Hitting The Mark

Hitting The Mark

Conversations with founders and investors about the intersection of brand clarity and startup success with your host, brand strategist and author Fabian Geyrhalter.

Fabian

EP062 – Edward Hartman, Co-Founder, LegalZoom

Strategic Clarity + Verbal Clarity

Eddie Hartman created LegalZoom 20 years ago with two friends and built it into the best-known legal brand in the United States. LegalZoom has over 4 million customers and more than half of all Americans know the brand.

 

I have been a customer for a mighty long time and having this chat with Eddie was just incredibly stimulating and rewarding. We talk about how celebrity lawyer Robert Shapiro became the face of the company, we discuss the impact of assurance and how ‘brand’ is the future promise about something you can not guarantee today, how the word ‘zoom’ used to stand for LegalZoom before the pandemic hit, and Eddie shares tons of actionable brand advice for any entrepreneur, CEO and CMO alike.

Notes

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Fabian Geyrhalter:

Welcome to the show, Eddie.

Eddie Hartman:

Thank you so much.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Well, thrilled to have you here. I’ve been a customer of LegalZoom for, I don’t know, I believe it must be 15 years or so by now, creating DBAs, and trademarks, and all of that good stuff one has to deal with as an entrepreneur. You created LegalZoom 20 years ago with two friends, as a digital tech company that helps its customers create legal documents without necessarily having to hire a lawyer. And you built it into the best known legal brand in the United States. Last year, one in four LLCs in California were started through LegalZoom. It might have been more by now. And you have over four million customers. More than half of all Americans know the brand. How did it start? Take us back 20 years ago, you and two friends, how did you come up with this quite revolutionary idea that point in time?

Eddie Hartman:

What a great question. And I have to say, when we began, we had no idea that we would be founding what I’m told is the oldest unicorn. Did you know that?

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yes, I actually heard that. I heard that too. It’s quite impressive.

Eddie Hartman:

Aileen Lee at Cowboy Ventures coined the term unicorn, at the time of course it didn’t exist. But can you imagine? LegalZoom is now the oldest unicorn. When we began it, we thought it might top out at 16 million. That was our dream. You know maybe, maybe. My two friends were both lawyers and they had great jobs at great law firms. And Brian Lee, in particular, who went on to found the Honest Company with Jessica Alba and ShoeDazzle with Kim Kardashian, he said, “You know, I didn’t leave my job at a very good law firm, Skadden Arps, to become an employee of a small company that I started. I love to become the founder of a large company. But for us, large was maybe 16 million at max. Brian used to show us with his hand, where he thought maybe one day, the stack of outgoing LLC packages might reach. Because this was the most important thing to us, and I think any entrepreneur can relate. The big sale, the big purchase, the biggest ticket item that we sold was a gold incorporation or LLC package.

           And it went in a special FedEx box, a flattish box, not a big carton, but a box that maybe was an inch and a half, two inches high. And we would ship them out, they’d sit on the front desk, and we’d look at that stack of boxes, and it was the measure of our success. And Brian, once in the early days, put his hand on top of that box, and he said, “Eddie, someday, this stack is going to be up to here.” And you know, by his chin. I want to let you know, we now have a separate dedicated facility-

Eddie Hartman:

Of course.

Eddie Hartman:

Just to handle those. It grew from a stack into sort of a back bay of the building, because we would have to have a truck come up and take all the packages. And finally, it outgrew that and we now own a separate facility just to handle all those packages. And it’s been extraordinarily rewarding to see the growth, which really means the acceptance, how many people see value in what LegalZoom brings to their lives, how many people find that their opportunities are unlocked by what legalism gives them. We had a really great guy, Daniel Kent, came to work for us for a few years. He’s now a Berkeley PhD. But at the time, he did a study and he found that LegalZoom had started more than one in six charities in the United States.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Oh wow.

Eddie Hartman:

Yeah, you don’t start a business thinking that, “Oh, we’re also going to have an enormous charitable impact.” But there we were looking at the numbers, one in six, more than one in six American charities were started. And my partner said to me, “You know, this is a great number. This is a really amazing thing. We should let people know this number.” I said, “Yeah you know, that is great. But here’s a bigger question that we’ll never really be able to answer. How many of those charities never would have started if it weren’t for an easy way to get a 501(c)(3), that is to say tax exempt designation?” How many charities are never started? Is maybe the better question. How many businesses are never started? How many families go unprotected, because the benefits the law are out of reach? And reach doesn’t necessarily mean too expensive. It may simply be too complex or too time consuming.

