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Tony Thai



Tony Thai is the founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer of HyperDraft, a legal tech startup that is transforming the future of how legal work is done. Tony is a veteran attorney who has practiced at some of the world’s most prestigious law firms and in-house at multiple technology companies. Prior to becoming an attorney, he was an experienced software engineer. When he’s not growing HyperDraft, he is an adjunct professor at USC Gould School of Law and enjoys hiking and playing video games.


Please tell me a little about your journey into the world of Legal Tech. What first intrigued you about Legal Tech?


I actually started my career as a software engineer, so when I became an attorney I was accustomed to having task specific tooling at my fingertips. In software development, we avoid doing the same task manually over and over again, so we architect solutions in a manner that is modular and build tools for ourselves to make it easier.


The process of drafting legal documents is almost exactly the same as software development, so I already had a background in the tools that I knew the legal field would need. They were the same tools that were already built for software engineers.


If I’m being honest, I never went into the legal field thinking I would be making software. Like many attorneys, I was pretty risk averse so the thought of starting a business was the last thing on my mind. I searched around for solutions and was either over promised solutions which were woefully underwhelming or they never came to light. After a few years of it, I was fed up and started HyperDraft because enough was enough. Lawyers are people too, we need tools so we can stay that way.


Since you first began working in areas tied to Legal Tech, how have things changed or not changed?


Adoption has increased, but we are very much at the nascent stage of tooling development. I’m starting to see more legal professionals doing research on working smarter not harder, but we still have a long way to go.


I think one of the major complaints I have is around how the tools are designed and the folks making the buying decisions. Tools need to be designed by lawyers. I know it sucks having to chat with a lawyer about all the processes that are involved with running a legal matter, but until product designers grasp the task of being a lawyer, it’ll be tough for the tools to be intuitive.


From the gatekeeping side, oh man have I seen some wacky stuff. I’ve had potential customers get caught up in bureaucratic blockades. It’s tough moving through the system.


Tell me about HyperDraft and what was the impetus for starting it?


HyperDraft powers law firms and legal departments with AI-powered legal automation tools. Our document generation, editing, and analysis tools give legal professionals a headstart on drafting so they can focus on high-value tasks. We realize that lawyers are busy and don’t want to be told how to practice so our team customizes and codes our products specifically for them to ensure that our tools work the way they need them to and so they can experience immediate value.


I started the company about 5 years ago when I was working at a Big Law firm. I didn’t understand why the tools I saw as an engineer weren’t available for lawyers. When I searched for available tools and realized that nothing existed to solve my pain points, I just started building software for myself and used it in my practice for a few years. The original name for our first product was Serenity which was an ode to a Seinfeld joke (see meme below or Seinfeld fandom wiki here) because I used our first product as a form of self-help/care. It allowed me to focus my time on high value tasks which in turn led to better client service, better work product, more clients, and more time with my friends and family.


Over time, I had colleagues ask me about the software and the interest eventually snowballed to the point where I realized that we should build a company around the product. This was around the same time as the deal surge at the beginning of 2020 and I was witnessing many of our colleagues struggle with low job satisfaction or mental health partly because they didn’t have adequate support or modern tools to help them. We felt a calling to make HyperDraft available to attorneys and expand our products to help attorneys enjoy the practice of law. We enjoyed practicing law and knew it could be done in a more sustainable way for everyone with the right tools.


Where do you see Legal Tech going over the next 3 - 5 years?


If we have our way, our team at HyperDraft hopes that the Legal Tech landscape drastically changes in the next 3-5 years. First on the wishlist would be wider adoption of Legal Tech solutions. Being a lawyer can be a fulfilling, not draining, profession if you have the right tools. We are already seeing increased adoption and we hope that it continues.


We also hope to continue to see more small, mid-size, and boutique law firms adopting Legal Tech solutions so that they can battle the bigger law firms. With increased geographic flexibility and the costs of legal services rising, now is the time for smaller firms to level up their practice with technology so they can grab clients from the bigger law firms.


Next on the wishlist is more nuanced alternative fee arrangements where there are flat rate components with some hourly features to help offset some risk for law firms.


Lastly, we hope that the discussion and process around CLM will change for the better. More transparency as to the required up-front work required from an organization, better features and integrations, and less organizational red tape and friction blocking technological progress.


To someone seeking to get involved in Legal Tech, what would you say to them?


You have to be prepared to face the naysayers and realize that you are making a difference.


Lawyers are working with outdated tools that make their jobs harder than they have to be. Unfortunately, people are rooted in their habits and practice for decades and are going to be skeptical at first. However, if you build a solution that solves a practical problem and you work for the betterment of others instead of yourself, things typically tend to work out.


Yes, we hope to experience continued success at HyperDraft, but more importantly we hope that the practice of law can be as awesome as we know it can be for all levels and types of legal professionals.



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