Local startup Hire an Esquire wants to shake up the legal world.
Its mission is simple: make hiring attorneys as easy and efficient as possible, without hurting the attorneys’ bottom line. It may not sound sexy, co-founder Julia Claire Shapiro will be the first to tell you that, but the need is serious, she says.
Law firms are stuck in the past with outdated staffing systems, wasting time faxing resumes and playing phone tag to hire contract attorneys. The lawyers are hurting, too. The recession hit the industry hard, Shapiro says, leading many qualified lawyers to work pro-bono and bartend or waitress by night.
They’re the “the lost generation of lawyers,” Shapiro says. As a former contract attorney, she says she knows lawyers aren’t the most sympathetic characters. But she wants to help them.
Founded in 2010 by Shapiro and Indy Hall software engineer Dave Martorana, Hire an Esquire offers two options for law firms.
Smaller firms can use its online hiring platform to find and hire contract attorneys. The second option, launched this past May, allows larger firms to hire directly from Hire an Esquire’s team of pre-vetted attorneys. The company manages all the billing and human resources operations, so law firms don’t have to worry about staffing issues.
The team is serious about keeping their attorneys happy.
“We’re not going to treat them like cattle,” Martorana said.
While the law firms set an hourly rate for contract attorneys, Hire an Esquire has a minimum rate of $30/hour. The company also only sends their attorneys to work for firms on site instead of in a faceless office for contract attorneys, which can be the norm for this kind of work, Shapiro says.
Hire an Esquire, who shares an office in Old City with software development shop DmgCtrl (Indy Hall and Wildbit are also in the same building on N3rd Street), has more than 30 clients in Philly as well as other cities, like Florida and San Francisco, according to Shapiro and Martorana.
Shapiro says the company bootstrapped for a long time but has recently been talking to investors.
The startup is lean, with only Shapiro and Martorana working full-time. DmgCtrl helped build the company’s software, and Edwin Watkeys, who has a long history of working for Philly-area startups, like Infonautics, Half.com and CDNow, helped develop the product. Though he currently works in New York City, Watkeys remains an adviser to the company.
Shapiro, 31, is a Philly transplant who calls the city her adopted home. She grew up in Pittsburgh, went to school at the University of Southern California and came to Philly to attend law school at Temple. Even if Hire an Esquire opens offices in other cities, she says she wants Philly to always be the company’s base. She currently lives in the Gayborhood.
Before Hire an Esquire, Martorana was a freelance software engineer. He co-founded software incubator IndyHall Labs and used to produce a local beer podcast called Two Guys on Beer.
The startup is now in talks with a few medium-size law firms to possibly take over large parts of their staff, so the the firms can concentrate on what they do best, Martorana says. Hire an Esquire is also in the process of developing new products for the legal market, he says.