FreshLease is an expert system helping landlords create a professional, up-to-date lease anytime, anywhere. They’ve built a sophisticated residential lease generator that they are constantly updating to meet the ever-changing state of the law and best practices. We interviewed attorney and founder Nick Graham, a partner at the law firm Strang Parish & Graham on his process and how he turned his expertise into a valuable and efficient tool for landlords. We also get a sneak peak into new content they’re building to inform and educate landlords.
Tell us about yourself in one sentence.
Husband and father with a knack for building systems that matter for people who care.
You recently launched a residential lease generator. Can you tell us about what you saw in the field that led you to want to set up an expert system for leases? What was the “a-ha” moment that led you to build an automation platform?
The problem: Landlords (particularly those self-managing properties) seldom call lawyers to draft residential leases. Instead, most Landlords search Google – or ask a well-meaning friend who did – and prepare their own. These leases are often outdated, poorly written, and expose Landlords to unnecessary liability.
The “ah-ha” moment: When clients use a lease I’ve drafted (which is routinely updated), they seldom have problems. And when they do, it makes my job easy. In my experience, most landlord/tenant litigation could have been avoided with a “better” lease. So, we built an automated platform where Landlords can access a professional, up-to-date lease on their own time and terms.
What steps did you go through to set up the platform?
Two things: we built a website, then connected a platform. The website conveys what we do and why Landlords should care. The platform was built, of course, on Documate (conditional logic, repeating variables, etc.). Documate allows the lease to become a “living” document that adapts to the Landlord’s needs. The rest is history.
What have been the most successful methods of marketing your automated platform?
To date, we’ve largely relied on word-of-mouth. That said, we’re launching a series of videos (tips, stories, legal updates, etc.) to raise awareness and – most importantly – trust. We’re very clear on who FreshLease is (and isn’t) for. We’re proud that FreshLease isn’t for every Landlord. So, we tell stories to Landlords that want to listen.
What does FreshLease do differently with its residential lease generator that brings unique value to your clients?
Attorney drafted leases are a dime a dozen. Smart Landlords aren’t impressed that a lawyer drafted the document. Rather, they seek a lease that is continually updated as laws and industry best practices change. We do that better than the rest.
What are the biggest mistakes you see lawyers make when drafting leases or other documents for clients?
We often quip that most leases prepared by attorneys bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the dusty file cabinets from the law offices which they came. Lawyers are busy practicing law. Carefully monitoring one specific area and updating their documents accordingly (without a paying client to bill) simply doesn’t happen.
Even worse, attorneys are occasionally exposed when their documents inadvertently use the wrong pronoun or – we’ve been told – the name of a former client. Ouch. With FreshLease, Members receive an up-to-date lease (incorporating the latest legal developments) and no embarrassing clerical errors (thanks Documate!).
Are there any books or podcasts that you recommend for lawyers who want to follow in your footsteps?
Books: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber. Argues quite convincingly that your systems (not your smarts) will determine your success. Also, Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself by Mike Michalowicz is another great book regarding “automating” any business (applies to a law practice, too).
Podcasts: Work the System with Josh Fonger discusses workings “on” your business rather than “in” your business. Akimbo with Seth Godin will challenge you to see things others miss (and other impressive riffs on making change happen).
What would you be doing if you weren’t a lawyer?
Finding interesting problems to solve, then building automated systems to deliver the solution.