top of page

LexTalk World Talk Show with Ryan Mendonca, Founder of Your Virtual Legal Counsel.



Ryan was born and raised in Dubai and is originally from Goa, India. He is the founder of Your Virtual Legal Counsel (YVLC.legal) a one-stop-legal-tech solution for Startups, Solopreneurs, and SMEs. He functions as the head corporate legal advisor and brings legal solutions from a commercial aspect. He works with founders based in America, Africa, Dubai, India, and the MENA region. He is a Corporate IP Lawyer and has experience in various sectors such as FMCG & Emerging Technology, Trademarks & Copyrights, Food & Beverage, Tobacco & Alcohol, Health & Fitness. He has worked with startups, law firms as well as corporations that have a global presence. Most recently he was the Sole Legal Counsel with Cult.fit an Indian-based VC-backed tech Startup that expanded to UAE. He assists startups with drafting their contracts, structuring their corporate entities, and navigating them through the legalities of their business. Aside from being the founder of YVLC, Ryan is also the founder of the Dubai Legal Professionals - UAE group, which is a community for lawyers and law students from UAE to network globally. He also actively mentors young lawyers in their careers and early-stage startups. He frequently gives talks at law schools and incubators. Your Virtual Legal Counsel (YVLC) is a Virtual Legal Consultancy that helps innovative startups, driven entrepreneurs and SMEs in the tech space, with all things legal. We do this with a holistic approach that delivers insane value to our clients. Our mission is to make high-quality legal advice more accessible to businesses. Our Vision is to redefine possibilities by empowering others to use their potential and be fulfilled in their journey. YVLC believes in serving the world remotely and available 24*365. We work out of USA, India, UAE & Portugal. We have legal counsels in over 25 countries. We want to reinvent the meaning of legal freedom by improving access to legal advice with a frictionless service. It's been over a year since our journey began, and we're just getting started. We are on the lookout for partner VLCs with previous in-house counsel experience and subject matter expertise in tech spaces such as Foodtech, Fintech, Edtech, Insuratech, E-Commerce, Blockchain, Adtech and Agritech. In the past few years and especially since Covid-19, the nature of work has changed and remote work is a reality causing a lot of experienced lawyers to start up on their own or join a start-up. We, therefore, believe that the timing is right for YVLC, and we hope to create a justice league of tech legal professionals.


INTERVIEW:


Host: How did you go from being an in-house counsel to a virtual legal counsel? What is a VLC and what made you do it?


Ryan: First, I will get into how I started being in in-house counsel, which was, with my experience as a private practice lawyer in intellectual property, a fair bit in corporate law and working with a legaltech startup in India. That gave me the exposure and, experience to be an in-house counsel, for a global FMCG conglomerate and a high-powered VC backed tech startup in Dubai. After covid happened and the way companies adopted a work from home, I thought that it would be, the natural progression of a corporate lawyer in this post pandemic world, where we can act as an in-house counsel or a private practice lawyer for multiple clients while being fully remote, fully independent, and helping them and working for them on different aspects of their legal requirements. I felt that working as a remote in-house counsel, for multiple startups on a fractional basis is essentially what, being a virtual legal counsel was.


I wanted to have the freedom, to be able to travel, to be able to work from wherever. That is what was happening, in the beginning of Covid, when everybody went fully remote. It was something that I not only, embraced, but also imbibed, as a part of the ethos for what I wanted to build for the next 5, 10, 15, years to come.

It was the perfect merger between my lawyering skills as an in-house legal practitioner, and wanting to travel live abroad, work from different places and see all that this beautiful world has to offer. It just made perfect sense for me to be a virtual legal counsel which is essentially why I did it. I knew that being a virtual general counsel or an in-house legal counsel on an ongoing basis, for multiple start-ups, SMEs and solopreneurs, was the next big thing in legal services.


Host: What were the first few assignments that you took on and how have your service offerings changed over time?


Ryan: When I first started out, I started with, reviewing and drafting agreements, for clients as an individual solo practitioner, this slowly developed into building their website policies, drafting their standard contracts for them to set up their businesses. Soon after, came, a couple of the first few, virtual legal counsel gigs where I was their ongoing in-house lawyer and helped them research their policies in terms of internal documentation, structured their company, made sure that they were compliant with different laws and regulations that they needed to follow in different jurisdictions. The first, such interesting client was into crypto and gaming. I had to help them understand the different gaming, gambling and cryptocurrency regulations that existed in certain countries and which were the most favourable for them, and which jurisdictions made sense for them to incorporate and structure their entiy, get licenses and permissions and, making sure that they were able to go-live by their deadline. This just spiralled into, me making a package where I provided them the service of being an in-house on a fractional basis, on an hourly basis where clients were purchasing blocks of my time on a monthly basis.


