to please a lot of people. However, attorneys can combat this by always remembering that the client’s interests come before anyone else.
AC: What advice do you have for other lawyers who may want to leave law to start their own business?
LS: If you are thinking of leaving the practice of law, make an actionable plan and take the appropriate steps to set yourself up for success. Being a practicing attorney prepares you to be a great business person considering attorneys are critical thinkers and strategists, not to mention attorneys know the law. I think it is also important to acknowledge that attorneys can always go back to practicing if they keep their licenses active.
AC: The ROSS founders made the leap into entrepreneurship and are now soaring, including [CEO/Cofounder] Andrew who also trained as a lawyer. Do success stories like ROSS’s and others motivate you?
LS: I very much relate to Andrew’s story and I aspire to follow in his footsteps. Both Andrew and the ROSS team saw a problem that has always existed in the practice of law and they figured out a way to utilize new and innovative technology to solve that specific problem. Through building an amazing product and sharing his story, Andrew has become a thought leader in legal tech, and he has done a great job conveying how tech can greatly improve the legal field. Even more so, both Andrew, and ROSS as a company, are visionaries, and it is an honor to know and learn from Andrew and the ROSS team as we continue to grow. Needless to say, they both make it clear that the future in legal tech is bright and we are just getting started.
AC: Tell me how living in South Carolina affects your work. Us northerners imagine a slow, relaxed pace filled with nice views of the water.
LS: Moving to South Carolina was a major lifestyle change. As a northerner, I am used to the grind and the hustle, however I have learned to appreciate the southern way of taking some time to stop and smell the roses. I have realized that you can work hard and achieve great success while still being present for the ones you love. It comes down to being smart and extremely productive with your time, acknowledging that there are sacrifices, but making an effort for loved ones when it is important to do so. By finding this balance, it allows you to be a better CEO because you are focused, happier, and more fulfilled. Further, that positive energy permeates your relationships with your team and your customers.
AC: Do you think that with the increasing use of technology in law — especially AI — it makes it easier to convince lawyers and law firms to jump right in?
LS: I think we have come leaps and bounds in the past several years, especially with the developments in AI, but we still have quite a ways to go. The law and attorneys are slow to adopt change, but attorneys are starting to realize how much tech can improve their lives and their practices. As a new generation takes over the bar, my prediction is that there will be a massive shift in adoption. I believe that the legal tech space will grow exponentially in the next five to 10 years.
AC: And finally, here is the question we ask everyone: What is the one thing not yet invented you would like RIGHT NOW?
LS: A time travel machine. I would love to have the opportunity to go back and witness historic events that shaped the world today. I would also love to see and experience what the future has in store.
AC: Time travel is a pretty popular answer! Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?
LS: I just want to thank fellow attorneys for the hard work they do every single day to help better the lives of their clients/protect others’ interests. As John W. Davis said, as an attorney “…(w)e smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men’s burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.” The practice of law is extremely important to society, and the importance attorneys play in our society will never go away.
AC: Very well said!