Being the first founders to create a new kind of legal technology solution can be daunting. San Antonio-based startup Easy Expunctions launched its software solution in 2015 to help users identify and clear their criminal records for certain minor offenses.
Four years later, Easy Expunctions still leads with its legal tech expunction service as the only affordable, automated online solution for about 77 million Americans, or 1 in 3 adults, who have a criminal record.
People with criminal records often cannot get hired for jobs, especially for tasks requiring an occupational license. Legal fees starting at $1,500 for an expunction to permanently remove certain types of minor arrests from a person’s public records can be out of reach for the people who could benefit the most.
Founders Yousef Kassim and his brother Rommy Kassim created an affordable online alternative that checks a person’s record for eligibility for $19.99. The company’s patented software algorithms are based on each state’s laws for obtaining expunctions, powering its automated system to determine quickly which criminal records are eligible for expungement.
Operating out of San Antonio’s downtown tech district on Houston Street, the startup has 24 full-time employees. In April 2018, Kassim won the Capitol Factory pitch competition and a $100,000 cash investment. The startup also raised nearly $1.6 million in seed funding in 2018.
Startups San Antonio caught up with CEO Yousef Kassim recently to talk about being first, what’s changed in the legal tech landscape since launch, the startup’s vision for social impact, and the future.
Startups San Antonio: How is Easy Expunctions doing right now?
Yousef Kassim: We’ve been the leader in Texas for expunctions since we started in 2015. Texas has 254 counties, each with its distinct way of operating in their jurisdiction. We’ve learned so much from working here and use that as we systemize our processes
We offer expunctions in four states in addition to Texas [Indiana, Colorado, Washington, and North Carolina], and are in the process of adding Florida.
We’re getting close to building a scalable system. On average, we’ve doubled the company size every year for the past four years. As we continue to scale and offer our services in more states, we’ll continue to hire.
SSA: What’s changed in the legal tech innovation space?
YK: There’s more collaboration as we see startup programs launch in this sector.
Duke University launched its pre-accelerator three years ago. The Duke Center on Law and Tech is committed to supporting technology that democratizes the law. We were one of five startups focused on access to legal services in our cohort of 12 companies. Because of our Duke experience, we’ve expanded our networks and gotten more exposure to leaders in the legal tech field.
[Note: Easy Expunctions won runner-up and audience favorite in the pre-accelerator’s final pitch competition.]
We’re also seeing more funds investing in and helping entrepreneurs build companies that are disrupting the legal space, including funds focused exclusively on legal tech.
People are more receptive to the benefits of technology in the legal space. When we first started, attorneys were almost allergic to tech as they were leery. Now, more consumers are turning to online services to handle issues that otherwise would require hiring a legal professional. That’s helping to drive innovation in the legal space.
SSA: Have you seen changes in your customer base?
YK: The challenges of educating customers on their rights to an expunction if they are eligible are the same. Expunctions are much more relevant now, as we see more bipartisan support for criminal justice reform.
There is even talk, especially in the more progressive jurisdictions, about making expunctions easier for people by automating the process for offenses that are no longer illegal. We still have a long way to go.
For all the talk about how legal tech can enable greater access to justice, we’re also seeing interest in the B2B [business-to-business, as opposed to business-to-customer or B2C] segment of this market.
Startup founders have always gotten our business model. They think of us as Turbo Tax but for clearing your criminal records, an online solution for reputation management.
Lawyers are beginning to see the benefits of automation for expunctions. We now offer a white-label platform to law firms interested in providing their clients with that service.
Attorneys especially appreciate our ability to notify hundreds of private background checks companies and websites that traffic in criminal history information once an expunction or nondisclosure is signed for their clients. This solves a big problem for attorney’s clients who still see their arrest information online despite having a signed expunction.
We also work with background check companies to make sure they are compliant with the law and don’t possess expunged records. No one is doing this — we’re the only ones providing this compliance service.
We discovered this need after launching in this space. We’re now building relationships with background check companies to help them adopt best compliance practices.
We’re unique in the way we deliver our service. We’re helping consumers clear their records but also benefiting attorneys who are interested in automation and background companies looking for compliance products.
SSA: Can you share any developments in the works?
YK: After four years, we’re still the only company providing automated expunctions. We’re working hard on our customer experience and building robust internal processes. We’re rolling out new features in 2020 to make the expunction process even faster and more effective.
It has been three years since we moved here and have benefited from the ecosystem downtown. We satisfied the terms of our $50,000 Innovation Fund Grant from Bexar County. Specifically, we moved our headquarters to downtown San Antonio, created at least 20 jobs, and have remained in San Antonio for three years.
We are so grateful for the City and County taking a chance on our early-stage company and happy that we were able to deliver on our obligations.
Featured image is of Easy Expunctions CEO Yousef Kassim pitching at the Duke Law Tech Lab Demo Day. Courtesy photo.