On this episode, we speak with Nicole Bradick, CEO and founder of Theory & Principle, a legal technology design company. Nicole gives us an update on how their product, Map Engine, is being used by clients to track regulations and laws around the world. She also discusses how the legal industry is becoming more sophisticated in terms of user design and experience, and how this is changing the way law firms and legal tech companies approach product development.

Nicole’s passion for user design and experience is evident throughout the conversation, and she emphasizes how it can make or break a product’s success in the market. She notes that clients are becoming more knowledgeable about UX, and are able to identify and ask for better design. Additionally, law firms and legal tech companies are recognizing that better design is not just a nice-to-have, but a business imperative. Nicole is dedicated to educating the legal community on the importance of UX, and helping them integrate it into their product development process. She believes that legal technology should be built with the user in mind, and that this approach will lead to better outcomes, both for clients and for the industry as a whole.

Nicole sees immense value in starting T&P Studios because it allows her to bring her expertise in designing and launching products to clients who have great ideas but lack the resources to bring them to market. She describes a unique partnership with Simpson Thatcher’s Pro Bono team, where they collaborated to build a product that they wanted to exist in the market, but didn’t want to take on the long-term burden of owning software. With T&P Studios, they were able to co-develop the product and bring it to market, while Simpson Thatcher now has their version of it as well. This model of collaboration and revenue sharing allows T&P Studios to work with other law firms and organizations to build and launch products that solve real problems in the legal industry, without the upfront capital expense.

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Contact Us:

Twitter: @gebauerm, or @glambert
Voicemail: 713-487-7821
Email: geekinreviewpodcast@gmail.com
Music: Jerry David DeCicca


Marlene Gebauer 0:07
Welcome to The Geek in Review the podcast focus on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.

Greg Lambert 0:14
And I’m Greg Lambert. And I think it probably won’t be Friday when we released this, but it’s Friday now and I think everybody on this call right now is ready for the weekend. So Marlene, you’re driving somewhere?

Marlene Gebauer 0:29
I am driving somewhere to a volleyball tournament. I’ll just say. I mean, it’s it’s been a week today. It really is. It’s paraphrasing Harry Chapin. It’s been a week today.

Greg Lambert 0:42
It’s been a week today, yeah, I just found out last night that I also have to drive up to Oklahoma. So I gotta go jump in the van and head on up there. So luckily, I think all the storms have moved out. So yay. Well, this week we bring back a good friend of ours, Nicole Bradick, who is the CEO of Theory and Principle. And again, prior guest on the show. So Nicole, welcome back to The Geek in Review.

Nicole Bradick 1:08
Thank you, I am not driving to Oklahoma, that would take a really long time

Greg Lambert 1:13
You know you’re missing out.

Marlene Gebauer 1:15
A true treat, really. So Nicole, it’s been a couple years since you and Ryan McClead. Were on the podcast to discuss Map Engine. I know there have been some changes. And for those who don’t know Map Engine, can you tell us about what it is and some of its uses?

Nicole Bradick 1:34
Sure, yeah, Map Engine is a product that we built in collaboration with Sentry advisors, which is Ryan McClead’s company. And it’s a product that we built to allow firms to create essentially create map visualizations of their multi jurisdictional data. So if you wanted to show the differences between regulations across 50 states, or across countries in Europe or globally, this product allows you to really easily… it’s stupid, how simple it is. But it allows you to really easily create it that visualization and then be able to share it either sort of in your intranet, if you wanted to have it for internal KM purposes, or on your website, if you wanted to have it for marketing purposes, or, or share directly with your clients.

Greg Lambert 2:18
Well, I actually the thing that sold me was that you said is it

Marlene Gebauer 2:21
how stupid, stupid easy it is.

Greg Lambert 2:23
Yes, yeah, that’s that’s, that’s kind of my threshold right here is this needs to be what are just like a couple of examples of what clients are doing with the product.

Nicole Bradick 2:36
So a lot of our clients are using it for creating client facing products for things that clients are asking them to track for them. During COVID. For example, clients are asking them to track regulations regarding different things they need to track for their business, we have clients tracking it for global privacy laws. For example, one of the things that we’ve updated the product, since we talked to you guys is releasing all global regions. So you can now do a full global survey, for example. Yeah, and we’ve also drill down into some other areas, like we now have a map if you need to map differences around federal district courts, or if you need to do like just Latin American countries, and you want to show some differences between any laws or regulations in Latin American countries. And we also have some really awesome stuff coming out soon where we are piping directly into some data sources from some of the big publishers, so that you’ll be able to have that data be automatically updated as well. Our whole goal is, you know, our big thing is that we want to make legal technology look less shitty, and, and allow, like clients and lawyers to be able to consume legal information in a way that people actually consume information, like logically. And so that’s what Map Engine does, right? We are putting it into a format that people can actually digest.

