Hay from a Hated Task: 2 Big-Firm Refugees Offer Online Help for Contract Signings
By Maria Kantzavelos
Nov 1, 2012, 06:50 am CDT
What was once the bane of their existence as junior associates is now the cornerstone of a new startup for two major law firm refugees-turned-entrepreneurs.
Edwin Hermawan, 27, and Andrew Knepley, 31, got together earlier this year to form Signature Pages, a Web-based software offering that creates, sends out, collects and tracks all the signature pages for a completed contract.
Hermawan says the technology tool, which deals with contract signature pages that are hand-signed, automates an unnecessarily tedious task that has been considered a rite of passage for many of his former first-year counterparts at big firms. The graduate of the UCLA School of Law came up with the idea for the application after he was laid off from his associate position in the banking and securities law practice at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel. “I couldn’t fall asleep one night,” Hermawan recalls. “I took a pen and pad and started designing.” He says he dipped into his severance pay from the law firm to “finally create something” and make a go of it as an entrepreneur. The fledgling firm is currently based in his New York City apartment.
Knepley, who got his JD from the University of Michigan and had worked as an associate practicing structured finance and corporate law at the now-defunct Thacher Proffitt & Wood, was looking to break into the startup world after he returned from a stint managing projects in the global risk and compliance department of the legal services company Pangea3 in Mumbai, India.
He answered Hermawan’s Craigs-list ad and now handles business development for Signature Pages Inc. This summer the company was in the process of integrating its product into one large and one midsize New York firm, according to the co-founders.
“It is a lot of legwork,” Knepley says, “but to me I’m building a different set of skills than I was building as a lawyer. I’m enjoying it.”
Hermawan says the software standardizes a manual process that took up at least half his time as a first-year associate. His task at the closing of a deal involved making signature pages one by one for each transaction with lots of cutting and pasting, fussing with formatting, creating PDFs, sending out each signature page and slotting the returned pages into agreements, hoping no signatures were omitted.
“To be honest, it’s a lot of anxiety,” Hermawan says. “You quadruple-check it, then you dream about it.” The startup, Knepley says, aims to alleviate that stress, help the deal close faster, and “let lawyers be lawyers.”
“We just hope to become another tool to help lawyers standardize their practice,” Knepley says, “do it better and focus on higher-level, sophisticated tasks.”