Case Status’ founder Lauren Sturdivant started as a lawyer, but soon discovered her bigger calling was to alleviate the stress and productivity killer of managing a practice when it came time to communicate and keep clients’ updated on case statuses. Attorney at Law Magazine writer Caitlin Keniston spoke with Sturdivant to discuss her life after the law.
AALM: Tell us about your career as a lawyer. What initially drew you to practice law?
LS: I practiced in South Carolina and Ohio, and actually grew up around the practice of law. My mom is a long-standing judge in Ohio and my dad is a lawyer. Given my background, I have a deep respect for lawyers, and their staff, for the hard work they do every day to help clients. I know first-hand that it’s a difficult and stressful job. And the majority of those stressors often relate to the attorney/client relationship.
AALM: What first piqued your interest in a career change? How did that evolve?
LS: I was tired of drowning. Every morning, I walked into my office and I had 30+ emails & 25+ voicemails. And more often than not, I was answering the same questions from clients, and I knew that if I could just give them updates using technology, they would feel more at peace and connected to me as their attorney. Plus I would save several hours a week, which I could then focus on resolving cases faster and increasing my monthly fees. I started looking for a solution, a way of updating clients without having to call or email them, and I could not find one. It’s crazy in an industry that is so focused on relationships, that client relationship software did not exist, and I knew it had to. Because the problem was so painful, I felt called to go and help attorneys and clients everywhere and solve this problem.
AALM: Tell us about your thought process in launching Case Status.
LS: I left my job in August 2017 and we founded Case Status. During that time period, my team and I developed relationships with early adopter firms. We learned and listened to them, which let us better understand what they needed to help manage the client relationship.
The problem of how to keep clients informed, and our solution, really resonated with others. Not just law firms but investors as well. We were backed by Cox Enterprises and Techstars. And recently we just received venture backing and closed our second seed round. We’re just scratching the surface on how we can help lawyers achieve more success. And clients ultimately benefit the most.
AALM: What were some initial challenges you faced in launching your business and transitioning out of private practice?
LS: Launching a tech company is drastically different than practicing law or working for a law firm. When you are building a technology platform, you don’t just build according to your idea of a solution to the problem. You build a basic product, obtain users, listen and learn from their feedback, and thoughtfully build to actually solve the problem. Remember, you are changing a behavior, and in order to do that, you not only have to solve the problem, your solution has to make people’s lives exponentially better. Being new to the technology world, I had to learn many things along the way, but my skillset in law helped equip our team to win.
AALM: How have legal mentors and connections helped you to grow out this service or provide insight?
LS: We really listened and learned from our customers, and built features that solved their problems. When we started obtaining amazing use cases from law firm customers about how Case Status was saving them time, reducing phone calls, making happier clients, accelerating firm growth, and gathering data points on improved client satisfaction, we knew we had hit product-market fit.
AALM: How have you used your experience in the law to build out your CRM and marketing platform?
LS: I knew the problem and pain points so intimately given my experience, and as the subject matter expert, we were thoughtful in how we built Case Status to really solve those problems. But what was fascinating were the times we received feedback and use cases from customers that I hadn’t considered. That’s why discovery is so important in a new company. And even though I have a perspective, there are a lot of perspectives that I hadn’t considered. At the end of the day, we have a strong pulse on the wants and the needs of our customers. And our mission is to serve our customers in the best way possible.
AALM: What new avenues did you need to explore to build out this business properly?
LS: We recognized early on that we really needed to hone in and listen to our customers when building Case Status, and we made that a priority. And now that we have solved the client communication problem, there are so many other things we can do. As we continue to scale, we are building new feature sets that solve additional problems for personal injury law firms, which is going to allow them to be more efficient and thorough in building better cases. After that we’re looking at implementing feature sets that will be specifically helpful for different practice areas, such as immigration and criminal defense.
AALM: How does this platform differ from the other CRMs on the market?
LS: Case Status stands alone from other CRMs in that our focus is on clients first. So much legal technology has been built with a focus on the law firm, instead of serving the client. By creating a better experience for the client throughout the case, we help lawyers save an immense amount of time.
In terms of the technology, it’s an app and web portal for clients. Lawyers can: send automated updates and communications; provide clients with a roadmap of the case so they understand the process in layman’s terms; track the client experience so lawyers know who their best clients are (and allows them to fix issues with unhappy clients quickly); allow quick messaging and alleviate unnecessary phone calls and emails; clients can refer their lawyer to others with a click; firms can use it as an intake tool to qualify leads; and lawyers can also easily request reviews from their happiest clients to help boost SEO and marketing efforts.
AALM: What are some issues you have noticed in the legal tech industry? How do you seek to overcome those?
LS: The legal industry is a trailing industry. It lags behind almost everything else. But a major shift has been coming, and with the corona virus situation, many law firms are being pushed into the future right now.
Lawyers can’t put off adopting new technology in order to better serve their clients to some far off day in the future. If lawyers don’t adopt technology right now to keep their practices running, they face the very real possibility of going out of business.
AALM: Case Status just received a substantial investment, what immediate plans do you have?
LS: We’ve already been experiencing significant growth in the past year. With this new round of funding, we’ll be able to accelerate our growth at a rapid pace into multiple practice areas across the industry. We’re also planning on growing the company with industry veterans so we can better serve law firms. And we’re going to continue to deepen our relationship with investment partner BIP, and expect to have a significantly growing relationship with them over the next two years.
AALM: What do you see coming in the future for Case Status? Any trends or major shifts ahead?
LS: Being a lawyer is an incredibly stressful and often thankless job, and many lawyers suffer from stress and depression as they navigate clients through some of the most difficult times in their life. Much of this has to do with the stress of the job. By utilizing technology to help with client management, we can help reduce the stress of practicing, while also better serving clients.
Again, law is a lagging industry, but a major shift is coming. As more technology driven lawyers come out of law school, and competition for cases increase and fees decrease, I see a massive change in the industry in the next 3-5 years. If firms are stubborn or ignore this trend, they are going to have a very difficult time competing. And that’s without even considering the corona crisis, which is accelerating the problem. Given that we have been working on our solution for this exact scenario – remote collaboration and communication with clients – we’re uniquely situated to help law firms thrive in this environment.
AALM: Looking back on your transition, would you change anything?
LS: I would not change a thing. During every part of this journey I’ve learned invaluable lessons which helped me and the company grow. Without those lessons we wouldn’t be where we are today. We plan to continue to actively listen to the market and our customers, so we can continue to help them solve the problems they deal with daily.
AALM: Do you have any plans to hand over the reins and refocus on a private practice?
LS: Although I loved practicing law, I believe it’s my mission to improve the practice of law. The industry runs deep in my veins, and I have a deep love for it. I want my legacy to be helping lawyers and their clients reduce stress while providing stability and transparency during difficult times in people’s lives. Given the current climate, the future of legal is not some far off time, it is here today. Lawyers who lean into this shift of communications will thrive.