           We’re in a democracy. The benefits of the law that’s supposed to be our birthright, but if it’s too cumbersome… Again, which might be inconvenient or complex, but it also might be too expensive, something we can’t afford, inaccessible in one way or another. We are cheated in a way. We’re cheated of our birthright. We’re cheated of the basic promise that we’re supposed to have as participants in a democracy, that we have equal protection, that we have equal access, that we have equal benefit. And so when I think about those charities that were never started, or those businesses that were never launched, or those families that are unprotected, I think this is a crisis. This is a plague. This is something that could be corrected. There needs to be more LegalZooms. LegalZoom is just one player. And even though we’re very proud of what it’s done, when you think about the latent legal market, the millions of unlaunched ships, that’s honestly, what keeps me up at night.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Well, a couple of questions about this. This was extremely interesting. On the LegalZoom site, the brand states, “We are not going to rest until everyone has access to legal care.” And based on what you just said, it almost sounds like a not-for-profit organization’s manifesto, right? Like a rallying cry. How does LegalZoom push how it’s done? And do you also have a nonprofit arm as part of it? Or do you just organize in a way and run the business in a way where you feel like you want to empower as many as possible, and hence, there doesn’t need to be a nonprofit part of it?

Eddie Hartman:

Well, I believe deeply, that the blood that pumps through a company’s veins, is the profit that it generates. Without that, of course, you can’t pay people. But more importantly, you can’t innovate. You can’t get the word out. I think, in fact, the mark of value… And in my new role, I’m now a partner at Simon-Kucher, and I’m very frankly honored and grateful for my role there. It’s an amazing organization. But one of the things that we have as a mantra, if you think about it this way. If I asked you, “How do you measure value?” You might say, “Well, I think about what a thing is worth.” Well, okay, sure. But how can you put a number on it? I would argue that the best way to measure value is to ask, “What would you pay for it?” And if you could stack up dollars or coins, whatever it might be, and measure that stack.

           Just like Brian used to measure that stack of gold LLC packages. That’s a measure of value right there. We don’t have a yardstick, we can’t measure it in gallons or something, miles. We need a different way to measure. And I would argue that the money that you exchange is a great proxy for value. So when we think about LegalZoom, it’s a mission-driven company that makes a profit. It makes a profit because it delivers value. Without the profit, it would not be able to pursue its mission. That is how I see it. The test of LegalZoom as an organization, really any organization, is are you providing sufficient value that you can continue to provide value and expand the value you provide?

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Absolutely, absolutely. Love this. Listen, going back to the founder story, just for one more second there, because I’m sure everyone is asking themselves the same question. When you were eliminating the need for small businesses, in the very beginning, right? And I mean, continuously so. But in the beginning, to hire a lawyer, right? That was a tremendously disruptive thought. It was you literally fighting the good fight, so to speak. How was that uphill battle until you were legally ready to offer your services? And I’m almost sure that there must have been lawsuits by law firms or industry groups earlier on to try to stop you from what you were about to do, because it was obviously harming their trajectory.

Eddie Hartman:

I love this question. I wonder if you ever had a time of your life, probably in your mid 20s, when it felt like every weekend was taken up with a friend’s wedding over the summer. It’s the time of life when everyone’s getting married all at once. And then when the weather’s turning nice, you know, May, June, July, suddenly, every single weekend, you’re going to a wedding. That was me for a period of time, except instead of weddings, I was going to depositions. [I was the most heavily deposed person. I’ve never encountered anyone that’s been deposed as often as I have. And I think it stems from a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding is that LegalZoom somehow does not want people to speak to lawyers or hire lawyers, which is almost baffling to me at this point. LegalZoom has many lawyers, then it has as employees it works with. We work with a network of law firms.

