20 VC FF 019 500 Startups Week Life As A 500 Startups Portfolio Company with Ashish Walia, CoFounder @ LawTrades



In the latest episode of "20 minutes VC," host Harry Stebbings interviews Ashish Walia, Co-founder and CEO of Law Trades, a platform revolutionizing legal services for startups and VCs by connecting them with specialized attorneys. Ashish discusses his pivot from law school to entrepreneurship, driven by a desire to democratize access to quality legal services and escape the traditional, restrictive path of a legal career. He shares insights into the challenges of fundraising, the importance of building a strong business over seeking investment, and the company's strategic choice to join the 500 Startups accelerator for its focus on distribution. Ashish also highlights the value of entrepreneurial resources like Gary Vaynerchuk's advice and the supportive culture at 500 Startups, which aligns with Law Trades' mission and ethos.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Law Trades and Ashish Walia

  • Law Trades is a marketplace for attorneys with domain expertise in the legal sector.
  • Ashish Walia is the co-founder and CEO of Law Trades.
  • The platform is designed to help startups and venture capitalists with legal work.
  • Law Trades has assisted companies from Y Combinator, Techstars, and 500 Startups.
  • Ashish offers a special discount for 20 minutes VC listeners.

"Law trades helps startups and vcs get their legal work done through providing a really awesome marketplace of attorneys with domain expertise in the legal sector, having helped companies from the likes of YC, Techstars, and of course 500."

The quote explains the core service provided by Law Trades, highlighting its marketplace for specialized attorneys and its credibility through associations with well-known accelerators.

Ashish Walia's Background and Origins of Law Trades

  • Ashish attended undergrad in Queens, New York, followed by law school.
  • During law school, he explored alternative career paths, leading to entrepreneurship.
  • The idea for Law Trades was conceived with co-founder Rod to decentralize corporate law firms.
  • Law Trades was created to offer a middle ground between expensive law firms and subpar DIY legal services.

"And halfway through law school, I sort of started thinking about a different career path... And it was a great opportunity because halfway through law school is when we started thinking of the idea of law trades with my co founder rod."

Ashish shares his personal journey from law student to entrepreneur, indicating a pivotal moment in law school that led to the creation of Law Trades.

"Their two options, before we existed were to either go to a bottom of the barrel, do it yourself legal service, which ends up costing a lot more money down the road to fix all the mistakes, or you're stuck paying almost $600 an hour for some high level law firm for routine legal work."

This quote identifies the gap in the legal market that Law Trades aims to fill, offering a cost-effective alternative to both DIY legal services and expensive law firms.

The Decision to Pursue Entrepreneurship Over Law

  • Ashish was top of his class in law school, surrounded by peers securing high-paying jobs.
  • Despite the security and salary of a legal career, Ashish was drawn to entrepreneurship.
  • He was influenced by the notion that many inside law firms want to leave, popularized by Peter Thiel.

"During law school, I was sort of in the top of my class... So it was extremely nerve wracking to sort of forego the law school route or the lawyer route and to jump into a startup."

Ashish discusses the daunting choice to leave a promising legal career path for the uncertainties of entrepreneurship.

"And it wasn't really appealing to me at all. And I'm sure you heard Peter Thiel say himself, it's like when you join a law firm, it's something that everyone on the outside wants to get into it, but everyone on the inside of."

"That law firm wants to get out."

Ashish resonates with Peter Thiel's sentiment about the desire to leave law firms, which influenced his decision to pursue entrepreneurship.

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

  • Entrepreneurs must be willing to sacrifice a stable salary and comfortable lifestyle.
  • Entrepreneurship is not for everyone due to the inherent risks and daily stresses.
  • Ashish believes one should carefully consider personal goals and desires before making the leap.

"You're going to forego a comfortable salary, you're going to forego nice dinners all the time and benefits, all this stuff that comes with having a full time career."

Ashish highlights the sacrifices involved in choosing entrepreneurship over a stable career.

"So I think that you really just have to examine what you want out of your life."

This quote advises potential entrepreneurs to introspect and evaluate their life goals before embarking on the entrepreneurial journey.

Personal Journey and Entrepreneurial Mindset

  • Ashish Walia discusses the importance of figuring out what one wants to do and pursuing it with determination.
  • He emphasizes the value of hard work and hustle in carving one's own path.

"I think that the path of figuring it out myself and really working my tail off and hustling, that's what I really want to do."

This quote underlines Ashish's belief in the significance of self-discovery and the dedication required to achieve one's goals.

Founding of LawTrades

  • LawTrades was conceived during Ashish's time in law school.
  • Rod, his co-founder, approached him with the idea to build a platform for businesses and lawyers.
  • The initial version was a simple lawyer directory service with no traction.
  • While in law school, Ashish was able to focus on the project, funded by student loans.
  • He graduated four months prior and had already raised a seed round and gained some traction by then.
  • LawTrades is currently part of an accelerator program.

