New legal app began in MSU Law classroom

In his final year of law school, Andrew Johnston came face to face with the challenges of modern legal practice in Michigan State University College of Law's Entrepreneurial Lawyering course. And he started building a solution: a new app called StandIn that launched in June.

This geolocation-based application helps lawyers find and schedule attorneys for the multiple courtrooms where they must appear.

StandIn allows attorneys to reach out to other attorneys who are near the courthouse and willing to make a court appearance. Lawyers also post their payment requirements, and StandIn collects a flat fee of $7.50 per engagement, along with credit card fees.

"It really was part of that class," Johnston explained. "Everyone agreed that this was a problem, especially for solo and small firm attorneys."

The course is one of eight courses being developed integrating technology and business processes, all part of the new LegalRnD The Center for Legal Services Innovation. The courses are designed to help law students graduate prepared to take on the challenges of the 21st Century legal practice.

After graduation, the idea continued to grow, and Johnston found himself well on the way to becoming an entrepreneur.

"A lot of attorneys are interested," Johnston said. "We have grown to Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. It's really very promising."

He's working with fellow Toronto attorney MSU Law alumnus Peter Carayiannis, who met Johnston when he visited Entrepreneurial Lawyering at the invitation of Professor Renee Knake, who created the course in 2013. Supported by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the course brings entrepreneurs to campus to mentor students.

"I created the course to inspire and instruct students how to become entrepreneurs in the delivery of legal services," Knake explained. "Andrew's project is a terrific example of the projects developed by students. Here at Michigan State, we don't simply educate students about the law, we provide opportunities for them to roll up their sleeves and immediately engage in the law, whether in a course like Entrepreneurial Lawyering, our clinics, or our externship program."

For Johnston and Carayiannis, along with entrepreneur Aron Solomon, the business plan calls for growing the app beyond Toronto and Detroit and refining the technology. It is available in Apple's App Store. The team hopes to release an Android-based model soon.

While his app grows, Johnston is completing a master of laws at the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and working for Oxford Properties.

"I never thought I'd develop an app for lawyers, but this experience has shown me a whole new side of the law, which is very exciting," Johnston said.

Published: Tue, Aug 18, 2015