           We pass more… I would guess I don’t know any numbers about this. But I would guess that we pass more people to consult with lawyers than any other single organization in the world. We love businesses hiring lawyers, and using lawyers appropriately. I think all we tried to do was say that there’s some things where if you choose to, you don’t need a lawyer. So when you form your LLC, you can use LegalZoom to get that done, if you choose, and a lawyer doesn’t need to be involved, which may make it more affordable for you, or make it more in your control. Some people really like the feeling of power of control. I’ve done this for myself. However, I would say that LegalZoom really tries to make sure that anyone who starts a company or frankly, forms a will or anything else through Legal Zoom, then speaks with a lawyer. And in fact, we took advantage of something that was, I think, less well known, which is a prepaid legal plan. These were plans established in the 1970s by unions.

           Unions wanted their members to have access to good legal counsel, but it’s hard to afford. Especially, for a lot of people, very difficult to afford. So they created these special plans, which were approved by authorities in every state. And as a union member, you could buy into a prepaid plan and then have access to a lawyers counsel. LegalZoom followed in that model-

So honestly, and the thing, I think, also you should know is that I am a lawyer, and I became a lawyer while at LegalZoom. I never went to law school though. I taught very briefly at Yale Law, and I taught briefly at Stanford Law. And I had to tell my class that it was my first time at a law school. I became a lawyer [inaudible 00:13:25] for the bar after doing an apprenticeship. So I never went to law school, but I did become a lawyer because I believe so deeply in the importance, and really the primacy of lawyers. I actually named my firstborn son, my sweet little boy, Darrow, after Clarence Darrow. The lawyer that famously gave up his high paying job for the railroads, and started fighting for the common man. I believe that lawyers are some of the most civic-minded, good hearted, and intelligent, and often brave people among us.

           But unfortunately, I think the legal system that they find themselves employed by often betrays them. They have this idea that they’re going to be able to fight for right and go to court and defend justice. And what they get instead is a mind numbing, soul crushing job, where they’re required to, at the end of the day, measure up their worth in six minute increments. Because that’s what a law firm lawyer does. They have to mark down their time in six minute increments and justify what they did. It’s a [inaudible 00:14:39] system. So what did LegalZoom do in the early days? I think we stepped into a crazy imbalanced system, where most people felt that the benefits of the law were beyond their reach or too cumbersome, and hopefully, created an alternative where we still do try to connect people with lawyers, but perhaps in a healthier and more effective structure. I think that was the big change.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

I mean, it was extremely liberating. I mean, even for myself. Being an entrepreneur and having started my companies and going through LegalZoom, I mean, it’s been… I don’t know, how many interactions I had with LegalZoom over the years. And for me, I’m kind of the generation where I was born into it, right? When LegalZoom came out 20 years ago, that’s about when I got really serious about doing the legal portion of my business. Before, I was just running a business. Let’s talk a little bit more about lawyers. And what you just said about how lawyers are being seen and the reality of it. Influencer marketing is huge today, right? But it really has been for decades, just under different names. The idea of affiliating a brand with an influential person from within their segment has its benefits, and it has its risks, and you might know where I’m heading with this. It seems like you guys were living that story having celebrity lawyer, Robert Shapiro, as your co-founder, who…

           For those of you who are not in LA, or maybe not even in the US. Robert Shapiro was infamous for successfully defending O.J. Simpson back in 1995. But he was a co-founder. How did this come about? And I think he already talked a little bit about a shift in how lawyers pursued their career. How did it come about and did it have the desired effect on the brand? And how did you guys all work together?

Eddie Hartman:

Well, I’ll say two things; the first of which is anyone who… And I mean this in the best spirit. Anyone who has anything bad to say about Bob Shapiro is going to have to do a fist fight with me. I love that man. He is one of the most… I’d say in some ways, he’s one of the kindest people in the world, and he’s been through personal tragedy that people don’t understand. And I won’t belabor it, but his son, Brent, used to… He had, I should say, two sons. And his older son Brent was my employee, when he tragically died at age 23. And people, I think, they don’t realize. Bob Shapiro has been through… In his long career, he has done so many things, so many things. Defend major, major lawsuits, major, major actions, huge clients, vast things settled, and yet… Of course, what he is best known for is a moment in the 90s.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yep.

Eddie Hartman:

Okay. I actually was off the grid when that was happening. I was living in Montana. I didn’t catch the whole O.J. thing. Only I only heard about-

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Well timing.

