As General Manager of Transaction Management at Litera, Haley Altman is responsible for leading the transaction management effort as part of the company’s revenue team. She uses her extensive experience as an entrepreneur and former lawyer to understand the technology, processes and workflows required to help customers successfully complete transactions with less stress and risk, while maximizing client satisfaction.
Where do new innovations in legal technology come from? How do ideas grow and develop from the seed of an idea to a commercially viable solution?
I’ve been there, done that: while I was rising through the ranks in the Business Group at Ice Miller LLP, I sunk my teeth into the problem of transaction management … and ended up leaving the firm to launch the legal technology startup Doxly. Here’s what I’ve learned about the innovation lifecycle from the moment of recognition through building a company that successfully solves that issue.
Recognizing the Problem: Wasting Time on Paper-Based Transactions
As a transactional lawyer and then partner representing emerging companies and venture capital firms, I knew that my value for clients was in my skills as a lawyer, not my dexterity as a paper-pusher. The slow manual workflow involved in typical deals did not, to put it mildly, showcase my abilities or accentuate the value that I could be adding.
I started asking around: were other transactional lawyers struggling with all the paper around deals the way I was? How were they solving that problem?
It turned out that they were—and no one had a solution. My own research backed up that conclusion. As much as I was hoping that someone had already invented this technology, it wasn’t out there. And honestly, that didn’t make any sense to me. This was a repetitive problem that technology should be able to fix. There had to be a way to master transactions, streamlining workflows and documents so that lawyers could add value to transactions instead of merely shepherding a chaotic pile of papers through to a deal’s conclusion.
Everyone I asked had the same problem, and we all wanted a solution. I figured I’d at least have to try to do it—but I’m no coder. Fortunately, it turned out that I knew a few people who were.
Finding a Solution: Assembling a Qualified Team
Now, enterprising lawyers always know how to find what they need, whether that’s answers to legal questions or talented coders to help them build a product. It just so happened that I had an advantage, because I’d spent my whole career advising growing technology companies and venture capitalists. I had a whole book of contacts and 10 years of experience helping clients overcome the hurdles involved with starting a company and getting an idea off the ground.
At first, I was testing the waters: is this idea feasible? To answer that question effectively, I had to clearly define the problem and outline the exact solution I wanted. I created a massive brainstorm spreadsheet that mapped out every aspect of what I hated about manual, paper-based transaction management and what I’d want a solution to include, at least in layman’s terms. Once I had the idea of what I wanted to accomplish down on paper, in enough detail so that someone qualified to do the work could understand it, I was ready for the next step.
Going Out on a Limb: Launching a Company
Building the team was the start, but eventually I had to choose: my law practice, as a fairly new partner, or Doxly. In the end, Doxly chose for me—it was all I wanted to work on. I kept coming back to it, and I decided that was an answer in itself.
A few years out, I can say that that was definitely the right choice. The solution we came up with did everything I wanted and more. Doxly took the laborious manual process of legal transaction management and transmuted it into a smooth, efficient, seamless process. It effortlessly creates due diligence and closing checklists, enables transparent document collaboration, collects electronic signatures, generates closing books, and produces helpful analytics and reports—all in a secure cloud-based platform.
There’s one final point I want to emphasize: when you have an idea for a solution that needs to be built, it is absolutely critical that you share that idea with people you can trust. People often think you have to hoard your ideas, keeping them locked away where no one can steal them, but everyone has blind spots. The experiences that other people bring to the table—especially when you find experienced people who will listen, understand, and give you reasonable advice—are irreplaceable. There are ideas everywhere; what really matters is execution. And it takes a team to execute on a big idea.