Gables-based Assembly Legal Began as a Software Created by a UM Grad to Manage Caseloads. Now it Serves 2,500 Law Firms Nationwide.
University of Miami Law School grad Robb Steinberg had a massive case to tackle back in the 1990s, involving more than one million documents. He needed better software to manage the load, so he invented it and started a company in Coral Gables to offer his product to trial lawyers like himself.
Fast forward 25 years, and Steinberg’s tech company Trialworks is linked with another firm that also makes software for a lawyer niche under a new name, Assembly Legal. The combined venture is expanding fast. It added some 50 employees in 2021 to reach 130 nationwide. That total includes 35 people based at the Gables headquarters, says Daniel Farrar, CEO since March 2021.
The key to growth? A new strategy under new owners. New York investment group Ridge Road Partners bought Gables’ Trialworks and Baltimore’s Needles in 2017 to create Assembly Legal. Now, the group aims to shift their software business from selling products housed at law firms to offering a service based in the cloud. Subscriptions run about $95 per user per month, says Farrar.
The shift presents challenges, however, says Farrar. Trialworks and Needles have been selling their software to be kept on premises, offering new versions periodically. Lawyers, paralegals, and other users are accustomed to that format. Converting to a cloud-based version that updates continually requires some investment and training in slightly different software – a process that can take months. “The firms with the smoothest implementations prepare for the change,” says Farrar, scheduling time for training, and reconfiguring databases, and convert unique features of their software.
Today, Assembly Legal serves some 42,000 users in 2,500 law firms nationwide. Customers are mainly attorneys representing plaintiffs – the people initiating lawsuits. Among those clients: personal injury attorney Alejandro Uriarte, a Gables resident who leads Miami-based Uriarte Law Firm.
Uriarte adopted Assembly’s software to better organize files and simplify communication at his firm. He likes how it lets staffers work on the same file simultaneously and tag one another to show what they’ve done. And he appreciates how Assembly’s team customized his initial on-premises product and then assigned someone to train his staff and customize his new cloud-based service called Neos. “It’s been amazing so far,” says Uriarte, whose 14 staff members all use the software. “And for the migration to the cloud, there were a lot of meetings, but it was not hard at all.”
CEO Farrar says Assembly’s new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model has the potential to significantly boost users, revenues, and profits. The company does not disclose financials, but he estimates the U.S. market for plaintiff-lawyer software alone at $550 million a year.
An engineer with a Harvard MBA, Farrar comes to Assembly Legal from California, with strong experience in finance and SaaS business. He’s worked with GE Capital and private-equity firm Morganthaler led SaaS ventures OpenLane and Switchfly, and ran SaaS operations globally for telecom company Mitel.
While Farrar heads the Gables-based company from San Francisco (he visits about twice monthly) he is currently looking for a home here and other real estate in South Florida. And though he’s hiring many SaaS specialists, Farrar says he values those who built and upgraded Needles and Trialworks for decades.