Connect Spotlight: Hopkins

Posted: 4 Mar 2021

Connect and Hopkins first linked up last year, and we were immediately impressed with how this budding company was bringing legal services to the masses through technology. Its software uses algorithms to predict case outcomes and optimal negotiation strategies, collaborating with engineers, lawyers, and legal strategists to ensure the best outcome for both lawyers and consumers. Think of it as transferring legal knowledge from lawyers’ brains into code. Pretty cool, right?

So far, Hopkins is only available in Germany and is quickly growing to be one of the most trusted legal resources in the country. An expansion to Europe and beyond is in the cards, and we can’t wait for the world to enjoy its groundbreaking benefits. In the meantime Sitar, one of our partners at Connect, sat down with Hopkins Co-Founder & CEO, Simon Wolff, to discuss their journey, from their fast growth and rave customer reviews to what lies ahead. Enjoy the full conversation below.

Sitar Teli: Simon, thanks for sitting down to chat. Let’s start from the beginning: what’s the origin story of Hopkins; when did you start the company and why?

Simon Wolff: I met Arend, my Co-Founder, while he was working at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the largest European B2B law firm (and one of the largest in the world). I was working on my first company, which served a small niche within the legal B2C market. Arend started telling me about the B2B world, which has professional, well-oiled, global, multi-billion dollar businesses and brands. I was coming from the B2C world, which looks very different. It’s very fragmented, local, lacks transparency, and doesn’t have a single strong, global brand. We always joke that the last innovation in the B2C legal world was the advent of fax machines; that’s basically the state of technology in this market. The excitement we felt about the opportunity to close this gap between the development of the B2B and B2C law worlds led to the foundation of Hopkins.

ST: Let’s unpack that a bit further. Can you tell us more about the problem Hopkins is solving?

SW: The problem is that in the legal B2C world, lawyers are perceived as a luxury. The German Constitution — as well as many other constitutions in democratic nations — states that “all persons shall be equal before the law” and we actually don’t think that’s currently the case. In reality, people with more buying power can afford better legal services and will have a higher probability of success.

We want to give first-class legal services to everyone. Just like only wealthy people could afford cars in the past and it’s now more accessible to everyone, we want to make legal services affordable for all.

The way we make that possible is through our technology, productising legal advice and legal services across every typical consumer law claim, effectively turning something which used to be a service into a product.

ST: Democratising access to justice through product; it’s so poetic. Speaking of product… As you know, Connect is obsessed with product, and we back “opinionated products, crafted with love and loved by many.” Can you tell us how Hopkins is an opinionated product?

SW: That’s easy: Just ask every lawyer out there if their job could be automated, and they will all say it’s impossible. When we said we can actually automate and productise legal advice, nobody believed us. We feel that it’s certainly not simple but very much possible. Software continues to eat the world, even the most guarded and “remote” places like the legal industry. That’s what makes us an opinionated product.

ST: It is possible, and it is the future! Building on that, why do customers and employees love Hopkins?

SW: For our customers, we often get them through some of the most difficult situations in their lives. When others have turned them away, we’ve come to help. Our clients often can’t believe how lucky they were to find us. Just yesterday, a client wrote a review about us on Trustpilot, saying we saved his life.

For our team members, I think it’s highly motivating to be able to help so many people and see how thankful they are. At the same time, it’s inspiring to rebuild the way these services are delivered from the ground up, productising knowledge that has been guarded by an elite club of lawyers for centuries. Everyone at Hopkins is doing real, pioneering work.

ST: Absolutely. And in revolutionising the way people access legal services, you’ve likely faced some challenges. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered to date?

SW: I think the biggest challenge, and at the same time our biggest strength, is balancing technology and human touch. It’s very challenging to turn this market around solely through technology because legal claims are often highly sensitive topics and clients appreciate some kind of human touch. We could actually automate a lot more than what we currently do, but it’s not what the customers want. I think that trade-off between automation through technology and making clients happy all while growing very quickly is what’s both most challenging and most exciting.

ST: We’ve spoken about the challenges, now let’s look at what’s ahead. What’s the vision for the future of Hopkins?

SW: People always think about going to a lawyer as a last resort when really, it should be very normal. Just as you get professional help with your haircut — at least most people do! — you should get professional help with your legal questions. In fact, there’s often much more at stake.

Quite simply, we want to be every individual’s go-to, most trusted firm for every legal issue they might encounter. We want to make getting legal help as normal as going to the hairdresser.

ST: So true. You’ve been a founder before. What are you most proud of in your journey so far?

SW: There are many things, from the team that we built to the product and productisation we have achieved so far, and of course, all the customer feedback we get on a daily basis. We currently have over 700 5-star reviews on Trustpilot. That’s something we’re very proud of. I think what astonishes me the most is how fast we’ve achieved that.

It’s been less than 1.5 years, and we’ve already built what might be the largest consumer law firm in Germany. There’s still so much to do, but I find that very exhilarating.

ST: That is breakneck speed. It must warm your heart when you see you’re actually changing people’s lives when a year and a half ago you weren’t even here yet. Do you ever get used to that?

SW: It’s certainly a great motivator but I think it’s important that we remind ourselves every day not to get used to it. “Complacency is the enemy of progress,” as they say. We could probably celebrate our successes much more but I feel like when we reach milestones or get positive feedback, we’re usually already working on the next thing.

ST: You gave us the privilege of joining this journey with you guys last year. What is the most valuable thing Connect has done for you and Hopkins?

SW: Above all, I think it’s the relentless push to focus on product. While many other investors would focus on more short-term results like monthly growth rates, you’ve always really pushed us to think long-term about the product and how it will enable growth. And it has really paid off. We grew our revenue 7x in the last year, and I think a very large part of that is because we focused on product and the scalability of our processes.

ST: Fantastic. Let’s turn this around to products that you love. What are some products, hardware or software, that you can’t live without?

SW: Not just right now but ever since it has existed, I couldn’t live without Google Maps. I’m notoriously bad at geography and navigating in the physical world, so this is a product that has probably saved my life a few times.

ST: And we’re glad it has! Final question: what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself in this journey?

SW: It might be a cliché, but I’ve learned that in the end, building a company, just like life, is a marathon, made up of sprints. The key is to just continue building and to never give up. Everything compounds, from what you physically or digitally create to the people you meet. I’ve learned that whatever I do is a stepping stone on a long journey, and that’s how we build Hopkins, as well.

What a way to end this! Thank you for letting us be on this journey with you. We can’t wait to see what Hopkins does next.