When you’re not feeling well and have a definitive set of symptoms most people these days take to the internet. Even with health insurance, people seem to find it more convenient to consult with webMD or Dr. Google, before they waste their valuable time at the doctor’s office. WebMD is often credited as one of the big survivors of the first dot com bubble. The site, which has been around since the late 90′s, is a great place to get preliminary information.
While there are a variety of legal websites out there, there isn’t one that mimics what WebMD does. Sure there are a million places to find and complete legal forms, like Legal Zoom, but most of the websites out there for people to bounce legal questions off of, typically go right back to a lawyers office who will give you the information you need to know after a “free” consultation.
myRight is hoping to become the webMD of legal services. The Los Angeles based startup wants to be the preliminary go to place for people with legal questions. Some may even realize they don’t need to see a lawyer while others will jump on the phone with a lawyer right after their search of myRight.me.
Could Nikhil Jhunjhnuwala, Keval Amin and Michael Niu, the founders of myRight be onto something? Frank Monestere, the founder of LegalZoom thinks so. Monestere sits on myRight’s advisory board. To keep things legal myRight has two other lawyers on their advisory board too.
We got a chance to talk to Niu about myRight. Check out the interview below.
What is myRight?
myRight’s mission is to help people with common legal problems by making the experience interactive and simplifying the law. We are trying to create a legal website that is like the WebMD of law for everyday consumers. Like WebMD’s symptom checker, we want to provide people a pre-consultation about their common legal issues before they ever call a lawyer or go to a lawyer’s office.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Nikhil Jhunjhnuwala was a 3rd year law student at USC, who dedicated much of his academic and professional work to endeavors such as prisoner’s rights and pro bono legal work. He has done pro bono legal work across the legal spectrum, and has also developed psychology experiments for the purpose of studying systemic social problems.
Keval Amin was a student of graphic design and advertising at the School of Visual Arts, a top design school in New York City (now dropout). He previously was a lead product designer for the startup, Soccket, which also was a philanthropic venture.
Michael Niu was a 3rd year law student at Penn Law (now dropout). Before law school, he went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for computer science and worked as a software developer for the financial industry. Michael has done significant pro bono legal work in the areas of foreclosure prevention, consumer fraud, and civil rights. He has also represented small businesses and startups as legal counsel through the Penn Law entrepreneurship clinic.
How did you come up with the idea?
Two of our founders were law students before starting this company, at USC Law and UPenn Law. We both worked heavily in public interest legal organizations, helping the underrepresented parts of the population get proper legal help. We both found that lawyers spent a huge amount of their time answering and asking the same questions when new clients came into their offices. In fact, we also spent much of our time doing the same thing. We thought there must be a better way to automate this process. An individual lawyer could only help one person at a time, and only a few people per day. However, millions of people have these problems and most of them cannot afford or lawyer or find recourse anywhere else, not even online! We sought out to create an online platform where everyone could learn these rights, and that’s how we started myRight. Nikhil proposed the original idea of creating guided interviews, based on his experience doing pro bono work. Michael, with his background in software development, developed the softrware infrastructure which could support the idea. Finally, Keval was brought on to guide the design of the product and make the law engaging.
Can you explain how the system teaches users about common legal issues? Are we talking about dispensing legal advice?
While we have a plethora of articles, our primary method of teaching about legal issues is a proprietary expert system that asks users simple questions, and, depending on their answers, gives them relevant legal information. Users can find out more about their rights, and not have to sift through long, difficult to understand legal articles. If they need a lawyer, they will also be able to contact one.
Is there an advisory board of lawyers?
We have two lawyers on our advisory board, Michael Chasalow and Brian Hirai. They both have extensive experience in law. We also have the President of LegalZoom, Frank Monestere.
Who is the target user?
Everyone should care about this. From startups to grandparents to college students to the poorest in our society, everyone has legal rights and encounters legal problems throughout their lifetime. There are common legal issues that most people have to face, and we want to address those for people in the best way possible.
What is the problem that myRight answers?
Everyone, except those who can afford lawyers on retainer, encounters legal problems where current online resources are just not good enough. People think the law is complicated, but most people would be able to make much better decisions if they simply knew the basics and whether talking to a lawyer is a good decision. There is no centralized source of this sort of information, and nothing that tries to make the process of understanding the law simpler or more engaging. That’s where myRight comes in.
What’s your secret sauce?
Are you bootstrapping or funded?
We were previously funded by StartEngine, a startup acclerator based in LA. We have a small amount of funding raised so far and are in the middle of raising our seed round to be closed in October.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned from building myRight?
Perfection is not as important as execution. Building a company is about iteration, pushing ahead with an idea, executing it, getting feedback, then using that feedback to repeat the process all over again. Testing small ideas for some validation before investing a lot of time into a huge amount of infrastructure is key. As one of our partners says, “Don’t build a bridge before you have any cars.”
What’s next for myRight?
More and more content, and more types of content. We are thinking about creative even more interactive content, such as small games that demonstrate the benefits and problems caused by common encounters with the law. We are also gathering more support for crowdsourcing content from lawyers and law students, and will be giving them the platform to contribute very soon.
Here are more startup interviews from “everywhere else”