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Kimball Dean Parker

Kimball Dean Parker’s LinkedIn profile states simply “I want to make the law easier for people and companies.” In truth, Kimball has been a force for good, for change, and for making legal services easier to access and cheaper to receive for some time. It was an honor to speak with him about his impressive body of work and dedication to making the law work for everyone.

Tell me a little about your background and how that led to what you do now.

After law school, I worked for Quinn Emanuel, a big law firm based in California. After working there for a while, I noticed that, aside from a few complex litigation tasks (writing and arguing motions, taking depositions, etc.), most of what I did as a lawyer was fairly routine. I worked with drafts that other lawyers created and I catered those drafts to the specific circumstances of the client. As I drafted more documents, I also noticed that many of the variations between clients were standard. I started to wonder whether I could teach a computer to modify the underlying templates to take into account that variability.

When I had the opportunity to lead LawX at BYU, I was able to test the idea by automating legal documents for people who can't afford attorneys. And we had success automating a few different legal forms. We've been able to test the idea with SixFifty as well by automating the privacy and employment legal paperwork that companies need. Over time, we’ve been able to automate increasingly complex documents with more precision. My goal is to see how far we can take that idea. My belief is that the majority of legal documents can be automated while maintaining a very high level of quality.

Tell me a little about LawX and SixFifty.

  1. LawX.

LawX came before SixFifty and helped inspire it. The idea behind LawX was to (1) pick an area of law that people struggle with when they can't afford an attorney, and (2) develop a software solution to that problem within one term. The first year we picked debt collection and we built a program to help people respond to a debt collection lawsuit, called SoloSuit. We released the product after the semester and we had more uses in a month than we expected in the entire year. Over 7,000 people have used that tool and it just received funding from Y Combinator and Kleiner Perkins.

The next year we collaborated with the University of Arizona to address evictions, and we built an automated tool that helps people write their landlords when they can't pay rent, called HelloLandlord. After launch, we transferred HelloLandlord to SixFifty so the product could have a home with the engineering and legal support it needed. During the pandemic we adjusted the tool to account for the federal and local eviction moratoriums. And over the past year, HelloLandlord has been used over 16,000 times.

With SixFifty demanding more of my time, I've stepped back from LawX. But my successors are working on a tool addressing expungements this year. And I expect it to have a similar impact as SoloSuit and HelloLandlord.

  1. SixFifty.

SixFifty came on the heels of the success of LawX. Wilson Sonsini wanted to automate legal documents for businesses, and LawX caught their eye. This was an exciting proposition for me because Wilson Sonsini is one of the best law firms in the world. If we could take their top-tier expertise and plug it into automation tools, we could make the high quality legal help more accessible and affordable for everyone: people and businesses. We've initially focused our efforts in two areas: privacy and employment law. And both areas have been successful for us. We recently released an automated employee handbook, which has become our best-selling product to date. We're planning to move into other areas of law shortly.

To lawyers or law students who have no interest in or who fear technology, what would be your advice?

Technology isn't for everyone. But for those who can harness technology, it can be used to do tremendous good. Our pro bono product from LawX and SixFifty have been used over 20 thousand times by people in need, all for free. That's more legal help than a lawyer could do in a lifetime. The ability of software to scale can create incredible societal and business value.

What are your thoughts on the state of legal tech within the US, given the pandemic?

The pandemic simultaneously created a crisis and a big opportunity for us. Our privacy compliance businesses temporarily cratered as businesses froze compliance spending. That forced us to look into other areas of law, which led us to employment. No area of law was affected by the pandemic as much as employment law, and we were able to quickly release relevant legal products that companies needed. Now, those products are our fastest selling offerings: Employee Handbook, COVID Workplace Policies; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

I'm sure our story is not unique. The pandemic created a crisis for many legal tech companies. But there was also opportunity within the pandemic as well. I’ve seen legal tech companies thrive by spotting opportunities to help.

What are your thoughts on law schools teaching legal tech? Should they teach about it or not and why?

I don’t think lawyers need to learn to code. The economics of specialization would say that lawyers should focus on being the best lawyers and coders should focus on being the best coders. Law schools could do better, however, in connecting law students with software engineers. That's where the real magic happens. I don’t know how to code. But I’ve worked with incredible engineers. And that combination is what has brought us success.

More generally, building technology products is like learning to play the piano. It's hard to learn unless you sit down and try to play. I like classes and clinics that allow students to build things and bring them to market. I’m a big fan of the legal tech efforts at Suffolk and Stanford because of that. An experienced-based approach to legal tech is priceless for students.

Your one piece of advice to a law student or newly minted lawyer?

This advice is for law students: try hard in school. One of the first times I truly tried hard at something was law school. I thought to myself, "I'm going to do the absolute best I can while here." What I realized is that trying hard can leave you vulnerable because if you fail, you can't tell yourself "I could have succeeded if I tied harder." I remember working as hard as I could my first semester and scoring in the exact median of my class, which was frustrating. But getting over the fear of trying hard was a pivotal point in my life. When you graduate, effort is appreciated more than in school. Every achievement I've had in my career has come from doing my best. I'm not the smartest person, but I try hard at the most important things in my life (family and career), and it's made all the difference for me.



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