Greg Lambert 3:57
Now, you’ve you’ve mentioned before, that you think that your customers, probably the industry as a whole, became a lot more sophisticated when it came the user design, user experience, in the interface itself. And I think we found that through the COVID period. Do you find that that’s still true? Are you finding that your customers are becoming a lot more savvy, when it comes to the user interface?

Nicole Bradick 4:26
It gets more true all the time. I have a whole deck of like the hilarious things that we heard from client when we first started and I’ve been we’ve been building products for nearly a decade now. And when we first started we were hearing like we would do like an accordion menu, which is like the very simple like there’s a carrot and you click the carrot expands. And we were hearing things like oh my god, you guys are geniuses about like, super, super simple like UX things. But now like clients, they at least know words. They can put words to the things that they’re seeing. And they they know to ask for or better design, they can identify better design. And they know that if that they have to pay for it now, they know that it’s an imperative. And we work across the sector. So our clients are not just law firms, but we also work with legal tech companies. So for legal tech companies, it’s become a business imperative, there’s no you cannot put out products with a shitty design and expect to get any market traction, it just doesn’t work. And that’s happened, like, literally like, last three, four years. Like that’s it become an imperative in a very, very short, very short term. But for law firms, I think their recognition has become, again, like really, in the last three or four years, it used to be like, if we’re, if we’re creating products for our clients, they’re gonna think, oh, cool, our firms are innovative. And now it’s, it’s, it’s really shifted a bit to be, well, okay, now, we actually have to build products that the clients actually need or want. And then also, you know, if we’re giving such care to all of our other web assets, like our, our website, we’re paying millions of dollars to, for branding and website, maybe the digital products are giving our clients should also reflect our brand a little bit better, and not just be something that we’re kind of just plopping out and getting out there. So I think there’s a recognition that this is important, and that’s new. And then a recognition, like, okay, it’s makes sense to spend money on it. And that’s also new.

Greg Lambert 6:22
It’s interesting that you, you said the customers, clients now, basically have the vocabulary that they can use that you guys can, I guess, talk the same language,

That’s gotta be helpful.

And I imagine that helps you making sure that you’re not just throwing out something because you think it is interesting, but you’re rather you’re working on something because you both come to that agreement, and understand what the end product is supposed to be looking like.

Nicole Bradick 6:49
Yeah, and I think we’ve kind of taken on ourselves as organization to educate the market. And I think that’s been a big part of how we’ve seen our role. You know, I think we have been the ones sort of banging the drum around better design and legal. And I think we’ve, I think we’ve played at least some part in in sort of making that language more commonplace. And it definitely helps us for sure. We still have challenges sometimes with clients, sort of trusting us and trusting that our judgment because lawyers always know what’s best. But I think, of course, clients that come to us tend to be self selecting, right. Like, they know what T&P design looks like, they know our sort of vibe, they know what they’re getting when they come to us. And so they tend to trust us, and they tend to want the type of things that we produced.

Marlene Gebauer 7:35
Yeah, I think it’s good that you sort of taken on that role of educating and the fact that people are starting to understand the language across the board a little more, because people get really wound up about design, they can get really, really just wound up and unable to sort of move on sort of how they want something to look. So I think that’s a good thing. So it wouldn’t be a podcast in March 2023, without talking about large language and generative language models that are exploding onto the scene recently, you know, there’s been a lot of discussion about direct to consumer tools, and for a2j, you know, some of this is good, some of its not so good. I mean, you know, we can think back to donotpay, and all of the issues that happened with that. And, you know, the discussion and criticism about how it’s not really faster or better than then people using more traditional tools, you know, as a thought leader, you know, what are what do you think about these sorts of tools, you know, what future do they have? And, you know, how do we introduce them responsibly? It’s a, it’s a, it’s like, yeah, take a breath, because it’s a giant question.

