By: Sierra Butler & Clayton P. Jackson
Named by the ABA as the number-one legal startup in the country for 2018, Book-It Legal is singlehandedly changing the way law students and attorneys across the country view the student clerkship.
What is Book-It Legal?
In a nutshell, Book-It Legal is the Uber of law student clerkships. Book-It’s platform allows top law students to bid on paid legal projects posted by licensed attorneys from across the country. Book-It gives law students the flexibility to bid on the projects they want — and to work at their own pace.
Traditionally, top law students seek to work for large firms as summer associates following their 2L year. These positions are highly coveted: they pay well, and sometimes even lead to full-time employment upon graduation. But this system has also been the status quo for decades — even as technology empowers firms to streamline many of the outdated and time-consuming processes that were required to keep the lights on. Now enter Jack West, CEO of Book-It Legal, who wants to throw a wrench in what he views as an antiquated system in desperate need of innovation.
Mr. West’s own experience as both a law student and a young associate ultimately inspired the idea behind Book-It Legal. “Book-It definitely came out of my experience as a law student trying to get my foot in the door somewhere. But it also came out of my experience practicing in a firm in Birmingham where we had clerks for around six or eight weeks each summer. Once they went back to school, all of that work fell back on the young associates — including me. I thought that it would have been really nice to be able to get a sharp law student working on that kind of project whenever it was needed,” said Mr. West.
Mr. West calls his innovative idea the “microclerkship.” Whatever you call it, Book-It Legal is starting to pick up steam as law students and practitioners from around the country take notice of its innovative platform.
Clayton Jackson, a 2L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and co-author of this article, has been using Book-It-Legal for six months. “Book-It Legal has provided me with a unique way to supplement my income — something I am sure law students across the country can appreciate. But more importantly, Book-It Legal has provided me the opportunity to work on several different paid research and writing projects. From writing blog posts to drafting substantive research memoranda, the sheer range of projects available on Book-It Legal is remarkable.
As a small firm practitioner, I am continuously looking for ways to increase productivity and keep overhead low without sacrificing the services provided to my clients. In December 2017, I came across Book-It Legal and decided to give it a try. I’ve posted substantive legal research and writing projects, marketing projects, and this opportunity to co-author an article for my local bar association. The experience has been fantastic. The students whom I selected to work on my projects produced top notch work in a timely manner. Having access to these students and their work product is something I could not have obtained on my own.
How does Book-It Legal’s platform work?
It’s simple. First, you create a free account online at bookitlegal.com. From there, you simply post your project by providing a brief description of the work, the price, and the estimated hours you think it will take to complete the work. Next, the project will go live, and top law students from around the country will bid for it — at which point you can select the right candidate for the job.
Once the project is approved, Book-It Legal holds the price of the project in escrow pending successful completion of the project. Once the student has uploaded their work product, you then have the chance to evaluate their work using a 5-star rating system. After you accept the work product and rate the student’s efforts, the student gets paid through either an electronic check (ACH) or through Venmo (a popular electronic payment application).
Mr. West wanted to ensure that both creating an account and posting projects were entirely free.
“All an attorney needs to do to use Book-It Legal is to create an account, which is free. Whenever they need to get a hand from a law student, whether it’s research, blog posts or reviewing documents — all they have to do is post a project, which is also free. It’s only at the point — in which they actually engage a student to start working on a project — does the attorney have to pay,” said Mr. West.
But what happens when a student submits substandard work product?
According to Mr. West, this situation is extremely rare. In fact, of the almost 100 successful projects that Book-It has handled, only two involved situations where the attorney wasn’t completely satisfied. “We’ve only had two instances where an attorney wasn’t fully satisfied,” said Mr. West. “In both of those situations we offered to fully refund the attorney’s money.”
What’s next for Book-It Legal?
In little over a year, Book-It Legal has grown from virtually unknown to the number one legal startup in the country. Currently, Book-It Legal’s platform reaches law students at 20 different law schools, the bulk of which are located in the Southeast. On the attorney side, Book-It Legal currently has member attorneys in 15 different states. And as these numbers continue to grow, Jack West and the rest of his team continue to look for unique ways to make the platform even more useful to both law students and attorneys.
Simply put, the “microclerkship” is advantageous for everyone involved. For law students, they get the unique opportunity to work on paid short-term legal projects — gaining much needed income and invaluable work experience. For attorneys, they get the short-term help they so desperately need from a host qualified law students at a price of their choosing. That seems like a win-win to us.
1. Clayton Jackson is a 2L at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. A special thanks to Jack West (CEO of Book-It Legal) and Dan Tidwell (CTO of Book-It Legal) for sitting down with me for an interview.
2. See Robert Ambrogi, Announcing The Winners of The 2018 ABA TECHSHOW Startup Alley Competition, Above the Law (Dec. 18, 2017, 6:31 PM), https://abovethelaw.com/2017/12/announcing-the-winners-of-the-2018-aba-techshow-startup-alley-competition/.