"Yeah, so the idea came about halfway through being in law school, and it's like right around towards the end of my first semester of my second year of law school, and Rod approached me and said, hey, let's build this out."

Ashish recounts the inception of LawTrades, highlighting the timing and collaboration with his co-founder, Rod.

Personal Growth as a COO and Co-founder

  • Ashish has experienced significant personal growth while running LawTrades.
  • He mentions the stress and isolation often felt by entrepreneurs, which is difficult for others with more traditional jobs to understand.
  • He utilized various resources such as podcasts, blog posts, and books to guide him through challenges and learn about business growth.
  • Ashish believes that these resources are essential for any aspiring entrepreneur.

"Yeah, absolutely. I think that when you're running a company and just trying to be that unicorn, be that company that really sets things off, there's so many days where you're going to face a lot of stress, you're going to face a lot of ups and downs..."

This quote reflects Ashish's acknowledgment of the difficulties faced by entrepreneurs and the importance of resilience and utilizing external resources to overcome challenges.

Entrepreneurial Resources and Influences

  • Ashish Walia expresses a strong affinity for Gary Vaynerchuk's work.
  • He identifies with Gary's background in sales and customer service, which aligns with his own strengths.
  • Ashish consumed content from various entrepreneurs, including Jason Calicanis and the "Ask Gary Vee" show, and leveraged educational resources like the "How to Start a Startup" series from Stanford.
  • He values practical learning from these resources over traditional education like an MBA.

"So for me, the person that I really started resonating with halfway through law school was Gary Vaynerchuk."

The quote indicates Ashish's inspiration from Gary Vaynerchuk and his approach to learning from successful entrepreneurs who share his skill set.

  • Ashish discusses the slow progression of technology in the legal industry compared to other sectors.
  • He attributes this to the traditional legal education system, which does not encourage entrepreneurship.
  • Law school graduates are often steered towards traditional career paths under established partners, which may stifle entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Ashish hopes for a shift in legal education to embrace legal technology and entrepreneurial thinking.

"Why do you think there is this divergence between the advancement of tech and then the complete lack of progression, obviously, other than law trades in the legal space?"

Ashish is asked to explain the discrepancy between technological progress in general and the stagnation within the legal industry, prompting his analysis of legal education and career paths.

  • Legal education is adapting to the modern era with the introduction of incubators for solo practicing attorneys.
  • Traditional legal education methods can be archaic, as illustrated by a property class that penalized the use of laptops for note-taking in 2014.

"They're starting, like, incubators for attorneys that want to become solo practicing attorneys right out of law school, which is something that should have been done 10-15 years ago." "You would literally get penalized if you were to bring your laptop into class."

The first quote highlights the recent development in legal education to support solo practitioners, which was overdue. The second quote exemplifies the outdated methods in legal education, emphasizing the resistance to technology in the classroom.

Profile of Lawyers on Law Trades Platform

  • Law Trades has strict standards for lawyers on their platform, preferring those with big law experience seeking work-life balance.
  • Their target lawyers are often those who have left big law to start their own firms or work as solo practitioners.
  • These lawyers value flexibility and the ability to work remotely, even from a beach, while acquiring clients through Law Trades.

"So generally what we look for is attorneys that have big law experience that are sort of tired of the work-life balance." "They could essentially work from a beach and get clients on law trades and make a living."

These quotes describe the type of lawyers that Law Trades aims to attract: experienced attorneys seeking a better work-life balance and the ability to work flexibly and remotely.

Law Trades' Seed Funding Journey

  • Law Trades raised investment from 500 Startups after a rapid series of events, including applying shortly before the deadline and moving to California within days after being accepted.
  • Recommendations and early validation of the business, along with strong unit economics, were crucial for securing the investment.

"We ended up applying a couple of days before the deadline." "I tried to get connected to other 500 mentors or founders... if they vouch for you, I think 500 is invested in over like 1000 companies."

The first quote details the timeline of applying to 500 Startups and the swift progression to acceptance. The second quote advises on the importance of networking within the 500 Startups community and gaining recommendations to increase the chances of acceptance.

Interview Process at 500 Startups

  • The interview process at 500 Startups for Law Trades focused on recommendations, business traction, and unit economics.
  • Networking and gaining advocates within the 500 Startups ecosystem was a strategic move that helped in the selection process.

"What they seem to really care about... was one, we had about two or three people recommend us after they learned about their business." "Focus on just getting some early validation and show that there is some opportunity with your business, and then also try to just get connected with people within the network."

The first quote identifies the key factors that 500 Startups considered during Law Trades' interview process. The second quote provides advice for other entrepreneurs on how to approach the application process for accelerators like 500 Startups.

