Why I Left Big Law and Founded HyperDraft

Like many folks, I’ve always loved traveling. I think something about exploring unknown places makes me feel a bit like Indiana Jones. Back when I was a kid, however, my parents always told us that we couldn’t go on trips because they were worried that no one would be around to water the lawn. That seemed like a ridiculous reason not to emulate Dr. Jones.

So, armed with very little knowledge about soldering circuit boards and one successful attempt at controlling Christmas lights with our family computer, I wired up our computer to the sprinkler system. That solves half of the problem, but I still needed to solve how to control the system remotely (this was still pre-smartphone apps). I devised a plan to remote control the computer sprinkler system with a little known feature that was available on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM for those of you in the know), which is that AIM could receive SMS text messages that were sent from those primitive cell phones. So I wrote an app that could take commands through SMS and called it NORAD (fans of the hit 1983 movie WarGames will understand) and *bam* we were set and ready to travel the world! Or so I thought. It was only after I built NORAD that I learned “needed to water our lawn” was actually just code for we couldn’t actually afford to go on trips.

It wasn’t all for naught though, I learned something else from building NORAD — I could create extensions of myself through engineering. I was hooked instantly. From then on, I refused to do anything that I could make a robot do, letting me focus on the things that actually mattered.

Allowing people to focus on things that matter is why building HyperDraft is more than just solving some minor inconveniences. I found it disappointing that, despite extensive training as an attorney and jumping through countless hoops to make it to the elite rungs of the legal field, a big portion of my practice was still not focused on practicing law or becoming a better lawyer. Instead, I spent innumerable hours on tedious tasks that I knew I could write software to automate or at the very least streamline. To make matters worse, for those of us that refuse to be sloppy, it often led to consistent late nights and many all-nighters because there was simply not enough time to do things the right way and take care of myself. I wish I could say that it was a unique experience, but you just need to look at the billable hour stats and chat with other “biglaw” attorneys and the response is consistent — too much work and not enough time to focus on what matters.

We built HyperDraft as a toolbox for attorneys to tackle the unnecessarily tedious aspects of being a lawyer. At this point in my legal career, I’ve gone through the pain of being a law firm grunt, running in-house legal divisions, and more recently, running large corporate deal teams. Throughout those years and the different legal roles, the problems for lawyers never changed — so we need to fix it. That’s why at HyperDraft we focus on two key tenets:

  1. Build tools to work the way lawyers do. Since our team has a deep understanding of the practice of law and engineering, we can build tools that are adaptive to the existing process, and not purely prescriptive.
  2. Only build tools that we would use in practice. We don’t build features just for the sake of building features. If we built it, then it’s because it solves an actual pain point or problem that I’ve faced in practice and thought to myself “I had to do it X way, and Y would’ve made my life Z times easier.” For that reason, you’ll never see a useless dashboard that shows you stats with fancy graphs that do nothing for you. This ensures we build useful tools and not just pretty ones. This tenet also describes the amount of care that goes into our product. We don’t launch anything until it passes the test of “we would rely on it for our own practice.”

I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have the opportunity to go on this journey with an incredible team, and to work on tools I know will help others avoid endless late nights. We’ve already solved many of the tooling problems with HyperDraft v1 and we’re only just getting started!

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CEO / Chief Engineer of HyperDraft, Inc.

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Tony Thai

Tony Thai

CEO / Chief Engineer of HyperDraft, Inc.

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