Having an attorney is crucial, but who can afford high-priced legal fees? Black Enterprise caught up with James Jones Jr., Esq. and Kristina Jones, the founders of Court Buddy, to understand how everyone can now have access to legal advice through their lawyer on-demand platform.
Black Enterprise: Tell me about your and your co-founder’s backgrounds.
James Jones Jr. : I practiced law for 10 years and am a member in good standing with the Florida Bar and a 2017 SuperLawyers [Rising Star], which is a recognition that only 2.5% of lawyers receive. I have represented hundreds of individuals and businesses, including Fortune 500 companies such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Court Buddy co-founder Kristina Jones spent years creating award-winning advertising and marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies such as Walmart, Sea World, and Disney, and generated over $30 million in sales for agency clients.James Jones Jr, Esq. and Kristina Jones (Image: Court Buddy)
BE: What prompted you to start a legal service company?
JJ: As an attorney frequently appearing in court, I spent years witnessing firsthand the frustration that judges had with people who were appearing in court without an attorney, but who clearly needed help and guidance with their cases. After meeting and speaking with several people of all backgrounds at courthouses, I discovered that people needed attorneys, but could not afford high hourly fees and retainers or could not find them and were, therefore, handling their court appearances themselves, which often turned out to be a very bad decision with fatal consequences to their case.
On the other hand, when I first opened my own solo practice, I had no clue about how to get clients. I did what I thought made the most sense: I started going to lunch with other attorneys. I started with colleagues who went to law school with me. I asked what they did, and I realized it was a guessing game—even they didn’t know, and they had been out on their own for a couple of years. They were trying to figure it out, too.
In law school, we weren’t taught the business of law, or how to market our services. We were taught how to get a job and work at a law firm.
Kristina strongly believed that technology could solve these two big problems. She started thinking about a platform where potential clients with court cases can find attorneys whenever they want, based on their budget and needs, and where attorneys can market their practice, get clients, and generate revenue to cover their business expenses without spending a lot of money.
So we pooled all of our resources together, bought in great developers and engineers, worked our butts off, and Court Buddy was born.
Court Buddy User Interface (Image: Court Buddy)
BE: How does Court Buddy work?
JJ: Court Buddy uses patent-pending instant matching technology, which consists of proprietary algorithms that match consumers with attorneys, specifically for à-la-carte legal services, at flat rates for litigation/court-related matters.
The instant matching technology interfaces with slider functionality, which allows consumers to seamlessly select their specific court location, language, court date, case type and à-la-carte legal service needed, and the flat rate that the consumer can pay for the selected legal service.
Similarly, attorneys seamlessly select their practice areas, court locations, availability to take court cases, the legal services that they can provide to consumers and the pre-negotiated flat rates that they will accept as payment from consumers.
Once matched, consumers can instant message, video chat, and instantly make secured payments to attorneys for the legal services that they need for their court cases.
Court Buddy Internal Chat System (Image: Court Buddy)
BE: What makes you different from other companies like LegalShield?
JJ.: Court Buddy’s instant matching technology actually matches consumers with attorneys for à-la-carte legal services for court appearances and court-related matters with clear, upfront, haggle-free flat rates that both consumers and attorneys select. There isn’t a bidding process or an invitation for attorneys to submit fee quotes like several other companies have in common. Additionally, consumers don’t pre-pay for legal services only to find out later that they cannot choose the attorney that they want to work with and don’t have a say in the legal fees that the attorney charges, which is the case with pre-paid legal companies.
Court Buddy’s instant matching technology is the company’s key differentiator from other legal service providers and is the first of its kind in the entire legal industry to provide court-related, flat rate à-la-carte legal services. The technology has won numerous awards including the 2017 American Bar Association’s Brown Select Award For Legal Access and the American Entrepreneurship Award, which is sponsored by President Obama and Shark Tank’s Daymond John.
BE: How much traction are you seeing? What cities are you located in?
JJ: Court Buddy launched its app and management system in mid-2016 and generated over $200,000 in revenue in less than 10 months.
There are 7,000 attorneys that are already on the platform and over 10,000 matches have been made between attorneys and consumer users to date, with another 10,000+ attorneys who have requested to be vetted and on-boarded. Court Buddy is in 36 states and will be in the remaining 14 by the end of 2017.
BE: You just finished 500 Startups, one of the most prestigious accelerators in tech? How did you find it beneficial to your company?
JJ: To make a food analogy, it is like being at a buffet where you get to choose what you want to eat. 500 Startups provides a buffet of marketing, selling, rapid scaling, and best practices from industry leaders from companies such as Google and PayPal. You simply choose what you want based on your company’s needs. You literally learn how to grow your business in four months. And you get a well-heeled and deeply connected initial investor in your company and access to a global network of other investors and entrepreneurs, which is the icing on the cake.
500 Startups has also been beneficial from a fundraising standpoint. Kristina pitched Court Buddy at 500 Startups Demo Day last month, which attracted the attention of several investors in attendance, including LDR Ventures. LDR Ventures is now the lead investor in our latest fundraising round. LDR Ventures has committed 70% of its portfolio to diverse, minority-led, or women-led startups. Their partnership has been great for Court Buddy. But 500 Startups provided the introduction to make the partnership possible.