Interview by Amelia Chew | Edited by Jennifer Lim Wei Zhen
LawTech.Asia had the privilege of being a media partner for TechLaw.Fest 2018. The inaugural TechLaw.Fest held from 4 to 6 April 2018 saw the convergence of legal professionals, technologists, entrepreneurs and policy makers, conversant and passionate about Technology Law and Legal Technology, coming together to discuss the future of Singapore’s technology scene. During TechLaw.Fest, the LawTech.Asia team met with various speakers, exhibitors and attendees to learn more about the work that they do and their experience at the conference.
LawTech.Asia sat down for a chat with Marlon P. Valderama, President and CEO of LexMeet, Inc. LexMeet, Inc. is a legal tech company from the Philippines which participated as an exhibitor that TechLaw.Fest. It was also a shortlisted contestant for the Singapore Legal Tech Venture Slam Pitching Competition and a speaker at the Tech Talk stage. Marlon is a lawyer by profession and manages his law firm, Valderama Law Office, specialising in corporate and litigation. He pioneered e-lawyering in the Philippines with his virtual law office, E-Lawyers Online. Marlon also uses his own legal practice management software, E-Law Solutions App (ELSA).
Could you tell us more about LexMeet?
LexMeet is a real-time online legal consultation platform, a webspace where lawyers and clients meet to solve legal problems. It is like the Uber of lawyers, where a client can seek a lawyer’s advice with just a few clicks. Instead of matching an Uber rider with the nearest Uber driver, here you have a client being matched to a lawyer. The client’s legal problem and needs are matched with the lawyer’s expertise, location and language. LexMeet serves as a bridge for lawyer and client to meet via videoconferencing.
LexMeet allows clients and lawyers to register on the website for free. Clients submit legal problems through an easy-to-use, step-by-step series of forms, where they provide their story, objectives and questions, as well as supporting documents. A client needs to load a minimum credit of about USD10.00 in order to access the Lawyer’s List and select a lawyer. We have a lawyer-client matching algorithm that provides the most appropriate lawyers for the client depending on their needs such as specialization, location and languages spoken.
Once a lawyer accepts the case and confirms the schedule preferred by the client, they meet either via voice or video conferencing. During their online conference, corresponding charges are automatically deducted from the client’s credits. The lawyer, on the other hand, gets credited with payment. After the call, there is a feedback mechanism that allows clients to rate the lawyers they just spoke to.
We had a soft launch in December 2017 and our operations are now in full swing. As of 5 April April 5 2018, we have 2,050 clients and 57 lawyers.
What is your motivation for establishing LexMeet? How did the name come about?
As you may know, the Philippines has more than 10 million migrant workers scattered all over the world. With this diaspora, there is high demand for services to solve legal issues left behind by our migrant workers back at home. Such legal problems include marriage, support and custody issues, as well as inheritance and investment issues.
At first, I was helping relatives and friends who resided abroad. Then, I wanted to do more. I realized there was no online facility for people in need of these services to get a lawyer at that time. In 2010, when I established my own law firm, I tried to bridge that gap by launching E-Lawyers Online, a virtual law firm wherein a Filipino — migrant worker or otherwise — can register and seek legal advice online, complete with an appointment system and an online payment gateway. With its success, I was motivated to share the benefits of e-lawyering with my fellow lawyers in the Philippines so I created LexMeet.
The name ‘LexMeet’ came about when I requested to have a brainstorming session and I texted my co-founders, “Come on, let’s meet! Let’s start this thing!” I did this many times, to the point that they got really annoyed. I saw my numerous text messages and said to myself “I think we’ve got our company name!” We tweaked it to have a more lawyerly appeal by using “Lex”, which in Latin means “law” or “related to legal matters”. In this case, “Meet” is a verb that means “to see and speak to someone for the first time” or “to be introduced to or become acquainted with.” Our logo is actually composed of two hands doing a handshake — one in orange red, which represents a lawyer, and the other in green, representing the client. These shaking hands form a gavel, which signifies a legal meeting. LexMeet is a legal meeting held online.
Could you tell us more about the team behind LexMeet?
We have four founders. I’m the main idea guy and I handle the overall management of the product and the processes. My co-founders are: Redg Fernandez who handles creatives and design, Gino Carlo Cortez who heads technology, and Mel Jamero who takes on strategy and marketing. My wife, Neria Luz Valderama is our VP for Admin and HR. There’s also Joni Jocson who handles Finance. Aside from that, we have two regular developers. I have been working with Redg since 1996, and Gino and Mel since 2010. We first collaborated as a team in 2010 when we started E-Lawyers Online.
How would you describe the legal tech scene in the Philippines?
As far as we know, one of the pioneer legal tech companies in the Philippines is CD Asia Technologies, which is the long-time partner of LexisNexis. They provide online subscriptions of legal resources and jurisprudence, among others.
The legal tech industry is very young in the Philippines, and quite a handful of the players are into legal research and legal information. I have not encountered a legal tech company in the Philippines that focuses on innovations in practice management, artificial intelligence or legal documentation. That is why we also created our own law office practice management software. We call it “ELSA” or E-Law Solutions App.
Do you have plans to expand into other parts of Asia?
Currently, overseas Filipino workers are our niche market but we’re also targeting foreign investors who want to do business in the Philippines, as well as expatriates. We are also targeting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) so they can afford legal services without the need of retaining lawyers. Today, time, distance and money should no longer need to stand in the way of SMEs when it comes to getting legal advice.
Expanding to other parts of Asia is definitely on our minds, but we are currently concentrating on the Philippines market. We’ve been meeting many interested parties here at TechLaw.Fest who are willing to partner with us, and we’re very happy with the reception and the potential collaborations. We’ll see where these conversations take us.
What can we expect from LexMeet in the years to come?
We are now rolling out our mobile app, which hopefully will be available in the middle of 2018. We have more features in store for our clients and lawyers, and we are very excited about them. We think LexMeet will really revolutionize the legal tech industry. We are gearing up to be the largest meeting place of lawyers and clients all over the world and the marketplace for all things legal.