A Brewing Storm: Former Chopper Trading Founder Bringing Collaboration to Legal
Businessman Raj Fernando started trading firm Chopper Trading in 2002 and sold it in 2015, learning a lot about regulated markets technology systems in the process. “Basically everything we used internally, we built,” he says today. So when looking for a new project following the sale, those technology systems seemed like a natural starting place. In particular, he looked at the collaboration system that had allowed the firm to work more efficiently: “We had lots of ideas around that, and I thought we could build these enterprise systems in regulated industries such as the financial industry and the legal industry.”
The result is Workstorm, a collaboration platform that is designed to let members of a law firm communicate securely, efficiently and seamlessly. Arriving on the market as a limited beta, the software is slated for public availability by the end of 2018. The platform features video conferencing, messaging, secure file share, surveys, and a native email client, all of which Workstorm says it has tailored to meet the legal industry’s needs in particular. As an example, Fernando noted that a lot of platforms were designed as “email killers,” but “if I walked into a firm and said, ‘Everyone stop using email,’ they’d be like, ‘Security, please drag this guy out.’ That’s not a starter in the legal industry, and we know email isn’t leaving anytime soon.”
As a result, the Workstorm engineering team built an email client into the system that integrates with other tools. That integration is critical, and Workstorm says it hopes to learn during its current testing exactly what tools it should focus on integrating with most closely.
Before its public launch, Workstorm is taking a two-pronged approach, offering the tool to small and medium-sized firms and practice groups in a beta program, while also looking to partner with 15 Am Law 200 firms in a “Workstorm legal collaboration community” that would develop unique customizations for large firms.
Of course, Fernando is a relative newcomer to the legal industry, having worked in finance previously. To facilitate the platform’s move to legal, Fernando has brought aboard a number of legal technology experts and engineers to focus on the transition. Among them are two well-known names formerly of Kroll Ontrack: Mark Williams, the former Kroll Ontrack CEO who now sits on Workstorm’s board, and Michele Lange, the former director of legal technologies at Kroll Ontrack who is now Workstorm’s vice president of marketing.
Lange told Legaltech News that over her time in legal technology, she has seen a shift in how law firms are approaching collaboration, especially in recent years as instantaneous communication is becoming a necessity.
“I think the reason why those organizations are adopting that technology is because the nature of work is changing,” Lange said. “How we get work done is different than how it was five or 10, or even as short as one or two years ago. Workforces are younger, they’re more geographically dispersed, and they’re more social than ever before. And I think the legal industry is finally facing some of these changes and transformations in their work force.”
Part of those changes is in the number of legal technology platforms available on the market, a number that has skyrocketed in recent years. Lange believes that where other collaboration tools have failed is that “they’re focused on filling the needs of the broader customer base, leaving law firms in the lurch because of their unique needs around litigation, administrative workflows, and things like that.” That’s where she sees the greatest value in bringing legal technologists and beta partners on board.
Looking at how these types of tools are used, she added, “The collaboration tool is the one place where work is going to happen in a law firm, and if we’re going to fulfill that mission, then we need to be able to hear from law firms about what they need to make that happen.”
Fernando added that another key differentiator for Workstorm is the idea of privacy. In addition to what he called “industry-standard best practices” for security, he pointed to the company’s financial services background for a focus on privacy, adding, “When the dust settles, and I think people realize how many firms even in this space sell data, it will be alarming. We say, in terms of Workstorm, that the data is not for sale, never will be for sale, and we’ll never allow our principles to be marginalized for profitability.”
Pricing for the platform will be announced around the time of public release in late 2018, Fernando said. The company will be displaying its working product at ILTACON 2018 in August as well.
And with the release, the company hopes, will come change. “You start to see other industry folks talk about how law firms can change their communication structures and move toward a collaborative environment in order to make them more productive,” Lange said. “Implementing a platform that facilitates that collaborative environment is the way of the future.”