Eddie Hartman:

I found out about it afterward. But I will say, of course, the notoriety of that case, and I think we can say notoriety here, made Bob famous. And his fame helped us in more than one way. Obviously, it brought attention to LegalZoom, which was great. I was once asked on a plane. You know, you’re always asked on a plane, “What do you do?” And I explained, “Oh yes, I started this company.” And she said, “Oh, what does the company do?” And I said, “Well, it helps you, you can use it to form a will or an incorporation or trademark or patent.” And she said, “Oh. Wow, you must get a lot of competition from Robert Shapiro’s company.” [crosstalk 00:18:40] [inaudible 00:18:40]. She said, “Oh, no, I don’t think so.” Then I said, [crosstalk 00:18:48]. But the other thing that it brought us was, because of his fame… Bob had a lot of business experience that we lacked.

           He had been involved with Wolfgang Puck, early in the day, who became so famous. The founder of Spago, and a chain of other restaurants. So Bob brought a lot of business acumen. And he had the business acumen because the O.J. Simpson case had propelled him to fame. That’s definitely true, definitely true. But I would say the other thing about the relationship is that it brought us knowledge on so many different levels than just his just a celebrity. And I want to tell you one more fun fact. My dear partner, Brian Lee, was the one who brokered the introduction to Robert Shapiro. And at the time, he really was Robert Shapiro. He’s this famous lawyer that we’d never met. His office is at the top of… If you liked the movie, Die Hard… Nakatomi Plaza, where the action takes place, his actual office was in that building where [inaudible 00:20:06]

           And so we got to meet him, and it’s very intimidating. A very huge office, beautiful. Barely looks up. We’re doing our song and dance. He told us we had five minutes. We’ve taken much longer, and he’s not really paying attention to us. And finally, he says, “You know, because of my fame, a lot of people come to me, and they’ve got this business idea and that business idea.” And I’m thinking, “Okay, so the answer is no. Will this guy just hurry up and say no.” But to my surprise, he doesn’t say no, he says, “If this is such a good idea that I want to be part of this, I don’t just want to be an investor. I don’t just want to put my name on this. I want to be part of this.” He literally meant something like chief of marketing. He wanted to be that involved. And I called my mom. I said, “Mom, you’re never going to believe this. Robert Shapiro is joining LegalZoom.” And she said, “My dentist?”

Fabian Geyrhalter:

That is hilarious.

Eddie Hartman:

Yeah. So [inaudible 00:21:18], people think about he’s celebrity, celebrity, celebrity. And that’s true, it was very helpful. But I think what was even more helpful was that we had this incredibly knowledgeable lawyer with great business skills, who was part of our team.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

That is a fantastic story. Thank you for sharing this. Absolutely, that’s great. You’re in the legal business, and in the business of trademarks. Well, not you, but LegalZoom. And this being a branding podcast, I have to ask this question.

Eddie Hartman:

Sure.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

LegalZoom, launched officially in 2001. So 10 years prior to Zoom. Does Zoom own their name to you to a certain degree? I know there was this time where that idea of Zoom was kind of an internet thing, but is it bizarre for you that 2020… Like all this time later, turned into a year where the word “Zoom” became the thing? And LegalZoom owned it first?

Eddie Hartman:

You know, it’s such a funny question. So just a small question. The incorporation was created in 99.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah.

Eddie Hartman:

And we did a soft launch. We made our first sale in the last quarter of 2000. But yes, of course, our big launch to the public, 2001, very true. And for 10 years, if you said Zoom, you probably meant LegalZoom. A competitor of ours, to tweak us, had signs put up around his office that said, “We believe in legal grooming, not legal zooming.” The word, Zoom, is a funny word. And for a long time, it was ours. And now, yes, you may have heard of this small company called Zoom. I do remember meeting them at a conference. Because lawyers were one of the early adopters of Zoom. And I walked up and I said… Hopefully they found it funny. I said, “I won’t sue you.” That they’re Zoom, and we’re LegalZoom.

           But yeah, a friend recently posted to an entrepreneurial group that I’m part of, “Hey, can anyone connect me with Zoom?” And I was about to write back, “Sure,” and then I realized [inaudible 00:23:41] blocked me.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah, I just thought it was interesting right? Because here, we’re Zooming around all day, and I’ve been using Zoom for all the time. Listen, at some point, LegalZoom… And I just really realized this, prepping for our chat here. At some point, LegalZoom moved past business customers and started offering services really to anyone. So from wills and trusts to divorces, how does a brand known for entrepreneurship and business move its perception to become a bit more of a generalist? Or was a shift in brand story and marketing not even necessarily since he already had this huge amount of business customers who were just happy to start using your other services, hence spreading the word organically without even diluting your brand?