We now have virtual legal counsel plans, we have even called them different names and, uniquely priced them. They are all on our website, but essentially how they are broken down is by providing clients unlimited contract drafting, and reviewing and revisions. The next is where we add contract negotiation. We basically help clients negotiate their contracts with third parties, whether it is, with a service provider or with a partner, or even internally at times with somebody who is joining their company as maybe a CEO or CTO. The third plan is where we include the service of intellectual property registration, portfolio management, IP strategy, and protection. The last plan is where we provide everything under the sun that a seasoned in-house counsel would and more, which includes corporate structuring, corporate governance, legal compliance, and so on and so forth.


This is how we've transitioned from doing one-off transactional work, bespoke contracts, a few trademarks registrations, and one or two corporate structuring into something well laid out and properly planned out. All these plans are monthly plans that clients can take on a month-to-month basis, change up or down as per needed based on the services that they require.


Host: How do you see remote working and virtual consultancy in the next 3 - 5 years? Here to stay or has it already reverted to pre-pandemic work culture?


Ryan: My view on being a virtual legal counsel since the past two years has been incredible. The journey has been amazing. I have travelled to so many countries in the past couple of years. I have worked out of the US in Seattle, out of Europe while exploring Portugal, out of my home in Dubai, as well as parts of Southeast Asia in Vietnam, Bali, Thailand. So, working from different places is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a virtual legal counsel for me, and I feel it is a different thrill of working from somewhere spectacular and at the same time, making money, doing work for clients, helping them, protecting them, and making sure that we are always watching over their back, regardless of where we are, regardless of what we are doing, whether we are on vacation, which is almost never. Traveling and working on client deliverables, never used to happen back in the days when we had the need and requirement to sit in an office, be behind a desk, and sit out of a specific place, which I feel is no longer the case. This is changing for the most part in tech companies, startups and even big consulting compannies. But for the majority it is not transitioning into fully remote work life, or a hybrid model and back to work in person. However there are plenty of good companies and SMEs and start-ups are imbibing the work from home model.


This not the case, in the legal and, professional field, everybody is being asked to either come to work from the office at least once in a while, and many have a elaborate policy and a plan for how hybrid work is to be carried out, especially with tier one or tier two law firms and top companies.


I think it is and it will continue to be the new normal for some start-ups, well-known companies, and Fortune 500 companies. For whatever reason, either it is coming from all the way at the top or from your immediate superior, there is some level of requirement for them to see you working, see you not wasting time, see you doing assigned tasks, that gives them a certain level of comfort and convenience in terms of their managerial skills.


What needed to change, is not necessarily the mindset, but also the way in which people manage other people. If managerial skills were to change and develop with the use of technology, for instance, providing a certain level of training and autonomy. If people were trained and given certain requirements and tasks to fulfill and they fulfilled them, allow them have their lunch break at home, go and pick up their kids if they needed to from school and, be back for their, five o'clock meeting and so on and so forth. I am all for allowing employees, the partners, whoever, however high, up, their job title, to be able to do their jobs entirely remotely. With as much autonomy as they should have, to be empowered to do their work. At times, whether you are remote or are in person because your manager does not give you enough level of autonomy, you must keep checking with that person. All these checks ins and micromanaging at times either demotivate the employee and they stray away from doing as you’d want and abuse their freedom.


Host: What drives you to do what you do and where do you plan to take your virtual firm in the short, mid and long term?


Ryan: This is a good question and it is good to be asking the founder of the organization, that question. Whilst I fully recognize that, we are a young and nimble team, but we can deliver very high-quality legal support within a very short turnaround time and that too at a reasonable price. This is because we have understood certain things about our clients and at the same time, we also understand that we bring a very different skill map that is unique and unparalleled to other law firms or other in-house legal services.


Our immediate future plans are to bring on, five virtual legal counsel partners who will be the foodtech Virtual Legal Ccounsel, e-commerce VLC, blockchain, MarTech, EdTech, and so on and so forth. These tech niches are not in any order of priority. We will form a Justice League of Super Tech Lawyers, that will own their own domain, have their own tech niche, and we will build a portfolio of clientele around each vertical. So, as opposed to having, banking and finance department in a traditional law firm here, we choose to have a FinTech vertical with the FinTech VLC Partner that has subject matter expertise and who has been in three to four or maybe more FinTech companies as an in-house counsel. Who better to advise multiple FinTech companies.


We want to be able to launch a prototype or a beta version of a Legal DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) for our first five virtual legal counsels that come on board and we are looking to do this, by the end of 2023. We will first pilot it with these first five, and then subsequently bring on five more virtual legal counsels and they will just add on to the different tech niches that YVLC will cover.


