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September 3, 2018
On the record

Portland startup builds web and mobile apps related to law and justice

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Nicole Bradick, founder and CEO of Theory and Principle, which creates web and mobile apps for lawyers and users of legal services.

Nicole Bradick, 38, is the founder and CEO of Theory and Principle, a legal technology product design and development firm that creates web and mobile applications for lawyers and users of legal services.

The University of Maine School of Law alumna launched her business in January 2018, with plans to reach 10 employees soon. Following is an edited transcript of an interview at the firm's waterfront office on Union Wharf.

Mainebiz: How are you getting the word out about Theory and Principle?

Nicole Bradick: I do a lot of speaking nationally and internationally about legal innovation and technology, so I'm pretty well known in that space. We've had to behave like a startup, but we're also a very mature company with a very mature pipeline, so it has been a bit easier for us.

MB: What sparked your interest in this field?

NB: Completely by accident. My first company [Custom Counsel, a provider of freelance attorneys, paralegals and legal assistants on a project basis to law firms and corporate legal departments] I started because I wanted to try something other than practicing law. It was not a tech company but it was tech-assisted and considered fairly innovative in the legal space at the time, so that's what got me pulled into the international speaking circuit about the changing legal industry and innovation in the law. Naturally your eyes open to all the opportunities with technology, because the legal industry is pretty much behind every other industry in its adoption and creation and use of technology.

MB: What took so long?

NB: There was no impetus or pressure. The market also contracted and has been stagnant since 2008, so there had to be innovation across the board because of that. If you think of students coming out of law school and not having jobs, most have had to strike out and start solo practices, and so leveraging technology to compete with the larger firms is a business imperative.

MB: Why do you speak of today as the heyday for technology in law?

NB: One of the biggest indicators is the amount of venture capital funds that are being poured into legal technology. We're also seeing the Big Four accounting firms get into legal technologies, and law firms of all sizes from the solo firm all the way up to mega-firms starting their own innovation labs. There was no incentive prior to the past 10 or 15 years to be efficient. Now large companies are saying to the law firms, "We'll only hire you if you you're using technology in a smart way and we know we're getting value for the dollars we're spending."

MB: Who are your clients?

NB: Large international law firms, other legal tech companies for whom we're typically doing outsource design work, and the justice space. We build products for foundations, for example, who want to build something with a social justice component. Right now we're working on a product for a foundation in Illinois to help low-income tenants understand their legal rights.

MB: Do you see yourselves branching out into another area or sticking with what you've been doing?

NB: I think we're going to stay where we are. I think the growth opportunity for us is having more of an international presence, and in five years probably our first South America office.

MB: What's the hardest part of building a business?

NB: The workforce challenge, and the fact that I can't just walk out the door and go to a meeting with some new potential client. If we were in New York City, I could line up five meetings a week with five potential clients. So I have to travel and, as a mom, that's challenging. We don't grow unless I'm out there meeting people and networking and going to conferences and speaking.

MB: And the most rewarding part?

NB: I have not yet owned a company where I've been this excited to get up in the morning. That's partly because of the team here. They're partners in running the business, and I couldn't do it without them.

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