We had a quick chat with Maria Worley, an attorney and founder of Start.law, P.C. Maria maintains an active practice focused on supporting startups with a social impact. She shares her journey of making legal counsel easily accessible for startups by creating a virtual law firm.
What’s your story? What excites you about your industry?
We make legal counsel accessible to startups! We used to be a traditional law firm, but hourly billing was a huge barrier for our startup clients. We launched a subscription service (right before the pandemic) and have been able to support so many more startups because of it.
How did you get started with your business? How did you get funding?
We’re completely self-funded. Legal ethics rules bar attorneys from “sharing profits with non-attorneys” so raising capital would have been complicated for us. While I think we could have come up with a creative solution that followed the rules, it would have been a huge time suck and we definitely needed that time for other things.
When it comes to funding, what type of investors did you approach? How did you win them over?
I think it can be helpful to find investors who have personal experience with the pain point that your company solves. And if you’re an underrepresented founder, definitely reach out to the VC firms focused on supporting you like Female Founders Fund, Fearless Fund and Filkor Capital.
What is the best advice you ever received when you started your business?
There’s no perfect next step, just make the best decision you can and move on. That gem came from my Business Advisor, Jodi Hume. I may have just struck gold with her, but I think most founders need a business advisor or “executive coach”. The hours I commit to it are repaid tenfold.
When did you first realize that you had a great business idea in your hands?
It was pretty clear from the start that a subscription model created a better attorney/client relationship. When you don’t have to worry about being charged a fortune for every sentence you utter, you can call your lawyer with a quick question. This allows us to give proactive rather than reactive advice. It’s really a much better way to practice. There are only a dozen or so law firms using the subscription model currently, but I think it will become much more common in the future.
How is your firm better than the others in your industry?
We focus a lot on efficiency. Not only does this allow us to offer affordable legal services, it makes for a better client experience. We’re also committed to supporting underrepresented founders. The sad reality is that women are still only securing about 2% of VC capital annually, less than 1% for women of color. This is despite the fact that startups with a female founder on the team deliver significantly higher returns for investors than all-male teams (up to 60% higher according to one study) We believe that legal counsel can help and are committed to providing that help.
How long did it take for you to develop your business plan? How long did it take to get your 1st sales?
We launched our subscription model right before the pandemic. It was kind of a “lucky break” because all of a sudden everyone was comfortable with Zoom and a virtual law firm didn’t seem like such a wild idea. The first “sale” was definitely the hardest. It gets much easier once current clients/customers/users begin to spread the word.
Any advice you can give to young entrepreneurs?
Trust yourself. Be honest with yourself. Remember the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle, which means that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of all causes for any given event.
What are your business plans going forward?
We’re building collaborations with amazing companies like ProjectionHub and Eqvista to provide a community of resources for founders. Thanks to ProjectionHub our clients now have access to financial modeling software specifically designed for pre-revenue startups. And thanks to Eqvista, our clients have extremely user-friendly cap tables and easily accessible 409A valuations.
What should readers & potential customers know about your products?
We make legal services easily accessible to emerging companies with our virtual, subscription legal plans. The prices vary depending on the type of company you have.