General Counsel: A World Changing Idea

We’re excited to share the news that Westaway’s General Counsel service was recognized as one of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas. World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company’s major annual awards programs and is focused elevating brave concepts that make the world better.

The companies on this list are doing impressive things like building cleaner freight trains, designing savings accounts for refugees and using AI in beehives. It’s notable that, as far as we can tell, we’re the first law firm to be recognized in the history of the awards. We couldn’t help but ask ourselves… How did a law firm make this list?

How did a law firm make the list of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas?

The Idea

To answer this question, we need to go back to the beginning. Five years ago we asked a simple question: What would make legal delightful instead of painful for entrepreneurs?

Reasoning from first principles, we coalesced around two core concepts – bundle and simplify.

  • Bundle – First, we asked: What type of work are we doing for most entrepreneurs most of the time? When we did the analysis, unsurprisingly, most of our entrepreneurs needed the same set of services. Based on that, we bundled a set of services that covered the most common 80 percent of the entrepreneurs’ legal needs.
  • Simplify – Second, we asked: How can we simplify billing? Legal bills are a huge source of anxiety for entrepreneurs, not only because they are expensive, but because they are highly variable. Entrepreneurs dread opening that legal bill because they don’t know if it’s going to be $2,000 or $20,000.  We decided to simplify billing by charging a reasonable flat monthly fee. In doing so, we lowered overall cost for the entrepreneur, but more importantly, we gave them cost certainty.

By bundling and simplifying we were able to offer an innovative approach to legal for startups. 

The Impact

We’re excited to be recognized by Fast Company, but what really matters to us is the impact on the entrepreneurs we work with every day. At first there were only a few brave startups that were willing to take a risk on this innovative approach to legal. But over time, more and more entrepreneurs have been embracing this new model, and the excitement continues to grow. In the last 12 months alone we’ve seen 255% growth in General Counsel.

We recently hired an independent research firm to survey our General Counsel clients. We learned that companies love General Counsel, but for different reasons than we assumed. We assumed money was the main motivator. What we learned is that price was not as important as these other benefits:

  • Peace of Mind – As a founder, your attention is stretched. We make sure nothing slips through the cracks, so you avoid costly mistakes. Since we don’t bill you in 10-minute increments, you can reach out any time without breaking the bank.
  • Learning – You don’t know what you don’t know. But we do. We’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs like you grow. We help you move from confusion to clarity.
  • Time Savings – Close deals fast. The billable hour incentivizes to over-lawyer every deal and slow down your momentum. By having a clear understanding of your specific needs, we focus on negotiating the issues that really matter. Our approach results in less back and forth, so that you can close deals quickly and move forward.

Startups  have changed dramatically over the last thirty years, but law firms haven’t. Startups are leaner and faster and more responsive to their users. Unfortunately, most law firms have clung to their antiquated business model developed centuries ago which is bloated, slow and expensive.

We knew there had to be a better way. So, we took a risk to build something new. We think, in our own humble way, General Counsel has been world-changing for the entrepreneurs we support. We consider ourselves lucky to work with such amazing companies and look forward to supporting them as they continue to grow their impact.