Eddie Hartman:

What a great question!

Fabian Geyrhalter:

It was a long one.

Eddie Hartman:

So the first product set that we launched was incorporations, LLCs, last will and testament, copyright… I want to say copyright and trademark were part of the first trough, but I’m actually not a 100% sure. We also considered restraining orders, but we understood after a while that that was a business that was better occupied by municipal and state authorities. We also had divorce early on, although we found that divorce is quite a difficult product to fulfill. However, that was the initial product set. So we-

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Interesting.

Eddie Hartman:

Yeah, we always had wills in there. Oh, you know, and trusts were in there as well, in the early… Oh, and living will. That’s right, living will was there as part of the early batch. So for people who don’t know, there’s a medical power of attorney, living will, which is a document that, as the name implies, covers you when you’re alive, but maybe incapacitated, versus a last will, which in the UK they will just refer to as a will and testament, which happens to cover you after you die. So two different documents. But I say this to say we found that there was so little crossover between product categories. A person who came to know us for an incorporation, would not have any inclination to use us for a will. A person who came to us for a will would not have a natural inclination to use us for a trademark, which is interesting if you got it.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

How interesting. Yeah.

Eddie Hartman:

We once did a program where we gave people $50, or later an opportunity to enter into a drawing to potentially go to a week long vacation to Hawaii, if they would refer us to a friend or family member. And we got very little uptake. And when I called around to some of these people to say, “Hey, you obviously love LegalZoom. You gave it incredibly high marks all around, but then you didn’t refer us to anyone. Why is that?” I would get responses like this, “I don’t know anyone else who is going through a divorce.” “I don’t know anyone else who’s getting a trademark.” And when you ask them, “Well, did you know that LegalZoom does all these other things?” They would respond, “Well, no, I really didn’t.” And so we will promote in the email itself, we would say, “Popular services from Legal Zoom.” We created the idea of like, what are the top 10 services from LegalZoom? What are the most popular uses of LegalZoom? What are people using LegalZoom for?

           And we would say, “Oh, you know…” Obviously, these were factual, but we would say, “Oh, number one is, setting up LLCs. And number two is…” let’s say, “Registering a trademark.” “And number three is filing for an uncontested divorce.” Now, if people decided, upon seeing that list, “Hey, you know what? I have been thinking, I ought to divorce my wife. Now that I see [crosstalk 00:27:43] LegalZoom, let me go ahead and do it.”

Fabian Geyrhalter:

What an impulse buy!

Eddie Hartman:

What an impulse buy, right? “Hey, I should get a patent.” Hopefully, that didn’t really motivate behavior, and yet it was a blockbuster move in terms of generating sales. So if you’d stopped to think about it, and said, “Why would you ever show people what the top products are?” If a person is going to get divorced, they’re going to get divorced, if a person is going to declare bankruptcy or start a business or something. That’s a big decision, they’ve already made it.” Never underestimate the impact of assurance. The impact of, “Many people are also doing this.” The impact of safety and numbers. And I think that leads you right to the brand question, because after all, what is brand? Brand is a promise. Brand is a question of reliability. A brand is almost always a promise about the future. In an unknown future, when you don’t know what’s coming next, the brand matters more.

           If you’re going to pop a pharmaceutical into your mouth, if you are going to take a pill, if you are going to sign up with an insurance company, if you are going to have someone do a legal service for you, you have no idea what the future reliability is going to be, and so the brand has to stand in. I mean, ask yourself, would you ever put a drug in your body from a source you’ve never heard of? Of course not. Certainly you wouldn’t give it to your children. Why? Because brand matters so much. It’s the future promise of something that you cannot guarantee today.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Very, very well said. You and I both are mentors at The Founder Institute. Or you have been, and you’re on and off. I found out because I read your bio and your Global 40 Mentor. And I’m a Global 100 Mentor, so I thought I was special until I met you. Now, I’m not anymore. Thank you for that. But when you talk to entrepreneurs about branding, what do you tell a startup? Like how important do you… So you’re a partner at Simon-Kucher, which is a strategy and marketing consultancy. You have started and operated multiple companies with a total valuation in excess of, I don’t know, $3 billion. Right? So you have seen it all when it comes to brands, but how do you advise startup founders and entrepreneurs? Like what do you tell them about the importance of branding to them at that point in time?

