In Conversation with: Ryan Mendonca – A startup legal counsel who left his job at a tech startup to start an innovative concept of being Your Virtual Legal Counsel, under his Virtual Law Firm

This interview has been published by Prabhjot Singh, Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

Tell us about yourself-what motivated you to choose law as a career path?

I was interested in law early on in my childhood as would watch legal dramas like “Boston Legal”, “Law & Order” and ofcourse my all-time favourite legal show “Suits”. What interested me was how the lawyers helped their clients, fought for them in & out of court and delivered justice in some way shape or form.

Its ironic how back then I saw these lawyers as superheroes and fast-forward a decade or so, and I am being interviewed as a Super Lawyer, its funny how life comes full-circle.

However, besides the legal dramas, I also realised, very early on, that there were laws for everything and at every milestone in one’s life, right from birth certificates, to school rules, to employment law once you start a job, to corporate law if and when you start a business, to when you get married and buy a house, until you’re “dead and gone” or “6 feet under”.

The Law is interwoven into the fabric of life and I felt that learning the law and my knowledge in the legal domain would give me that edge in life and would always be advantageous.

Ryan, you worked as a remote lawyer during covid, how was that experience and what type of difficulties did you faced?

Yes, I did work remotely in Dubai, as an in-house counsel for a high-powered, VC-backed Indian based startup, it was an eye-opening experience to say the least, whilst it was one of the most testing and unsure time for me, career-wise, mentally and physically. It was not easy doing and getting what I needed to get done.

I do feel that it was an absolute privilege and once-in-a-lifetime experience to be the Sole Legal Counsel, setting up the legal operations, running it for a good 6 months, and then shutting it all down post-lock-down.

On the bright side it did give me the confidence to open my own shop and accelerated my career into the natural progression of being a lawyer and starting my own virtual law firm, in this new-remote-friendly world we live in.

What was and is the main USP behind your firm “YVLC”, and how do you manage your work since you have clients with different time zones? Do you believe the remote work model is going to stay in the future?

Offering the service of an experienced in-house legal counsel on a fractional basis for multiple startups allowed startups to operate with the mental freedom that their legal is being taken care off, this was YVLC’s USP starting out.

Now that we are on-boarding multiple Virtual Legal Counsels who are subject matter experts in their respective tech niche, such as E-commerce, Food-tech, Blockchain, Ed-tech and Prop-tech, we are creating a “Justice League” (pun intended) of Super Lawyers that will advise clients in their field of tech with relative ease and offer a more specialized legal advisory.

All while being fully-remote, fully-autonomous and with the necessary tech infrastructure in place to do what we legal counsels do best. Provide legal solutions that are commercially viable.

What is the biggest hurdle most attorneys face in bringing in new business at present times?

This is a tough question for me to answer as I dont feel there’s just one main challenge, it is a mix of the following in no particular order and may not apply to all attorneys: Building a strong online presence, having a healthy pipeline of new client meetings, being very personable and impressive to new clients such that they close with you, pricing their services or hourly rates and lastly doing all of this successfully through a screen or on audio only meetings or at times without even speaking to the client at all.

What’s the biggest threat to a solo or small law firm’s survival over the next 10 years? What should they be doing now to prepare?

Investing in Tech, Building a Brand, Not getting caught up in the day to day wins and losses and instead having a long term goal, vision and plan to make it a reality. Most solo lawyers or small law firms start for the sake of starting and making something for their own selfish intentions of having a bigger slice of the pie or more like having their cake and eating it too.

What are your future plans with YVLC academy and how can professionals be benefited with this initiative?

We are planning to provide legal professionals the tools and teach them the tricks of the trade of how to be a solo digital lawyer. We want to help them reach their potential and achieve their goals no matter how small or gargantuan they may be.

We want to empower lawyers and give them the tech infrastructure, a starting platform and the motivation and inspiration to have a successful legal career.

Law students often get confused between these big tech platforms such as Fintech, agritech and other startups, what advice would you give to them for having a better sense of clarity wrt same?

Read about them from credible sources, watch interesting you tube videos, listen to popular niche tech startup podcasts and last but not least work in those tech spaces that interest them and that they want to learn more about. There is no better way to learn something than by doing it.

Get in touch with Ryan Mendonca


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