Eve Barrett couldn’t believe there wasn’t app for that.
Barrett, a decorated U.S. Army veteran and entrepreneur, had been an eyewitness to a major problem in her post-military career, court reporting. The issue? Court hearings, depositions and legal proceedings, in Tampa and beyond, were constantly being delayed and sometimes canceled because attorneys, law firms and court administrators couldn’t find just-in-time court reporters.
A court reporter for two decades who founded her own firm, Dunedin-based Barrett Court Reporting, in 2007, Barrett, 49, saw the predicament from both sides as a breakdown in communication/connections: She and other court reporters were missing out on potential freelance work, while attorneys had to scramble after not finding a court reporter. Exacerbating the problem is an acute nationwide shortage of trained court reporters. “It happens two, three, four times a week: We get a frantic call from an attorney saying they need a court reporter, and we have to say, ‘Sorry, we can’t help,’” Barrett says, because they don’t have the manpower.
Barrett researched the shortage and was rather surprised when she discovered, even in the age of apps for everything, no one had devised a technical disruption-focused solution. The resourceful Barrett — she’s completed 17 marathons, four Ironman races and the Escape for Alcatraz swim race — created her own solution: Expedite, a Tampa-based on-demand mobile app and desktop platform for the legal industry — the Uber of court reporters.
“We’ve seen other industries adopt this model,” says Jim Barrett, Eve Barrett’s husband and Expedite’s COO. “You can get a dog walker over an app. You can get a ride over an app, and you could even get booze over an app. We think it’s time for the legal industry to adopt this model.”
Eve Barrett founded Expedite in April 2018, and the app followed later in December 2018. With a goal, she says, to increase productivity and profitability for everyone in the legal industry while eliminating inefficiencies, Expedite works a lot like a ride-sharing app. Attorneys, law firms and court personnel can fill out a form on the app to request services, with date, place and job details. In addition to court reporting, Expedite will match related service providers, such as court videographers and interpreters, with legal entities.
On the flip side, a court reporter, often an IRS-1099 freelancer, can create an Expedite profile for the work they seek. They receive a push or text notification when a potential job comes in. The offer includes the price the legal entity will pay for the work.
The app is free for court reporters. Expedite makes money off a fee, usually 20%, it charges the firm or lawyers for the match with the court reporter. Barrett and her team vet the court reporters and service providers and have incorporated a five-star rating system. Expedite also uses GPS-technology to connect clients with close-by court reporters. The app is available on Apple and Android systems.
‘You can get a dog walker over an app. You can get a ride over an app and you could even get booze over an app. We think it’s time for the legal industry to adopt this model.’ Jim Barrett, Expedite
The Barretts invested some $300,000 to get Expedite going, with Eve Barrett saying her retirement fund, 20 years in the making “is gone.” A majority of the funds have gone toward product development. Most of the business so far has been in Florida, with the rate of downloads increasing exponentially every month, and up 15% since December, Barrett says. The Barretts add they would like to raise at least another $300,000 to pay for technology upgrades and marketing. “It’s a brand new concept in an antiquated industry,” Barrett says. “It’s gaining traction.”
One challenge early on is dealing with a few copycat-like competitors. Eve Barrett believes being first will be a big asset there. Another big challenge? Customer education. For one, although the Barretts say the need is there, they also recognize the average age in the legal industry is 52 against 28 for the average age of an Uber user. That’s a big technology acceptance gap.
In response, Barrett taken Expedite on the road, going to legal trade shows and conferences. Entities in states with big populations — a bigger demand for legal services — have expressed interest in partnering with or signing up on the app. The list includes California, Illinois and Texas.
Even in the early stages, Barrett believes Expedite has exceedingly strong potential. “I want to create a place,” Barrett says, “where legal industry professionals can connect, collaborate and cultivate individual brands.”