Eddie Hartman:

Well, for the more hard-nosed listener, I would point out that brand has a tangible value. Whether you’re thinking about valuation, there’s a concept goodwill, which is essentially brand equity, so it attributes to your enterprise value. Another way to look at it though, is we’ve run tests on buying the very same batch of Google keywords for a generic website that has a name, of course, and has a design scheme and everything. But with the brand no one’s ever heard of, versus the LegalZoom brand… And I can tell you that the LegalZoom brand is much more effective in converting and generating revenue. So brand is very powerful and quantifiable, in terms of the impact that it gives you. You really need to take it quite seriously. But then, the next question is, what should your brand state? As I say, brand is a… I saw a great definition of brand when I was in business school at Wharton.

           It said that, “Brand motivates irrational behavior.” In other words, if a promise motivates rational behavior, then that’s not brand. If I tell you that, “Well, this vehicle gets a certain number of miles per gallon, and that’s why you should buy it.” Or if I say, “This copper has a certain purity per kilo of weight.” Those are statements, but they’re not brand statements. That’s literally a value statement that’s merely attributable to an attribute of what’s being sold. If I tell you on the other hand that, “Kids love Oreos.” Okay, that’s a promise that you can’t tie to something rational. It’s not a rational criteria. It’s appealing to an irrational side. I mean, why do we love Oreos and hate Hydrox? Hydrox was first. You know that? Oreo was a copy of a Hydrox. I mean, okay, please don’t sue me in saying so.

           But certainly, if you look at them side by side in a store, you might be tempted to conclude, and I certainly would, that an Oreo is a copy of a Hydrox. But Oreo dominated the brand. They stand for something. They stand for comfort, they stand for snowy days with a glass of milk, and an Oreo cookie. And we all love them. But if you look at the list of ingredients, they’re no different than a Hydrox.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Interesting, yeah. They built the brand.

Eddie Hartman:

If you are buying from a rational basis, and the Hydrox were cheaper, you should surely reach for the Hydrox, but people don’t. They read for the Oreo. And companies, not just in consumer, but in business-to-business, also understand that brand promise really means something. I think it’s probably a bit more rational in a business context. There’s the old saying, “No one ever got fired for going with IBM.” [crosstalk 00:33:39]

Fabian Geyrhalter:

That changed.

Eddie Hartman:

Okay, this has changed. But what are we saying when we make statements like that? What we’re saying is that the brand adds something to the value equation of a current purchase, because it makes a promise about the future, “This will be reliable. We are a organization that stands behind the offer that we’re making.” Brand should convey a penumbra, a halo effect, beyond the the specific product that you sell. It should augment and extend beyond. Selecting the words to use for brand, then becomes very important. And honestly, here’s where you can use some fairly standard methodology. You can ask your customers or prospects, say Listen, “I want you to tell me of eight…” You come up with somewhere between eight and 12 attributes, and you say, “Listen, I want you to tell me of these eight to 12 attributes, which are the ones that are the most important to you? Rate them.” And then say, “Okay, same set of attributes, how do we rate versus competitors?”

           And then plot this on a grid and you’ll see a pattern emerge. And the pattern will tell you, this is where your brand can reach and this is where your brand cannot reach. Where you are strong and the attribute matters, that’s where your brand thrives. Where the attribute matters and you’re not strong, those are areas that you have to avoid. And if you can find in that map a story, then that can be the through-line for your brand. Listen, LegalZoom is never going to be able to say something like, “We have lawyers that will grind themselves to the bone working around the clock, and our brand name is feared in courtrooms across America the way that a major law firm could.” But what LegalZoom can say is, “Simplicity, ease of use, convenience.” Right?

