Raj Goyle is a former politician, an innovator, and a legal tech creator. He also has been an outspoken voice on diversity, particularly within the legal industry. He is the co-founder and CEO of Bodhala, a legal tech startup company.
Tell me a little about your path to Bodhala and what Bodhala is.
During our time at Harvard Law School, my co-founder – Ketan Jhaveri – and I noticed that law firms were like black boxes, billing hefty rates without any transparency or accountability. There was a complete absence of any true market forces in how the legal industry functioned. But even crazier – no one was talking about this! Everyone accepted law firms’ antiquated practices and everyone was completely fine with maintaining the status quo. Given my background, people are often surprised to find out that I’m a startup CEO and founder. I served two terms in the Kansas House of Representatives and eventually went on to run for a US House seat before starting Bodhala. I got into politics because I wanted to be part of the solution for the problems I saw — I think we can all agree our political system needs fixing. There’s a common thread between my political background and my role as a startup CEO. Just like politics, we have major economic inefficiencies and cracks in the legal system that need to be addressed. It’s Bodhala’s mission to create a transparent market for legal services by leveraging data to drive price discovery, competition, and innovation.
Bodhala put out a Diversity Report. Why did Bodhala do this? What is the hope for putting together such a report?
Even though we’re a technology company, we believe that everyone has a part to play in the fight for equality and — after all — driving change within the antiquated legal system was the core motivation to start Bodhala. So, we put our minds and resources towards addressing the stark lack of Black equity partners at elite firms. Origination credit (or sometimes noted by law firms as relationship credit, billing credit, etc.) is the largest factor in driving ownership stakes, but the means of securing it is shrouded in mystery. Throughout various conversations, we’ve stumped corporate legal departments by asking who at their law firms is being rewarded for the dollars spent with the firm. They have absolutely zero transparency around this. We’ve seen the actions law firms have taken to improve diversity in the profession and – to be frank – it’s all just virtue signaling. When it comes to concrete action, clients will need to be true change agents. We wanted to call out law firms’ poor diversity records and let corporate legal departments know just how much leverage they possess in holding their firms accountable. That’s why we laid out actionable steps in-house teams can take to implement and initiate change. We’ve seen a great response so far and it’s our hope that more and more corporate legal departments will start stepping up to the plate to create a more equitable environment for Black – and all minority or underrepresented – lawyers.
In terms of diversity, where do we stand with respect to the profession and where do we go from our current state? Why should we care?
The profession’s current record on diversity is dismal. Nearly 30 years ago, 35 of the most elite law firms signed their names to the Standard of Diversity Principles in an effort to improve diversity in the profession and amongst their ranks. At the time, there were approximately 20 Black equity partners employed at these firms. Fast forward to 30 years later, despite the appointment of Chief Diversity Officers, the donations to various diversity-focused organizations, and the carefully crafted diversity statements on their websites, there are just 37 Black equity partners employed by the original signatories that still exist as independent entities. We’ve given law firms the time to change and we’ve seen where that’s gotten the profession. A lot of time has been wasted depending on firms to initiate concrete action, so it’s time for corporate legal departments to take matters into their own hands. Every major corporation operates with widely accepted supplier diversity policies but – for some reason – law firms have always been exempt from these expectations. Corporate legal departments must hold their law firms to the same standards and leverage their buying power to force action from their firms. Without client action, we’ll continue to have this conversation for years to come.
How do you go about encouraging the adoption of legal tech like Bodhala?
Now, more than ever, corporate legal departments are being asked to do more with less. With budgets to manage, revenue goals to hit, and stakeholder expectations to meet, in-house teams are under mounting pressure to ensure they’re getting value from every dollar being spent. Throughout our conversations with legal operations professionals and GCs, we constantly emphasize the fact that you cannot manage what you don’t measure. Data might have been a “nice to have” in the past, but now it’s a necessity. From marketing to healthcare to transportation and more – data is transforming every other industry, except legal. Corporate legal departments cannot afford to spare the time, money, and resources by neglecting data and the opportunities it surfaces. At Bodhala, we’re leveraging data to bring transparency to the legal services market — and not just in terms of cost! The insights surfaced from our platform are informing more strategic decisions, identifying inefficiencies, enhancing law firm relationships, illuminating the “who” and “why” of invoices instead of just the “what”, and so much more.
What are your thoughts on the state of legal tech within the industry?
Legal department maturity varies widely. You’ll see some in-house teams that have streamlined many of their processes through legal tech solutions – from e-Discovery tools to contract management to spend management solutions – while other legal departments are still deep in “Excel Hell” or creating reports manually. There are already a lot of exciting solutions out there and there are a lot of opportunities out there for category creators — like Bodhala. It’s no surprise that we’re seeing so many new funding rounds and partnership announcements.
What should new lawyers know about legal tech?
Don’t be intimidated by legal tech — embrace it! Legal tech solutions aren’t here to take jobs away from corporate legal departments or fire your law firms — they’re here to ensure you can effectively mitigate risk and navigate your matters while operating as efficiently and economically as possible. We like to say that Bodhala’s platform lets lawyers be lawyers. You don’t have to completely transform your legal department overnight. Think about some internal pain points, inefficiencies, or initiatives you’d like to tackle first to help you prioritize which solution you decide to onboard.