Don’t be afraid of failure.”
Alex Boothman is a lawyer and the founder of legal price comparison website MyLegalAdviser, a UK service helping clients to find a solicitor.
Prior to founding MyLegalAdviser, Alex qualified and practised as a solicitor for a top boutique law firm in Mayfair, London. Despite being named as one of the rising stars of the profession in 2014, Alex left a cosy career in law to start MyLegalAdviser when he realised just how difficult it was for the average client to find a lawyer.
MyLegalAdviser allows clients to post a job for free, the details are then circulated to the lawyers on the service and they quote for the job. The best quotes are shortlisted and sent to the client along with profiles, ratings and testimonials for the shortlisted lawyers. If a client wants to go ahead with a quote, they’re introduced with a click and pay their bills using MyLegalAdviser’s easy and secure payments system.
Since starting up, Alex has grown MyLegalAdviser from a simple website to a fully automated and bespoke platform with over 200 lawyers spread across 8 practice areas. MyLegalAdviser now has a dedicated team of exceptional staff and has helped thousands of clients find a solicitor.
Where did the idea for MyLegalAdviser come from?
The idea for MyLegalAdviser originally came about when I was practising as a lawyer and went out for dinner with some old law school friends. It turned out one of our friends needed some advice. Naturally this led to several of us arguing about who was best for the job. Pride was on the line, so we all gave our best quote and 30 second pitch to help her choose. Sadly I didn’t win the work, but the idea for the business was born!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m up early (coffee in hand!) checking on the enquiries working their way through our system. I then check in with my team to get an update on progress and see if there’s anything we need to discuss.
Once I’m happy everything’s working properly, I get started on my to do list for the day. I like to make a note of all my tasks on Trello, it makes it easier to keep track of everything and visualise what I need to get done.
The rest of my day depends on what comes in, who needs help and any meetings I have. No two days are ever the same!
How do you bring ideas to life?
It’s easy to get lost when working on a big idea. I find it easiest to break an idea down into smaller segments and work on each individually. This really helps me and my team turn what can feel like an insurmountable task into a series of smaller, more achievable jobs.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m a bit biased on this one, but the rise of LegalTech is what’s really exciting me. LegalTech has lagged a long way behind the meteoric rise of FinTech over the past decade, so it’s really exciting to see LegalTech starting to catch up.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’d say my readiness to get stuck in. As an entrepreneur, especially in the early days, you need to be willing to get your hands dirty. Often the jobs you least want to do are the most important ones because they’re the things that are holding you back. Not only will getting stuck in help you move your business forwards and learn new skills, it will also help you understand your business better.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid of failure. “Fail fast, fail often” is a common start-up mantra these days. As long as you’re using your failures to improve, they’re a positive thing and not something to be afraid of.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A lot of my friends think being an entrepreneur means taking a sort of semi-permanent holiday. They assume that because I don’t seem as miserable as many of them, I must not be working as hard.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Most entrepreneurs I know work just as hard, if not harder, than their peers. The difference is, most entrepreneurs I know love what they’re doing so working hard isn’t a chore for them.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’d say it’s constantly talking to your customers to work out how you can improve your product. It’s easy to get complacent and to stop focussing on whether your customers are happy and/or there’s room to improve your product. Things like Net Promoter Score surveys can really help with this.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Get launched and start testing. Don’t worry about building the perfect product to start with. It’s more important to get your product out there and start talking to customers.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I first started out trying to sign law firms up to our service, I underestimated how resistant they’d be to something like MyLegalAdviser. Law firms are traditionally pretty averse to innovation, so convincing a sceptical marketing manager to try something totally new proved to be a hard sell.
To overcome this, I went back to basics and really thought about who our service was for and why. What I realised was there’s a big incentive for the individual lawyers to sign up because it’s their careers which will benefit if they bring in new clients. So I changed the model to target signing up individual lawyers, not law firms, and we got our first lawyers on board pretty quickly after that.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I love my music and I’ve often thought it would be fun to create a crowdfunding platform for bands just starting out. They’d be able to raise some cash to get going investors would get to share in their future success.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
A new squash racquet, my old one weighed a tonne!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I love Trello, it’s super easy to use and a great way of keeping track of your to do list. It also works really well with teams, even huge businesses are using it to manage their projects. The fact that it’s free also helps!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Slightly cheating because it isn’t a book, but I’d thoroughly recommend the How to Start a Startup Podcast by Y Combinator’s Sam Altman and Stanford University. They’ve literally managed to round up some of the most successful entrepreneurs on earth to discuss the key things you need to know when starting a business. The bonus is you can listen to it whilst you’re on the go!
What is your favourite quote?
I’m a Brit so it’s got to be Winston Churchill: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
• Launch early and test often.
• Use customer feedback to improve your product.
• Try and get stuck in on all aspects of your start-up, you’ll learn much more about your business and customers.
• Don’t be afraid to fail – learning from things that didn’t work is one of the best ways to succeed.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.