Smart CEO Innovator Spotlight: Ken Lopez, CEO, A2L Consulting (formerly Animators at Law)
September 1, 2011
Given a roomful of attorneys and artists, what would you do with them? Ken Lopez saw a way "to help the world's most effective communicators communicate even more effectively." So he launched a business. Then he unintentionally innovated his way to another. The first business has a $2 trillion record of success. The second has been profitable since launch.
It all started in 1995. With 12,000 law-school graduates hitting the job market that year, Lopez asked himself, Why am I different?" Not hearing a compelling answer, the dialog in his head was, "I need to find a way to make a job for myself."
Lopez had been the go-to guy in college when students needed flyers for parties. So he approached an animation company and offered to bring in projects to create graphics for trial attorneys who wanted to enhance their cases. "That's how I created my job for the first two years until they couldn't handle the amount of work I was bringing in," he says.
It was time to launch Animators at Law (recently renamed to A2L Consulting). Lopez created a list of everyone he knew and asked each person how he or she might help, especially with introductions. Before long, he had reached 400 people.
And the company grew. Today Animators at Law based in Alexandria, VA, serves 95 percent of the world's largest law firms and has helped top litigators generate over $2 trillion of favorable court decisions for many of the world's major corporations.
It's tough to maintain the networking diligence that got Lopez off the ground. Of all the contacts he's made and cards he's collected, he says. "It's terrifying to think of how many I haven't paid attention to!" His advice to other entrepreneurs is also a reminder to himself: Periodically write down every person you know, then call and ask, "How can you help this venture? Because it's important to me."
Lopez stresses streamlining, especially when you're doing something like combing through hundreds of thousands of court cases for prospects. "We took our sales process, which was sickeningly cumbersome and expensive but really innovative, and slowly automated it to the point where we have technology doing the work that 20 people were doing in what was otherwise a manual research effort to identify sales and create inbound leads."
Along the way, Lopez realized he had another business on his hands. Companies selling litigation support services, and law firms seeking new clients, could use Lopez's technology to uncover in minutes leads that might otherwise take days and months to identify. He launched LawProspector, immediately creating a new profit stream.
That brings this attorney-cum-CEO back to his original inspiration: "Entrepreneurship requires a certain amount of rebelliousness that drives you to authentically believe you can do something differently from the way the world is doing things. When you're being rebellious and breaking the rules," he says, "you might just be doing something right."