Nicole Bradick 8:51
DoNotPay situation infuriates me. So in addition to working with large law firms and legal tech companies, the third bucket that we work in is justice technology. So we build a lot of consumer facing products for nonprofit. If you go to our site, you know, our portfolio is like 90% that because we can’t usually share our lesson work or our, our, the work we do with legal tech companies. And we care a lot about that work. And, you know, I think that the responsibility that we have in this space, you know, when you hear the term MVP, minimum viable product, our responsibility and the goalposts for what is minimally viable is so much further down the pike than if you’re creating like a social media app. If you have to make sure that you are not putting somebody in a more challenging position than they were when they started. Right. And I think that from the very beginning of DoNotPay, that is not something that the founder has given a shit about. He has putting people on position or they will create complaints that if they failed, it would it would get them out of a class action without adequately advising people of that fact. And this has been sort of a “feature” of this product. In this company from the very beginning, so this is not surprising to me. You know, I think that sort of the gimmicky part of this, I think this whole thing with, with all the things DoNotPay was doing is intended to be a gimmick, and I don’t think it would ever actually move forward. So I’m not actually concerned about anybody using Large Language Models and ChatGPT in a consumer facing product at this point, if they did, it would be highly irresponsible. I don’t think that technology is anywhere close to being used in a consumer facing legal space. I mean, CaseText is released this week, I think is the best example of the best high risk, highly responsible use of this technology. And I think that was kind of what I was hoping to see, you know, when we when it first came out. I think in December, we’re all talking about it at a conference in Miami. The first thing I was saying was, I think that there’s going to be some like big commercial flops that are going to set this back. And I think, you know, to the extent that DoNotPay, that sort of controversy, you know, we’d call it a commercial flop because they’re rushed too far into it. But I think we’ve seen it sort of be like a pendant to a lot of other products, little tech products, sort of just to get it on there and to be able to say they’re doing it, it’s so foolish to me, like I don’t think it’s not solving a problem. It’s just adding technology without putting enough guardrails on it. And I just technology for the sake of technology is one of my pet peeves. Our company is a design first company, right? We’re not engineering lead. So I can frankly give a shit about the technology, like what problem are we solving? What’s the best way for us to solve it? If technology allows us new ways to think about how we can solve the problems? And I think that’s great. And that’s what ChatGPT does, it opens our minds to some other opportunities to solve the problems in new ways. But I think that if it can cause more harm than good, then I don’t even know why we’re, why we’re talking about it.

Marlene Gebauer 11:46
And, you know, we also have firms that are sort of wading into those waters as well, that we’ve seen in the news. And again, you know, the question is like, Is it ready, you know, is it ready to do that?

Nicole Bradick 11:58
Yeah, and, and amazing tech, and I think there are ways to do this with appropriate guardrails, as CaseText is shown. And I mean, everything CaseText That’s brilliant. And, you know, they do it responsibly. And I think that, I think that is that’s the model, right? If we, if other companies follow that model that we’re going to be, you know, it’s going to be amazing to watch what happens. But I think there will be some commercial flops, because because people will do it irresponsibly.

Greg Lambert 12:23
Yeah. CaseText is one that usually does something so well that everyone copies them.

Nicole Bradick 12:30
Yeah, thank goodness, right?

Greg Lambert 12:32
Yes, absolutely. I want to learn a little bit about your new venture, the T and P studios? I think you’ve answered this before, but kind of remind me, what is the idea behind Theory and Principle as being the name that’s out front of everybody? And why did you decide that? Now’s the time to start another venture?

Marlene Gebauer 12:58
Because you don’t have enough to do?

Nicole Bradick 13:03
I don’t love my family. I want to spend less time with them?

Greg Lambert 13:08
That’s one way to do it.

Nicole Bradick 13:09
Oh, no. I swear, I love them. They’re wonderful.

Greg Lambert 13:14
And then you just tell them, I’m doing this for you now.

Nicole Bradick 13:18
Hi, yeah. Do you want to go to college or not?

Marlene Gebauer 13:24
Don’t get, don’t ask them that question. I will tell you.

Greg Lambert 13:31
And I will not answer it the way you want.

Marlene Gebauer 13:34
It’s not a choice. It’s not a choice.

