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Meet Allen Rodriguez of ONE400 in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Allen Rodriguez.

Allen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in Lincoln Heights (East LA), during the 70s and 80s and during those turbulent times, I saw a lot of people go without access to justice. After I high school, I joined the Army to get of town and seek any opportunity outside of my hometown. After 4 years of that the Army had provided me with some money for school and I went to college and studied English Literature. Soon after graduation I thought I would pursue a career in law. I found an ad for an administrative position at the Los Angeles County Bar Association and read that they provide tuition assistance for employees attending law school. I applied and got the job. While there I sat the LSAT and took the test. My score wasn’t highest but was sure to net me a couple of options for law school.

At work I was able to meet a few lawyers and ask about what it was like for a career choice. A few of them were kind enough to offer to have me shadow them for a couple of days so I get a better sense of what it is like to be a practicing lawyer. As it turns out, it’s not at all like TV (I know, surprise, right) and I quite honestly, I was a bit of a letdown and I decided not to pursue it as a career choice. Meanwhile, it also turns out that I was a really good administrator and my career at the LA Bar Association was taking off.

While at the LA Bar, I lateraled into the Lawyer Referral and Information Service which was a revenue generating service of the bar association. There I was introduced to the business of law. In my position I had access to decades of financial data and I can see trends in attorney billing practices, costs of services, lifetime value for clients of various practice areas. I used the data to help optimize operations and improve revenue generating activities. I did this successfully for a number of years resulting in millions in revenue over my tenure. At the end of my time there, around 2008, I was recruited by LegalZoom.com for a project they wanted to pursue at the time.

In 2008 I was hired by LegalZoom to find ways to incorporate attorneys into their product mix. At the time, LegalZoom was a self-help solution and while they had already were seeing huge success with their product portfolio, they realized that customers still wanted to speak with attorneys. From 2008 through 2012 I was charged with creating attorney fulfilled products. I created and launched a number of them, again generating substantial revenue for simply reengineering how legal services were acquired, sold and delivered by participating law firms. We commoditized a number of legal services and made them available online and for flat, predictable fees. This was a huge win for consumers and attorneys alike. Attorneys saw LegalZoom as a source of lead and revenue generation and consumers now had a lower barrier of entry for seeking high quality legal services. My work was really improving access to justice. After 4 years and a day (my stock options were vesting at 25%/yr.), LegalZoom and I parted ways and I set out to launch my own venture.

ONE400 materialized in December 2013 and it has been steady growth and positive impact since then. Since our humble beginnings we are now an award winning team of 12 based in Pasadena. While we are small team, our work is having a big impact across the globe. We have had the pleasure of working with firms throughout the nation and globally in places like Singapore, Nigeria, Australia, Germany, Netherlands and the UK. We have guest lectured at a number of law schools and speak at several law innovation events throughout the year. Now we work with some of the most innovative firms and legal technology companies in the industry. Our work helps to propel the legal industry forward and ultimately improves access to justice.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road at all. Trying to pursue innovation in an industry where people value the past more than the future is hard. What do I mean? Well pursuing innovation requires you to try and look around the corner before you are there. You have to imagine what the needs of consumers and lawyers will be and build a solution that they can use to help them get there. On the other hand, lawyers themselves are trained to look to the past for their answers, its called precedent. They win cases by citing past case laws and judge’s even look to past decision to guide future ones. This looking to the past for answers contradicts our desire to look to the future.

Additionally, I personally have not ever had any experience running a creative agency before ONE400. I’ve had to learn the business on the fly without the benefit of even having worked in an agency. Things like creating a scalable work flow launching multiple websites a month were very foreign to me and it hasn’t always gone smoothly.

Fortunately, we’ve had no major disasters but when you’re working with tech, stuff always breaks. There have been times when our servers go down (pulling down client websites with them). Or another time when we had a copycat company knock of our logo, business name and created a Facebook page to try and scoop up our traffic. Our attorneys took them to task but it’s something you don’t really expect to do.

At this stage in the business, the biggest challenge is having to wear many hats. While we are too small for say an HR Manager, we do have HR issues and when they pop, I have to address those just as much as I have to make sure we are doing a great job for our clients.

ONE400 – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
ONE400 is a law innovation agency that creates digital experiences to help connect law firms and legal tech companies with people who need their services. We answer the challenges of our clients with strategy, consulting, product development, design and marketing services. Based in Pasadena but serving a global audience, our mission is to create solutions that propel the industry forward and improve access to justice for all.

Unlike other companies in our space, we are a consultancy that really has a strong emphasis on product development. We believe that software, productization and other technologies are really what’s going to drive industry growth over the next decade and ONE400 is at the forefront of creating those solutions.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Seeing people who otherwise could not afford an expensive lawyer utilize some service that my team has created to solve their legal issue or improve the outcome of their matter affordably. Since they are working with a law firm or legal tech company directly, they may not it was ONE400 behind the tech, but we know and that’s all that matters.

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