Rad Ahmed sitting in a chair.

Raad Ahmed ’13

"I’ve been obsessed with the idea of democratizing legal services and using technology to improve access for people. I did it one-on-one, and then I learned about the true power of the Internet and how you could really reach hundreds of thousands of people. If you can disseminate information and make law and legal services easily digestible for people, you can really change people’s lives."

In sixth grade, being disruptive could get you sent to the principal’s office. For an entrepreneur like Raad Ahmed ’13, it’s a badge of honor.

Through his legal technology start-up, LawTrades, Ahmed wants to do nothing less than change the way lawyers and clients find and work with each other. Launched in 2015, the company is a legal marketplace – it connects small businesses needing legal help with carefully screened attorneys who have the right expertise, then provides a chat platform, document storage, project management, billing and other web tools to make the virtual transaction seamless. (A companion business, LawTrades Apex, serves larger corporate clients.)

“We are trying to create a better user experience for someone looking for legal help,” Ahmed says. “And if you build software and tools that empower lawyers to service clients on their own, without needing a fancy office on Park Avenue, they can provide a much more affordable rate for clients yet keep more in their pocket and work fewer hours.”

The process is designed around an algorithm that figures out the optimal cost and legal expertise needed for a particular project. “This level of insight allows us to create a system where people receive high-quality and transparent legal work while legal professionals get paid what they’re worth,” Ahmed says. “We want both sides to succeed.”

screenshot of LawTrades.com website.

“You’d be surprised how important it is to be able to write concise words. The law school helped me focus on eliminating all the clutter and getting to the core message of what I’m trying to get across. That’s true with all the writing we do – websites, landing pages, email, notifications. Especially on the web, that focus helps get attention.”

Finding Balance

The model builds on Ahmed’s own work habits. “I was never good at the 9-to-5 thing,” he says. “Everyone works differently. If you’re really good at working late at night or on weekends, there should be software that personalizes that.

“Work takes up the majority of your life. If you can figure out a way to optimize that, you can create happier people and in turn create a better work product. I really believe that, 10 years from now, most attorneys will be working like this.”

And lawyers – most of them solo practitioners or working in small firms – have responded. LawTrades now has a waiting list of 3,000 attorneys, ready to step in as demand grows. “The idea,” Ahmed says, “is to create a community of independent lawyers who can share information, pass leads to each other and work together if they need to.” He says that for most of these lawyers, their involvement with LawTrades started as a side gig; now, for most of them, the site is driving 80 to 90 percent of their business. Lawyers and clients pay a membership fee to use the service.

For many, it’s a way to achieve a work-life balance that can be elusive in a traditional law firm. On the wall of the company’s office in Queens is an email received from a lawyer who gets his business from the site. He has a daughter with Down syndrome who needed his care at home. He left his firm and, working from home, uses LawTrades to connect with clients and make a pretty good living doing it. “You guys have literally changed my life,” he wrote.

Services for All

Ahmed originally expected to be working in a traditional firm. After graduating from St. John’s University, he began law school at a Boston institution before transferring to UB School of Law in his second year, recognizing that the school’s name recognition would help with his plan to practice in New York City. He has worked in legal aid and at the Texas Civil Rights Project, and says that his background in human rights directed his thinking about how best to use his legal training.

“I’ve been obsessed with the idea of democratizing legal services and using technology to improve access for people,” he says. “I did it one-on-one, and then I learned about the true power of the Internet and how you could really reach hundreds of thousands of people. If you can disseminate information and make law and legal services easily digestible for people, you can really change people’s lives.”

Beyond the black-letter law he learned, Ahmed says his UB School of Law experience made him a better writer. “You’d be surprised how important it is to be able to write concise words,” he says. “The law school helped me focus on eliminating all the clutter and getting to the core message of what I’m trying to get across. That’s true with all the writing we do – websites, landing pages, email, notifications. Especially on the web, that focus helps get attention.”