Business

Legal advice is being disrupted – that might interest family offices

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It’s not unusual for self-made billionaires to get stuck into new ventures. What marks out Yale graduate Justin Kan, aged 36,  is the way he has moved from making a splash in video streaming to dry legal advice, in a decade.

His new legal venture, Atrium, has advised on raising funds totalling $1 billion for its 450 subscribers in the startup community.

According to one lawyer: “Technology can be employed at legal firms. Fixed charges have become more popular. But Atrium has pulled them together to establish a strong niche within its affinity group, and that really matters.” 

Family offices who have decided to back US startups could do well to check out its services. 

Kan started his business career offering a live 24/7 video feed of his daily life, over an eight-month period, via a webcam attached to his head. 

He went on to offer subscribers the chance to stream their own lives. This developed into Justin.tv and spawned a games platform called Twitch, which sold to Amazon for $970 million in 2014.

Kan became a partner at Y Combinator, an adviser to startups, and backed 65 of them with his own money but he concedes many of them failed. 

He was shocked by the scale of open-ended legal fees charged by the hour. “Every time I opened a legal bill, I felt I was playing Russian roulette.”

He sought a universal solution by setting up Atrium in 2017, which offers startups legal and administrative services through a subscription which starts at $500 per month, providing them with a degree of discipline at an early stage. 

The $500 is payable in cash rather than stock, at least for now.  The firm can pay its way after raising $75 million in funding since launch, from wealthy investors led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Its legal team is led by Hans Kim, legal counsel to growth and tech companies for twenty years. The basic service gives access to a technology platform which keeps a continual record of corporate and legal records. 

It also offers unlimited legal advice for new problems; one hour a month for broader legal counselling and document sharing services.

After an initial funding round, advisory and administration needs for startups grow quickly and Atrium offers an upgrade to $1,500 a month, with more access legal advice, document preparation and expertise in blockchain. 

It provides legal backup for hiring and fundraising. In October, it found a way to integrate e-signatures with legal documents, to speed up workflow.

For Kan, the way forward for Atrium is through tackling its operational risks and making sure executives take responsibility for their actions. He believes his ideas are too out of date to develop consumer startups. 

Now a regular user of meditation, he has cultivated a steady approach to developing his business, as opposed to a dash for fame. He stresses he wants to develop his niche before expanding into new lines of legal business, such as providing advice to fundraisers. 

There is only so much time in a day.

 

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