Like many entrepreneurs breaking new ground, Nicole Bradick’s legal innovation spark came from personal experience.
A litigation associate at a Maine law firm, Bradick began telecommuting after the birth of her first child. She suddenly found that she was a prime resource for other new moms trying to figure out how to balance work and life. That led her to create Custom Counsel in 2011, which offered contract legal services provided mostly by lawyer moms looking for work on more flexible schedules.
Custom Counsel was a success and drew attention from the bar and legal press. She was named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel in 2012 and eventually sold the business.
Along the way, Nicole realized there was a greater need for custom solutions throughout the legal profession.
I’m fascinated with entrepreneurs like Nicole. She has exceptional listening skills. I’m not just talking about listening to a friend or a colleague. She knows how to listen to the market.
She’s also innately passionate about the law and improving systems of justice. This passion to improve is the foundation of her current venture, Theory and Principle, where she is chief executive officer.
Theory and Principle has a clear mission: to develop custom web and mobile applications to improve the legal experience for everyone involved.
The company’s clients are varied, mostly large law firms, not-for-profits and foundations, and legal technology companies.
Nicole observes that Theory and Principle clients are essentially trying to solve the same problems. The problems usually involve breaking through the bricks and mortar barriers that have made law inaccessible and difficult to digest for consumers.
Theory and Principle projects include a Wisconsin not-for-profit with an ambitious plan to increase the income of their county’s residents by doing things like helping clear driver’s license suspensions, decreasing debt, and assisting with criminal record expungement.
One law firm client is counting on Theory and Principle to create a client-subscription service that will alert them to the impact regulations will have.
Clients are not surprisingly turning to the company for functionality that can help them continue operations during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The Theory and Principle team is also contributing design work to the Assembly Line project being run out of Suffolk Law’s Legal Innovation and Technology Lab. The project is quickly creating mobile-friendly versions of online court forms and pro se materials for urgent areas of legal needs during the coronavirus crisis.
While there’s been an explosion of technology solutions and digitization of legal processes, much of that activity has only recreated inaccessible processes in a digital setting. This means that many solutions remain overly complicated and inaccessible, resulting in low adoption rates.
“A well-functioning justice system requires efficiency and participation, and thoughtfully designed digital products can strongly influence both,” she says.
Thoughtful design requires a focus on good design and an emphasis on a quality user experience.
“So many products in the legal space have been built without the help of a designer, and our goal is to fix that,” she says. “Design is really core and essential to product strategy and product-market-fit, and I think that’s becoming more well-understood.”
Another reason I admire Nicole is that she is innovative, yet understated about her contributions to a changing legal marketplace. She approaches her projects as obvious next steps and pushed back on the notion that she is a risk-taker.
Rather, her entrepreneurial approach is similar to the process she developed at Theory and Principle: start with a low-cost prototype, validate there’s a market, and then jump in.
“The best way to lower risk is to be armed with as much knowledge as you can,” she says. “I’ve been in this industry long enough to feel the different waves and trends, so starting my current company didn’t feel like a risk. I knew the market needed it and the time was right.”
I think she’s impressive and remarkable. But she doesn’t think so.
As she puts it, “You don’t have to be remarkable in any way, you just have to have passion.”