Getting to know The Pitch finalists: BidSettle

By Yves Faguy April 10, 201810 April 2018

 

As part of a weekly series leading up to The Pitch 2018, the legal innovation startup competition put on by the Canadian Bar Association and Law Made in partnership with LexisNexis, we’re publishing interviews with the five selected finalists to get to know them better.  This week’s Q&A is with Philippe Lacoursière (featured in the above video), co-founder of BidSettle, which offers a virtual legal platform dedicated to improving access to justice for regular people.

 

CBA National: What are the origins of BidSettle?

Philippe Lacoursière: So a few years ago I was talking with [co-founder] Alexander Desy over a beer. I love the law but was fed up about the way I was practising it and I saw how technology was changing other fields — in education for example. I wanted to figure out a way to bring technology into the law but in a way that would help people. Alex at the time was working for the Quebec Barreau studying the future of the profession and trends in Europe and in the United States. Together we came up with BidSettle.

N: Explain what BidSettle does

PL: We’re a virtual legal platform and we have a few products online. The first product is the online negotiation platform, where parties can make monetary offers and non-monetary offers to try to settle their disputes out of court. The second, launched in early 2017, is a service that generates demand letters automatically based on questions put to the user. We have another product that’s currently being tested out in Quebec, in French but will soon be available in English in Quebec and in Ontario, called Dial-a-Lawyer and that allows our clients to speak to a lawyer within the hour, for 15 minutes. And in the pipeline right now we have a product called Small Claims Wizard. It’s aimed at helping people access Small Claims Court in an easier fashion.

N: And you are mainly targeting individuals, right?

PL: Absolutely. Though it’s B2B2C, really, because we partner with associations. In Quebec we have a partnership with Protégez-Vous, which is the Consumer Report of Quebec. They’ve white-labelled our product, which helps us reach out to as many people as we can. Ultimately, the bottom-line customer is the average Joe, just like me, who otherwise can’t afford a lawyer. We’re targeting people who just can’t afford a lawyer but can’t access legal aid. And that’s a huge percentage of the population.

N: Could small businesses use it?

PL: Absolutely, and they are already. As soon as it’s economically not viable to hire a lawyer and you want to try and do it yourself well, that’s where our tools come into play.

N: What gives you optimism about the future of the legal industry?

PL: That younger lawyers and future lawyers – students in law school  – are very much aligned with the vision that technology is going to play a huge role in law. Right now lawyers are offering Ferraris and Cadillacs to people where, in many circumstances, all they need is a good old Honda Civic or a Toyota. Technology is going to help with that and democratize access to justice.

N: What give you cause for concern?

PL: Human beings not trusting these tools. What’s fun is the technology coming in. The main obstacle is going to be educating people and making them trust these products. Lawyers have been the same for hundreds of years and all of a sudden we’re going to have automated products like ours, we’re going to have artificial intelligence, we’re going to have all kinds of things that are going to completely change the way people look at the law. It’s a fun problem to have because it just means that we have to work harder to make people trust us.

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Vitals

Founded in:  2016

Based in: Montreal, Qc and Kingston, On

The team: Co-founders Alexandre Desy and Philippe Lacoursière; Sherif Zaroubi (rock star) CTO, Seth McDonald (lead engineer)

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