Fabian Geyrhalter:

You’re going right into one of my final questions on every one of my shows. So now that we talk about brand boards, and what you just explained is really fantastic for anyone, not just entrepreneurs, right? I mean, even someone who’s a CMO, to revisit their brand that it’s basically a brand SWOT analysis, right? Like using emotions versus rational thinking. If you could take the LegalZoom brand, and I gave you no warning of this question so… Let’s just see where this takes us. If you would take the LegalZoom brand, and you would put it through a funnel. And at the end, there’s really one word or two words that you feel like your brand really captures and can own. When you think about Zappos, it’s not D2C shoe sales, right? And it’s not e-comm. It’s customer service. It’s delivering, “Wow.” That’s what they are about.

           if you think about Everlane, its transparency. And I always love to, when I work with clients, at the end of my workshops, I like to say, “Everything we’ve just done for the last, God knows, four or eight hours, can we distill it into one word that everyone in the company can say, “This is what we stand for.” I just assume that accessibility must be very near the top of the list for LegalZoom. But what comes to mind? Like that one word that you feel like LegalZoom could actually own?

Eddie Hartman:

What a fantastic question. And you’ll also please permit me if I’d like to make a small detour after I’ve answered to sort of show you the power of this very question, frankly, in many walks of life. But with LegalZoom specifically, I think the phrase that really captured us was one that my dear friend and partner, Brian Liu… So you said it was three of us. It was me, Brian Lou and Brian Lee, came up with, which was, “Hassle-free.” And studies have shown that was the issue that was stopping so many people from accessing the benefits for law was… It wasn’t hassle-free. Yes, it was expensive. But it also seems so complex, so daunting, and Brian would say, “Hassle-free. Ah, yeah, that’s what people want.” They want a hassle-free legal experience. Absolutely. I will say though, we’ve gone through many phases, we said that LegalZoom’s mission is to democratize the law. I believe in that. I really do.

           But I think that may be a little too highfalutin for many people. It’s reaching a bit too academic, I think. It’s great when I am talking to my friends who are in sort of a academic setting about what’s the importance of LegalZoom. We want to democratize the law? Sure. But I think for most people, the personal benefit was once hassle-free. But I’ll tell you what I hope it becomes; empowerment. Hey, if you’re in the sound of my voice, or if you live in America, anyway, or the UK, you are supposed to have the benefits of the law as part of your right to exist. And you don’t have them. You don’t. A wealthy person has a lawyer that they can turn to… She can turn to her lawyer, her lawyer will do onerous work on her behalf, or potentially a law firm will do onerous work. That’s a tremendous amount of power that you don’t have, but you ought to. You ought to have equal benefits under the law, and you don’t.

           Hopefully, what LegalZoom stands for in the future is empowerment. Connecting you back to the benefits that you have been, I would say, unfairly denied access to.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Absolutely. I mean, there’s so many Gen Z and millennial born-brands that are all about democratizing this, democratizing that. And there’s like every [crosstalk 00:39:59]

Eddie Hartman:

[crosstalk 00:39:59] was democratizing juice.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Exactly.

Eddie Hartman:

We don’t need that.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

But coming from you, after these 20 years of having LegalZoom out in the wild, the word empowerment… And I’m sure my listeners can agree with that, the way that you said it and in the context of LegalZoom, how much more… Well, pun intended, how much more powerful that actually is to own for an organization like yours, than for an organization like many others that just want to empower the customers. But that being said, it is also wonderful, how many brands say that that’s what they stand for. Because it shows the idea of customer first, and it shows the idea of, “We’re with you.” Right? And there is kind of this nice shift in brands and in brand thinking over the last 10, 15 years, which I really… I mean, that provides me so much joy that everything is becoming more purposeful. Right?

Eddie Hartman:

Absolutely. I had a client recently in the cybersecurity space, and I did this exact study, and I did the exact graphing technique that I just said hopefully your listeners will do themselves. And I said, “Well, the one thing that people don’t care about is security.” And he said, “You have really messed this up Mr. Hartman. We’re talking about cybersecurity firm.” Well, when we show them the comments though, it became immediately clear that people assume a cybersecurity company is secure. That’s not what you’re buying on.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

It’s in the name. Exactly.

Eddie Hartman:

[crosstalk 00:41:38]. You’re buying on the other attributes. Things like ease of use, simplicity. So for LegalZoom, you can imagine that people might say, “Oh, the brand should be that, ‘What do you provide quality legal?’ Quality legal.” People assume that we have quality legal. If you listen closely to your customers, what are they really asking for? And that should be the underpinning of your brand. In LegalZoom’s case, it was hassle-free. In the future? Hopefully, yes. It gives me the power I always should have had, but was wrongfully blocked from my grasp. That’s what LegalZoom ought to be in the future, if you ask me.


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