Nicole Bradick Of Theory And Principle Talks Legal Tech

Nicole Bradick, founder and CEO of Theory and Principle, isn’t new to legal tech. In fact, some consider her a veteran legal tech entrepreneur.

After leaving the practice of law, Bradick went on to found Custom Counsel, which offered assistance to attorneys, law firm support staff and corporate legal departments. More recently, Bradick was a partner and chief strategy officer of CuroLegal, a legal development firm with a broad focus on innovation. At CuroLegal, Bradick led the product development team, which designed products like Hate Crime Help, Veterans Legal Checkup and LawHUB. 

We recently had the opportunity to ask Bradick for her take on legal tech and its place in the practice of law. 


1. What is Theory and Principle, and why did you start it?

Theory and Principle is a software design and development firm focused exclusively on the legal industry.  Our mission is to make legal technology better.  As an industry, our principle focus to date has been on the function of our software and not the design of it.  So, my company provides end-to-end product design and development services, and we also consult with legal organizations that have existing apps on improving their user experience and design. 

I started Theory and Principle because I felt like legal technology had finally hit a tipping point where a shop like mine could really make an impact.  The number of organizations in the legal space (law firms, legal aid organizations, legal tech companies, corporate legal departments, etc.) that are building or are interested in building tech is certainly on the rise, and we have an opportunity with good design to make those products more impactful and successful.
2. What role do you think technology plays in improving the legal system?
Technology's most notable impacts on the legal industry are found in the creation of efficiencies for lawyers, better lawyer-client relationships, and the ability for consumers to engage in self-help. I think that covers the vast majority of legal technology right now. There's still a lot of untapped potential for technology to make a difference, especially when you think about government-run segments of our industry, like the courts. 


3. How should lawyers assess the utility and value of a new tech product, either one they are building or one they plan to use?

First, I'd always suggest that lawyers begin by looking at what's available off the shelf.  Make sure you can get a trial period of the software and be sure to use it (and watch others in your firm use it) as you would after you've purchased it.  You want to know that it feels intuitive with a little learning, otherwise you and your team will frustrated by it and give up.  

If your'e thinking about building a new tech product, the most important first step to take is to actually validate the product.  You do this by defining who you think the users of your product are, building out a low-fidelity version of your product, and testing it out with those users.  You may find that the value that your product offers isn't right for those users, which can mean you either have the wrong product or the wrong users.  Adjust and test until you find the right fit.  There's a lot of nuance to doing this properly, but it's something that you can learn over time.
4. What is the most important thing to keep in mind when building a new legal tech product?
Don't take any shortcuts when it comes to the design! This is the most common mistake in legal technology.  When budgets are tight, the first thing to go is design work. Organizations often opt for engineer-led design, which gets you to a vastly different result.  There's nothing more important to the success of a new product than good design (well, that and good marketing).  A good user interface pulls the user in and gets them to put in the work required of the product with as much delight and as little friction as possible.  It's a heavy task, and best accomplished by an experienced user experience and user interface designer (which can be one person or two different people).   
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