Nicole Bradick 13:38
I’ll just point to my son’s fancy sneaker collection, then focus on that more than college. So Theory and Principle, the emphasis behind the name is, you know, we believe strongly in sort of design theory, and that, you know, everything we do, we’re not just sort of throwing things that look pretty onto a page, right? Everything we do is based on in design theory, and everything we do, you know, as a company, we truly believe, and are sort of bound to this principle that that design can help to improve the legal experience for all. And so I think it’s just sort of to always keep us guided in those things that we are we are designed, focused, and we do believe that design can solve all of these. Not all of the problems, but a lot of the problems and a lot of the low hanging issues that are the ones that excite us honestly, like I love solving, even like the small problems because I think we’re in a we’re all trying to tackle all these big huge problems, but there’s so many small problems that just a little bit of change in approach and design can can make it 1000 times better for everybody. T&P Studios is a new business arm for us that came about because we as an organization, thing that we do extremely well as build digital products legal that we have had our hand and more legal tech products than any company on the planet. Probably nearing 100 But at this point, and we recognize that there’s a lot of organizations, individuals, law firms, or individual people, or, or small businesses who have ideas for products, but for whatever reason, can’t get into market. And we want to see good ideas get to market. So this allows us this, this new business line allows us to partner with them to get things to market that should be in the market and bring that skill that we have, which is building designing and building launching products, to people who need that. T&P studios focuses on bringing market ready products, a SaaS products market, so we partner with people in unique arrangements. So for example, the first product for T&P Studios was Map Engine. That was a partnership that we had with some tea advisors, they were hearing from their clients that they needed a product like this, it wasn’t on the market, sent to advisors wanting to work on this product, but they didn’t have any products experience. They came to us, we collaborate on it, we launched it. And so that was sort of the first sort of anchor product. The second anchor product is we built in collaboration with Simpson Thatcher. Simpson Thatcher’s pro bono team had a product that they wanted to exist in the market. But they actually wanted like no ownership of this, right, like a lot of law firms like there are solutions they wish existed, that they don’t want any of the carrying costs of the long term burden of owning software. And so we collaborated with them, we co developed it months and months with their team, they were amazing, we brought it to market, they now have their version of it like a white labeled special version for them that they now own. Now, we’re also bring that product to market. So we can sell it to other firms and other law school clinics and legal aid organizations. So since launching the studio, we’ve heard from other firms that have like, essentially want the 50.50 model, but don’t want to build it like they don’t want like that upfront capital expense. But they’ve got all these ideas. They want a product team who knows what they’re doing to partner with, and do like a rev share model. Or they want somebody to go out and they have an idea. They want somebody go out and say like find out like is this actually something the market is interested in, and then collaborate with them on on the build and in sort of rev share model.

Marlene Gebauer 17:13
So you kind of lead into the next question. And you kind of hinted at the the virtual Law Clinic. And I saw that there’s a I was looking on Twitter today. And there’s a you know, you’ve had you have several you have a big long tweet about it. And you know what it’s doing so why don’t you tell us a little bit about the virtual Law Clinic?

Nicole Bradick 17:35
Yeah, absolutely. So Virtual Law Clinic is a pro bono platform that its purpose is twofold, primarily. To ease the administration of pro bono, the part of the pro bono coordinators and the ad admin. The other part is to allow for easier provision of pro bono legal services to encourage more pro bono work. The lawyers have a platform where they can go on, and they can easily see all the information, of course about the matter. But then they also, depending on the matter type will have all of the training materials they need right there, they’ll have the forms that they need to fill out for that type of matter. They’ll be able to text the client directly through that platform. One of the big issues with pro bono is lawyers use their own cell phone to text the client, they’ll be able to ask questions of the supervising attorneys because you know, pro bono lawyers are typically not working in an area that is like their area of specialization. Another unique thing in pro bono is it’s oftentimes law firm lawyers partnering with corporate clients. So they can collaborate in this space as well. They can collaborate on documents and forms that they need to fill out for that client. They can report issues to the admin. And then the admins can create those training materials in there that are specific to the matter types. They can also like really specifically track outcomes. And they can set what those outcomes are. So like for an eviction matter, they can choose to track like we kept this person in their home like was this person, or like, was this person did this person had to leave, but we got them an extra 30 days like they can really get granular on the types of outcomes they’re getting, which is really important in pro bono for various types of reporting, and just to know what impact you’re actually having. So it’s sort of eases administration and sort of managing the cases and assigning the cases to the volunteer attorneys. But then for the lawyers, it also encourages more pro bono because it makes it a lot easier for them to provide those provided legal services

Marlene Gebauer 19:30
With some of the low and no code options out there. And the Microsoft suite offering more tools like Power automate, and more firms investing in collaborative and intelligent systems. And of course, now generative language models. It seems firms have more ability than ever to do things in house yet there’s a market to help with development projects. Why?

Nicole Bradick 19:53
Yeah, so honestly, when a firm calls and they want to work on a product together, one of the first things I ask is, you know, are there any off the shelf tools that can do this for you? Because we don’t want to work on products that can be made using off the shelf tools. And we usually can recognize when it’s something that can be done with an off the shelf tool. And we’ll point that out. And we’ll tell them to go explore that first. Because we don’t want to be working on those products. We want everybody to walk away feeling like they there’s a lot of value. So typically, if somebody comes to us and there’s like an internal workflow type tool they want to make where you like, you know, I think you can probably.

Marlene Gebauer 20:33
Maybe you should look at look at this.

