Living Locum Legalis | Part Two

My role and Max’s were clearly defined by our abilities and limitations.

My role was the visionary. I had the idea but not the coding ability.

Max was tech. He coded, he developed and managed the backend, and conjured up whatever it was I imagined. He had the skills but lacked a viable idea.

But Max was also my teacher and guide to tech start-up ventures. I was completely ignorant and learned immensely from him.

Between the two of us, Max was more experienced. He had experience with startups, app creation and funding start-up ventures. Previously, he worked for a start-up before, raised money for it, studied the tech sector and advised both American and Malaysian companies on investing in start-up companies in Silicon Valley. So he didn’t just bring coding abilities, he could raise money and knew the start-up landscape.

In that respect, he was the complete package and complemented the many areas I lacked. Our thinking, outlook, and aesthetics were aligned and resonated at the same frequency. We got each other intuitively. I was particularly pleased about how we shared the same attitude and approach to creating something.

I had two concerns at the start. The first was we had no money. Second, we had no team. It was only both of us. For Max, neither was a concern.

Where money was concerned, he preferred to bootstrap. So did I. We did things as cheaply as possible because Max felt having too much money too soon interfered with the development of an idea.

‘If we have money, we will use money as a solution instead of creating solutions. Using as little money as possible forces us to be creative. Too much money too soon will ruin us. The first thing we have to do is not raise funding. Instead, we need to focus on building a working prototype. Demonstrating an idea is more powerful than describing it. When we materialize the idea, it’s no longer a possibility, it is a reality. It’s move convincing.’

Where the lack of team was concerned, he said most successful start-ups have commonly two founders, a maximum of three.

“Right now our priority is building a prototype. We don’t need a team to articulate the idea. You are the ideas guy. I am the tech guy. That’s enough for now. The fewer people involved, the more clearly your idea can emerge uncompromised. The more people involved, the less likely your idea will happen. Innovation does not happen in committees. In fact, committees kill innovation. Innovation happens by people crazy enough to risk their ideas.”

Before he returned to the States he told me to visualize and map out how the MOB Exchange was supposed to work. At first, I imagined the service to work off a desktop using a web browser. I mapped the service out on a piece of paper using drawn boxes and lines to show the flow of use. I drew out the visual for the website I had in mind.

I sent it over to Max. He came back with a comment: “The world is going mobile. And when we talk mobile, we talk apps. Desktops are becoming obsolete. The map is fine, but I want you to imagine how the app is supposed to look on your mobile phone. Draw out each screen we can expect to see. What does it look like? How does it work?”

I went back to the drawing board and revised the visuals. Max was happy with them and set down to create the prototype. Feeling the less accomplished of the two of us, I felt I had to up my game. I read up about best practices for managing software development and learned whatever I could about start-up culture and best practices. That led me to discover Coursera where I did a few courses relating to software development management to get a sense of things.

After completing the courses, I realized Max was a bloody genius.

Although he was entirely self-taught as a coder, took no software development management courses, and it was just his second time coding an app (his first was a personal stock market tracking project he did for fun), he intuitively arrived at the best practices for software development I learned online – build a prototype, work on one feature at the time, prioritize the essential features of the app first, don’t be distracted by the ‘oh this would be cool’ feature temptations, schedule the work rigorously, road-map the app features, pay attention to the user interface and experience, and continual product and experience refinement.

It was a real pleasure and exhilarating to learn and experience an entirely different knowledge domain and experience and yet it was related to legal practice and a bit of the law.

Even though Max had returned to the States, we were in touch daily if not weekly to discuss the development of the app. I had by then decided that MOB Exchange did not sound cool enough and came up with the name ‘Locum Legalis’.

A locum was a person who stands in temporarily for another person of the same profession. It was a term used by doctors but not lawyers. I felt it was more appropriate and classy compared to ‘a MOB lawyer’. Legalis was derived from the word ‘legal’ to suggest it was legally related. It was also a pun on the word legalese, which means the gratuitous use of legal jargon.

Hence, the name Locum Legalis.

Several months in, Max had a prototype up and running with the back-end server running out of the States. Because Max was an Apple guy, who disliked Android, we built the Locum Legalis app on Apple first. The Android version came later. By mid-2015, we were out of the prototype and had the essence of the app created. By June-July 2015, we were ready to launch.

Max had captured and improved my idea for Locum Legalis. The screens below were the main screens for the app. The version you see was based on the designs I created when Max told me to design it for a mobile phone. I thoroughly enjoyed the design aspect of creating an app.

This was where you put in the MOB request. The request would go out to all lawyers on the platform to facilitate quick acceptance.
This was the Calendar screen where you could set your availability to attend a MOB. You could do so for any court in Malaysia up to a few months in advance.
This was what I call the ‘Money’ Page. MOB Requests which were not taken up would appear on the Search page. This was where you could accept a job. Once a job was accepted, a chat would open up between the MOB requestor and MOB acceptor.

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