The next and most important thing that I feel very passionate about and is mentoring. It is one of the reasons why I'm already starting to mentor young lawyers and young start-ups, to launch the YVLC Academy where we will teach young lawyers and experienced legal professionals that want to become virtual legal counsels and take their skills online. We will help them build their own brand and find their own clientele because we understand that maybe not everybody will, imbibe and grow to our same ethos and same mentality and be part of the YVLC culture. We would still want to be able to teach them and help them learn the tricks of the trade and understand what it is that they need to be doing and how they need to be positioning themselves with maybe starting with setting up their own website, going up on YouTube, doing things that ordinarily lawyers of their age and demography are not necessarily doing to build a successful digital presence.


These are our short to midterm plans that we have or visions and goals that we have put out. But, in terms of our long-term goals, that stems from our vision to redefine the possibilities by empowering others to use their potential and be more fulfilled in their journey. We at the same time want to achieve and aim to achieve this by focusing on our mission, which is to help innovative entrepreneurs gain the autonomy and freedom, as they're redefining the market standard.


We feel that the clients that we have, the people that work with us are all innovative entrepreneurs, and we would want them to have the freedom as they continue to keep innovating and pushing the envelope. The last thing that we feel is we believe that staying true to our core values, we have five core values that's up on our website. Also, by following our guiding principle, we will be able to achieve our big hairy audacious goal, which is to advise 10,000 start-ups, solopreneurs, and SMEs by the year 2025, to enable a happier and more fulfilled business community. This is as far as into the future as I have seen, and by then I believe we should already have our own virtual office built in the metaverse sometime in the future.


Host: In the era of legal technology, what are the most commonly used tools for you?


Ryan: Till date, we have not invested heavily into legal technology. There are quite a few tools that we do use that we love using, for example, we use Calendly to schedule our meetings,. I'm sure a lot of you know about Calendly and use it every now and again. But at the same time, there are so many lawyers, so many professionals that a may not be familiar with how Calendly works, even though it's pretty simple.


Similarly, I have done away with physical business card. I use either a ‘linktree’ which is one link that auto populates a whole list of links to maybe my YouTube, LinkedIn, email address, WhatsApp. It's an digital link that I can send to anybody anywhere and they can be connected with me, as much or as little as I'd like. They can see much more than what would be there on a plain business card. I can go so far as to put as much color and design elements to it.


So, it's so much more flexible. I moved on to using ‘milkshake’, which is another, similar tool to make a virtual business card. Now we have our own physical business cards that are digital business cards known as NFC cards that one can physically tap and everything is auto-populates in somebody else's phone.

Another tool that we use is Google Workspace, Google meets, for sharing documents with clients. We work on Google Docs and even have, multiple rounds of revisions and iterations where we leave comments and everything is all on the one document that we have created.


The one big investment that we have done and made in terms of legal tech is more in terms of our improved new website, where we have laid out the plans and all the different types of testimonials that our lovely clients have given us, whether in audio, video, and written form.


We've explained all the lovely things that we've done and accomplished in our deals and cases. We've also talked about our lovely team that we've built. We've all come together to build that team, to make that website what it is today, and we are very, proud of, the investment we've made.


Host: Time is money in any profession and in legal it is most of all. How do you ensure to make the best of your time as a lawyer?


Ryan: What I would say is that whilst time is money and money is important, money isn't everything. Coming back to how to use your time, whether as a lawyer, as a legal professional, or just as a human being, I feel doing more of what is it that you enjoy, that you love, whether it's traveling, being with family, cooking, eating, working out, any of those things or hundred other things that I couldn't even possibly have the time to name, it's important that you find time to do those things and I won't say that the rest will take care of itself because it won't. When you look at managing your time or looking at time management as a skill, it is something that you need to do conscientiously. You must figure out when do you want to work or when are you are at your optimal, when do you want to interact and meet other people, when do you want to take breaks, what do you want to do in those breaks, when do you want to get back to working, what are things that you want to do that is related to your work but is not billable. There are lots of things that I do on a day-to-day basis that no client is paying me to do, but it is my job to be doing. Whilst it is very important to be managing your time and to be doing things that you love and enjoy, it is also important to make time to do the things that you need to be doing to level-up. Because there are a lot of things that you may have to do that you do not get paid for.


Just like this interview for example, you know, getting this interview done, making the time to set up this interview, it was incredible and took time away. But I am thankful to you for giving me this opportunity and I am really, happy that I was able to answer these questions and you get to know a little bit more about YVLC.legal and what it is all about.

 

#lawfirmstrategy#lawfirmmarketing#lawfirmmanagement#lawfirmgrowth#lawfirmleadership#legaltech#legalindustry#legal#legalmanager#legalknowledge#legalmarketing#legaleducation#legaladvice#legalcommunity#legalmatters#legalcounsel#legaldocuments#legalconsulting#legalai#legalcloud#lawtech#lawyers#lawpractice#lawupdates#laws#lawnews#lawenforcement

 

Follow LexTalk World for more news and updates from International Legal Industry.

 

23 views

Comments


bottom of page