ALB Hot Startups is a weekly series that looks at the most promising new legal-tech companies in Asia. This week, we check out FirstCOUNSEL, a cloud platform that offers on-demand legal support to startups, entrepreneurs and SMEs in Singapore. By Raj Gunashekar
Firm name: FirstCOUNSEL
Year of founding: 2016
Founders: Azmul Haque and Noemie Alintissar-Mooney
What they do: FirstCOUNSEL is a cloud platform that offers on-demand legal support to startups, entrepreneurs and SMEs.
The startup aims to empower early-stage economy by making access to legal support easier, tailored and more affordable to customers, using technology and workflow automation to redefine how these services are delivered.
Among its key features are incorporation and corporate secretarial services, an online library of tailored commercial contracts, and the ability to connect with an In-house FirstCounsellors on demand, via pre-paid talk/video credits.
Markets serving: Singapore
Capital raised till date: Undisclosed
Key clients: Startups, entrepreneurs and SMEs
How the idea came about: The legal profession is certainly tradition-bound and innovation-phobic, says Haque.
“I practiced as a big law corporate M&A lawyer for almost 15 years in three countries. While I enjoyed being a deal lawyer – and still do – I often wondered why the business model for large law firms has not really evolved since the adoption of the ‘Cravath Model’,” he continues.
He also cites how the billable hour model, the tournament among associates, and high-fixed costs are anachronisms in a modern business world that values innovation and where incumbents are disrupted by technology.
As Haque points out, “I decided that I had to be a NewLaw founder to do anything different in terms of the business model for law firms.”
Co-founder Alintissar-Mooney says she and Haque have different perspectives about their users’ problems, their approaches are complementary.
As she shares, “I’ve always been passionate about innovation and disruption, so I started studying the impact of the digital revolution on the legal industry for my master’s thesis and got deeply involved with it. He and I have known each other for a while in Singapore. One evening, after an engaging and free-flowing discussion, we decided that it was the time for us to try and disrupt the legal market!”
The journey so far: The co-founders say the response has been pretty incredible so far.
“We’re both very passionate about empowering our customers with the legal tools they need to successfully launch, run and scale their ventures. Their support drives us so much because we know it addresses a real pain point. It motivates us to keep improving our platform to offer affordable, accessible and tailored legal solutions,” says Haque.
Alintissar-Mooney adds, “It’s critically important for us to build a solution that is user-centric, so we’re very attuned to our clients’ feedback. We’ve been adding new features and content regularly in order to enhance the user experience and deliver more value.”
Future plans: While FirstCOUNSEL operates only in Singapore at present, its ambitions are “very much global,” says Haque.