Choosing 500 Startups Over Other Accelerators

  • Law Trades chose 500 Startups for its focus on distribution, which was a key area they wanted to improve.
  • The cultural fit between Law Trades and the ethos of 500 Startups founders was a significant factor in their decision.
  • A Quora post by Dave McClure about the cultures of different accelerators influenced their choice.

"500, we really wanted to go to 500 is because they're so focused on distribution." "500 founders tend to be geeky hustlers, they tend to be very social, community driven, et cetera. And I looked at that and I was like, that is literally us."

The first quote explains the primary reason Law Trades was attracted to 500 Startups—its emphasis on helping companies expand their market reach. The second quote reflects on the cultural alignment between Law Trades and the typical profile of 500 Startups founders, which resonated with their own values and approach.

Fundraising Challenges

  • Finding individuals who understand and believe in the vision is a significant hurdle in fundraising.
  • Raising a seed round can be particularly difficult with no traction, relying on angels and micro VC support.
  • An unexpected challenge was the need to uproot and relocate to California for four months to participate in the 500 Startups program.

The most challenging thing, I think, is just sort of finding those people that understand your vision.

This quote highlights the difficulty of securing investors who align with the company's vision, which is a common challenge for startups seeking funding.

Initially it was like a very small precede round when we had zero traction. These were just a bunch of angels, a small micro vc that came in on the round.

This quote explains the nature of the initial funding round, emphasizing the small scale and lack of traction during the early phase of investment seeking.

The biggest challenge for 500 was literally just picking up everything in three days and leaving and just sort of putting everything on the back burner for a while and moving to California for the next four months.

This quote describes the logistical and personal challenges faced when committing to an accelerator program, which often requires sudden and significant changes to one's living situation and business operations.

Business Focus Over Fundraising

  • Ashish Walia was advised by Gary Vaynerchuk to concentrate on building a solid business rather than focusing on raising funds.
  • The focus on developing a good business is a key strategy, with fundraising becoming a secondary concern.
  • LawTrades was built with a focus on creating a strong foundation during and after Ashish's time in law school, leading to an eventual introduction to 500 Startups.

All you should focus on right now is just not even worry about raising money. Just focus on making a really good business and everything else will come.

This quote underscores the importance of prioritizing the development of a strong business over the pursuit of investment, as a successful business naturally attracts funding.

Influential Literature and Role Models

  • "Zero to One" by Peter Thiel is Ashish's favorite book, influencing his decision to pivot from a traditional legal career to entrepreneurship.
  • Brian Johnson, the founder of [company name not provided], is a role model for Ashish, admired for building a tech-focused company without a technical background.

So it's definitely zero to one by Peter Thiel.

This quote indicates the book that had a significant impact on Ashish's career path and entrepreneurial mindset.

I would definitely say Brian Johnson, the founder of.

This quote reveals Ashish's entrepreneurial role model, highlighting the importance of having inspirational figures in the startup ecosystem.

Reading Preferences and Essential Apps

  • James Altucher's blog is a favorite read for Ashish, appreciated for its self-deprecating tone and uplifting effect.
  • Slack, Medium, and Quora are essential apps for Ashish, indicating their importance for communication, reading, and knowledge sharing.

Definitely my favorite thing to read is definitely James Altucher's blog.

This quote shares Ashish's preferred online reading material, suggesting the value of relatable and motivational content for entrepreneurs.

Slack is what we really use a lot. I read a lot on medium. I'm really big on Quora.

This quote lists the apps that are integral to Ashish's daily routine, reflecting the modern entrepreneur's reliance on digital tools for business operations and personal development.

Being a Founder vs. Being a Lawyer

  • Ashish values the freedom and unpredictability of entrepreneurship over the structured path of a legal career.
  • The entrepreneurial journey is embraced for its challenges and the opportunity to forge one's own path.

The best thing about being a founder is that you have your own opportunity to create your own path.

This quote captures the essence of why Ashish prefers entrepreneurship to law, emphasizing the creative and autonomous nature of founding a startup.

Future Goals for LawTrades

  • Ashish aims to make LawTrades the largest virtual law firm, disrupting the traditional legal model.
  • The focus is on creating an affordable, scalable, and efficient legal solution for clients.

The biggest thing that I hope to accomplish with this is to sort of be the biggest virtual law firm.

This quote outlines the ambitious goal for LawTrades, reflecting a vision to transform the legal industry through virtual services.

Acknowledgements and Service Quality

  • Ashish expresses gratitude for the opportunity to share the LawTrades journey on the podcast.
  • LawTrades is commended for its quick response time to client requests, highlighting the company's commitment to customer service.

I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for having me on.

This quote shows Ashish's appreciation for the platform to discuss his company, emphasizing the value of media exposure for startups.

Replying five to ten minutes to all requests.

This quote demonstrates LawTrades' exceptional service standard, which is a strong selling point for the company's efficiency and client dedication.

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