Web portal for law firms moves closer to launch

The launch plans for a new web portal for law firms have been accelerated thanks to investment secured with the help of the publicly funded ‘Understanding Finance for Business’ programme.

‘LawPlayer’ is a web portal for law firms to showcase their expertise and support the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of their staff.  It is the brainchild of Cambridge based Warren Smith.  A lawyer himself by training, Warren identified a gap in the market for an online service that combined technical training materials with marketing and distribution capabilities.

By drawing on their specialist knowledge of legal issues, the team at LawPlayer will help to create interactive, online training materials that inspire and reduce the need for whole days out of the office to meet CPD requirements.  They will also provide a new marketing channel for law firms by developing more engaging content that will showcase the firm’s expertise and help drive new business.

Warren Smith explains:

“When I worked in private practice I found CPD an incredibly uninspiring aspect of my work.  The content was really dry and it invariably required me to attend physical conferences when I could ill afford the time.  Equally, marketing and new business development are a big challenge for law firms.  So LawPlayer is needs driven.”

But big plans don’t just happen.  After 6 months spent developing and refining the initial business proposition, Warren needed funding to cover product development and service launch costs so he turned to the ‘Understanding Finance for Business’ team at St John’s Innovation Centre.  Following the initial workshop, he was introduced via the team to a number of angel investors and networks and Martin Rigby of ET Capital was allocated to work with him as his mentor.

Twelve months later and Warren has secured investment from three angel investors, allowing him to push ahead with recruitment.  The company has also recently secured a Proof of Market grant from EEDA, to fund the cost of preliminary content production and market testing.

Martin Rigby, an entrepreneur and business angel, helped Warren to hone his business plan and pitch:

“Warren has an exciting vision for LawPlayer, derived from his experience both as a lawyer and working in the media industry.  Besides being a great communicator, he has shown considerable perseverance as well as financial commitment in getting the business ready to launch – all of which is enormously reassuring for investors.  The business has attracted substantial angel backing as well as securing grant funding.   I’ve enjoyed working with Warren and I’m delighted that he’s secured the funding that his business needs.”

As part of the ‘Understanding Finance for Business’ programme, Warren also had the opportunity to pitch to a number of Cambridge based business angels for feedback.

“Lawplayer got a really positive reception from the angels in Cambridge and we have a number of discussions to follow up, all thanks to the team at St John’s whose advice has been incredibly helpful and highly focused.  The introductions were particularly well thought through and saved me months of floundering in the dark.”

With the Proof of Market grant now being put to good use, Warren currently has his sights set on closing the funding round but once that’s behind him, it’s clear he’s not one to let the grass grow under his feet.  LawPlayer is due to launch early in 2011.  His vision is to conquer the UK market before expanding into English speaking countries such as India and the US.  Thereafter, Warren is excited about the potential for replicating the service in other professional services such as accountancy.