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A small group of John Marshall Law School alumni is smack dab in the middle of Chicago’s surging tech community, charting a course for a new business venture that is aimed at helping their colleagues in the legal profession.
Omar Sweiss (JD, ’09), Justin Strane (JD, ’10) and Alén Takhsh, (JD ’07) are CEO, COO and president, respectively, of Justice Bid LLC, an online legal services marketplace.
“Being a company founded by lawyers for lawyers, we’re very excited to be part of Chicago’s rapidly growing tech startup scene and all the opportunities it has to offer,” Strane said in an interview at Justice Bid’s offices on the 22nd floor of the Aon Building in Chicago.
Justice Bid launched last May and currently has five employees. It is signing up legal service providers nationwide to bid on and compete for projects posted anonymously by lawyers. Among the services that can be contracted through Justice Bid are document review, real estate appraisals, court reporting, data collection and document destruction. There is no cost for law firms, corporate legal departments or government agencies to post their legal services projects on the site. Justice Bid makes its money by charging providers a commission on projects won.
“I looked at the legal industry through the business lens and identified a strong need for a service like ours,” said Justice Bid founder Sweiss. “Shifting any paradigm always takes an ability to see things differently, and my legal training, combined with my business background ultimately led to the birth of Justice Bid.”
Each year, attorneys spend millions of dollars contracting with service providers to assist during litigation and other busy periods. Justice Bid is aiming to streamline the process for attorneys, thereby making outsourcing more efficient but also more cost-effective via the closed bidding process. With no obligation to award a bid, legal professionals anonymously post projects that describe their needs, and service providers reply with closed bids that allow the legal professionals to compare profiles, reviews, ratings, pricing, qualifications and detailed work proposals. By utilizing a closed legal bidding system, Justice Bid preserves the integrity of the marketplace and enhances competition.
Sweiss and Strane met during a Moot Court Honors Program when both were students at John Marshall, and Sweiss and Takhsk became good friends in law school and worked on several business projects together.
John Marshall Law School Professor Mary Nagel met the three as students.
“These gentlemen strove for excellence while in law school and now in their business,” said Nagel, noting that it was their foresight of the practical and financial impacts this service could provide that led to the new business.
“They surveyed litigators and the providers and found the means to streamline their services. They found how Justicebid.com could assist in those needs,” she said. “I was proud to know them as students and prouder still to see them use their business acumen and their law degrees to such success.”
In addition to his JD degree from John Marshall, Sweiss also holds an MBA and an LLM from Loyola University. He is a Chicago native and took over a family-owned commercial development company at the age of 22 after earning his MBA. He instituted a new business model at that company and grew it aggressively and successfully. Other entrepreneurial experiences have built his aptitude in marketing, management and finance.
Strane, from southeastern Michigan, received a bachelor’s in political science with a minor in music from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Takhsh received his BA in Economics from The University of Chicago in 2002. A native of Iran, Takhsh has lived in the Chicago area since 1992. He served as the Candidacy Editor of the Journal of Computer and Information Law (JCIL) and was a member of the successful team that represented the law school at the William C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration competition in Austria, Vienna, in 2006. As a practitioner he has had extensive litigation and trial experience and established his solo practice in 2011.
Sweiss said that the culture at John Marshall produces graduates who have a drive to succeed, to make sense of problems that need to be fixed and to move forward full-steam ahead.
“John Marshall doesn’t only put out lawyers, they put out lawyers with a hustler’s mentality,” he said.
John Marshall Professor Jason Kilborn said Justice Bid has a unique platform for bringing together lawyers and providers.
“As a law professor for over a decade and a large-firm practitioner, I can easily see JusticeBid.com revolutionizing the way document review, e-discovery and other routine law practice-related tasks are accomplished," said Kilborn, who practiced with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton and Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.
In just the early months since the launch, JusticeBid.com has signed up more than 100 service providers nationwide ready to offer their work product to the legal profession. The company’s focus for the first quarter of 2013 is to get the word out to attorneys, locally and nationally, and encourage them to take advantage of what Justice Bid has to offer.