Nicole Bradick 20:34
Yeah. But if it is a market solution, if it is a product that they want to turn into a scalable SaaS solution, that’s a really good time to build custom, right, I think you can prototype it with an off the shelf solution, you can go out and test the market with an off the shelf solution. But if you want to bring it to market and scale it, that’s really when you need a custom solution. So that’s when they come to us. And a lot of firms will have some pieces of what they need to build software solution. But usually they don’t have the full team. And they don’t have the full team that’s really focused on building a saleable product, right? They’ll have people and bits and pieces of people who can do some parts of these things. But if it’s a product that really needs to be successful, that’s when they’ll come to us, because that’s what we do. Right? I think that’s the big difference is, is when it’s when they’re looking to make a scalable, financially successful tech solution. And a lot of firms just, you know, if that’s not what they’re looking for, but they still need a custom solution. A lot of firms still do not have internal design Dev, support. Even a lot of firms, even though big firms will have dev support, but no design, that’s super common. And we help a lot. A lot of our clients come to us just for design only. And then they’ll pass it to their internal dev team. That’s very common.

Greg Lambert 21:55
So Nicole, now’s the time where we ask all of our guests our crystal ball questions. So I want you to pull out your crystal ball peer into the future for us. And think about some things that you see on the horizon that are going to be changes or challenges or, or opportunities, that brings firms in to engage with partners like yourself, what are you seeing in your crystal ball?

Nicole Bradick 22:22
My crystal balls are never very exciting, guys.

Greg Lambert 22:25
All right, well, then that case just make something up.

Nicole Bradick 22:27
But the reason my crystal balls aren’t exciting is because it’s not the category of like new flashy tech coming down the pike that I think are the things that excite me or that I see that are that are gonna be big and useful. You know, in the end, law firms house tremendous amounts of knowledge. And that knowledge needs to be wrapped and shared. And design, how to the ability to find countless ways to share that with the people who need it. And I think that for us, the excitement is around, like, what are the all the different ways we can do that? What are all the ways that we can find to get information out of the heads of the really smart people at law firms and into the heads of the people who need that information, and the most digestible way possible? In the end, that’s like 99%, of what we do, you know, all of the software that we build for firms ends up being like, different ways to gather information from one party and deliver it to another party. Like when you break it down like that, it doesn’t sound super sexy, but it is. I mean, that’s, that is, in fact, like, what a lot of the tech that we build is, and you know, we don’t typically work on like heavy CLM systems in house, you know, we’ve done redesigns of for our clients of CLM systems. But that’s not really what what we tend to work on for law firms. We’re tending to work on different ways for them to communicate and collaborate with their clients. And I think there’s a massive universe of possibilities and the way we can do that. And I find that very exciting.

Marlene Gebauer 24:04
I think that’s great. And that’s a great way to end the podcast. So Nicole Braddock,

Greg Lambert 24:09
Wait, give her a chance to make some stuff up now. Oh,

Nicole Bradick 24:12
yeah. And then I also there’s also laserbeams.

Marlene Gebauer 24:15
Oh, yeah.

Greg Lambert 24:16
Laserbeams on Sharks,

Nicole Bradick 24:22
And I think that’s going to be really important for everyone.

Marlene Gebauer 24:27
Well, radthat is actually a better way to end the podcast

Greg Lambert 24:31
That’s how we should end every podcast. It’s true. It’s true. What do you think will happen? And then make something stuff you want to make some

Marlene Gebauer 24:38
something Rando? So Nicole Braddock, thank you so much for joining us. Yeah, thank you for having me. And I want to thank our audience for taking the time to listen to The Geek in Review podcast. If you enjoy the show, share it with a colleague. We’d love to hear from you. So reach out to us on social media. I can be found at @gebauerm on Twitter,

Greg Lambert 24:58
and I can be reached at @glambert on Twitter. I like how Marlene goes back into a radio voice when we do the outro. So Nicole where can one find you on social media?

Nicole Bradick 25:14
I can be found at @NicoleBradick on Twitter.

Marlene Gebauer 25:17
Very nice. Or you can leave us a voicemail on our Deacon review Hotline at 713-487-7821

Nicole Bradick 25:26
You guys really have a hotline?

Marlene Gebauer 25:27
We do have a hotline. Call it we do, please. Yeah.

Greg Lambert 25:31
No, no one has called lately

Marlene Gebauer 25:33
Just call it to say hello. Really.

Greg Lambert 25:35
Make sure to call.

Nicole Bradick 25:36
I’m gonna SPAM you guys.

Marlene Gebauer 25:38
You could give us crank calls. I do have to note as always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DeCicca Thank you, Jerry.

Greg Lambert 25:45
Thanks, Jerry. Marlene, See you later.

Marlene Gebauer 25:48
All right, ciao.