Attorney marketplace UpCounsel has spent the last several months helping startups and other small businesses get affordable legal help. But for the most part, that help has mainly been focused on short-term projects that don’t require a ton of assistance over a longer period of time.
The startup hopes to change that with a new service that will connect technology companies in San Francisco with an outside general counsel to replace the legal help they’d usually get from a traditional law firm. Those firms can charge up to $800 per hour to work with a partner, but UpCounsel believes that by setting companies up with attorneys on its platform, it can drastically reduce that cost over time.
The Outside General Counsels it connects startups with are former senior associates and partners from large firms who have previously served in the general counsel role of technology companies. The only difference is now they’re working virtually through the UpCounsel platform.
To make sure that the general counsels are a good fit, UpCounsel does interviews with interested companies to determine what their needs are, and then tries to pair them with attorneys who understand their business and have the correct skill sets to support them. Attorneys get a company profile and dossier to review only if they are selected by the company to possibly represent them.
More than just making the connection between startups and the outside general counsel, UpCounsel also handles all admin and support for them. That includes billing, but also means helping them to find paralegals as well.
As part of the program, UpCounsel is also opening up not just to attorneys, but to professionals who have served as paralegals to support them. Again, since it doesn’t have all the overhead of the big firms, paralegals can be billed at about a third of what the big firms charge for their hourly work.
In addition to the lower cost, UpCounsel believes that its outside general counsels will be more responsive to legal requests than the folks who work at more traditional firms that are loaded up on casework. CEO Matt Faustman tells me that in its early trial, some startups have used the program to complement their existing firms for when they need more immediate help.
But the platform is also seeing some startups move completely to adopt its outside general counsels, with about 10 totally jumping ship from some big firms you’ve probably heard of.
Now that it’s launched, we’ll see how well the program actually works. In the meantime, UpCounsel has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from folks that include Homebrew, Bobby Yazdani, SV Angel, Collaborative Fund, Haroon Mokhtarzada, and other angels.