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Meet Tristan Blaine of Law Soup in Silver Lake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tristan Blaine.

​Thanks for sharing your story with us Tristan. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
Well, I don’t love talking about myself much, but here goes! I’m from the Los Angeles area, and I’ve lived here most of my life. I have a deep love and appreciation for LA and California. In particular for its natural beauty and great climate, and for the laid back and yet innovative culture. But I had to get away for awhile to really understand how amazing this place is.

After graduating from UCLA, I decided I was tired of LA, of driving around everywhere, of the Hollywood scene, etc. So I moved to New York City to go to law school.

I went to law school to help bring some justice and fairness to the world (believe it or not!). I wanted to get a legal education in order to work in public service. But at the time I graduated, the economy was still deep in recession, severely limiting government and non-profit budgets.

I was at a crossroads and wasn’t sure what to do next, but I knew I was ready to come back to LA. New York was thrilling and fulfilling in many ways, but it never truly felt like home. And I realized that every city had its drawbacks, and NYC definitely has its fair share. I knew I had to come back to my “homeland” of California. 

After some much needed R&R in the golden sunshine, I decided to start my own law practice to sustain myself, and also develop a project to work on that whole justice thing.

I thought to myself: How could I, as just a guy with some legal knowledge, truly make an impact on a large number of people? The solution was almost too obvious: simply put my knowledge on a website for everyone to read for free. No legalese, no fluff. Just the good stuff. Thus Law Soup was born. And here I am, almost five years later, constantly adding content and improving how that content is delivered.

One of my missions in life is to “democratize” the law, empowering every individual to understand their rights and be able to exercise them. Anything less is simply unacceptable in a free and equal society.

Has it been a smooth road?
It certainly was a challenge to get people to use the website and chatbot and trust in the service. But after almost five years I have been able to build a substantial following.

On top of that, it was a major challenge to figure out how to create a website with various features, and then how to create a chatbot. Not such easy tasks! I asked friends for help, read many articles, watched many YouTube clips, and even hired a consultant or two.

Other than that, I pretty much had to figure out most of it by trial and error. It was quite a trial, with lots of errors! But when I got it working the way I wanted, I felt such a sense of accomplishment.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Law Soup story. Tell us more about the business.
Many people think that if they simply avoid “getting into trouble” then they don’t need to worry about “The Law.” But for better or worse, that’s not how our legal system works. We can be fined or even jailed for breaking any of the rules, even if we had no idea we were doing something illegal. For example, if you drink too much one night you may think you are being responsible by riding an E Scooter home rather than driving. But in fact you can get a DUI on a scooter, and one guy in LA recently just did.

On the other hand, the law is often on our side, but if we don’t know our rights we sometimes can’t benefit from them.

And yet it’s actually not easy to find accurate, accessible information on legal topics. This is why I created Law Soup, which is “the laws you need to know, in edible form.” Through web content and a chatbot, Law Soup provides easy to read legal information on a wide variety of topics, from local issues such as parking laws and rent control, to consumer rights, business and freelancer issues, and much more. 

One of my recent innovations in delivering that information is a friendly chatbot named Lee (who will help you with your Lee-gal questions, get it?). Just ask Lee (the chatbot) your legal question, and you will instantly get your answer! Well, for now it mostly answers questions related to California small business law. For a few other topics, including laws about the internet, free speech, and copyright, the chatbot gives you a “guided learning experience,” which is an interactive way to learn about these important areas. 

You may wonder why someone would bother to use a legal chatbot. When chatbots work as intended, they are a great way to get information. It’s even better than doing a search, since you don’t have to parse through a bunch of search results to see if you got what you’re looking for. A good chatbot will simply give you the answer. While it would be great to have human lawyers available 24/7 for free or low cost to answer any legal question people may have, that’s just not practical. So the next best thing is legal chatbots. It’s definitely the future of democratizing the law.

I’m proud to say that the number of people using the Law Soup website and chatbot has increased significantly in the last few months, and will likely continue to grow this year and beyond. We have big plans to expand in terms of topic areas, geographical reach, revenue generation, and more, so I’m very excited for the future of Law Soup and empowering people with legal knowledge.

​How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
After much resistance, the legal industry is finally starting to adopt new technology, including chatbots and other artificial intelligence, to make it easier and less costly for people to get the services and information they need. This won’t be without friction, as lawyers and non-lawyers figure out how to use the new tools properly. But ultimately it will bring access to justice to millions more people.

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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