Tech start-up of the week: Briefed

9 Feb 2014

Pictured: Orlagh McGahan, founder, Briefed

Briefed is a Belfast-based start-up that has developed software aimed at barristers which assists in managing a barrister’s legal practice by integrating diary, documents, email and invoicing systems.

The technology allows barristers to improve productivity and drive down costs currently associated with laborious administration.

“It’s very much written in barrister speak so it’s perfectly tuned to the barrister’s way of working,” explained Briefed founder Orlagh McGahan.

“Our primary goal is to make Briefed the ‘go to’ product for barristers worldwide and to compete effectively in the court based solicitor / lawyer market globally. 

“Originally I very much looked at the home market of Northern Ireland but there are just so many similarities in the way that court based lawyers operate across the world. It’s also clear that no one provider is doing this well and there is a very significant opportunity for those who can get it right.”

The founder

McGahan,who has been a practicing barrister in Northern Ireland for 10 years, spotted a gap in the market when she herself was seeking better ways of managing the significant administration associated with a barrister practice – and not being able to find any.

She quickly understood that similar issues existed across many other common law markets where barristers either managed without significant levels of technical support or put up with generic and sub optimal tools.

The technology

Briefed uses cloud based hosting technology to provide a service that is accessible from any computer/laptop/tablet whilst the barrister is on the move or at court.

It incorporates a bank grade secure platform for data – both case documents and financial – to be stored, providing the Barrister with peace of mind that the information is always retrievable, accessible and doesn’t require ‘backing up’. Essentially it saves barristers time and helps them make money 

“The tool was officially launched in Northern Ireland in late 2012 and we now have a significant number of customers signed up,” McGahan said.

“We have just concluded an agreement with a strategic partner in the Republic of Ireland and expect to launch the product there in the very near future. We have also taken the initial steps to tapping the opportunity in England and Wales and will be promoted as a service partner with the Bar Council. We are also assessing the best possible means of taking the tool to market with leading strategic partners there. 

“This, of course, will take resources to fully exploit the opportunity so we are currently looking at the right level of investment to support our aggressive plans for the market.”

Practice makes perfect

McGahon has found the start-up journey challenging but full of interesting experiences and crucial lessons.

“It hasn’t been easy and as you might expect it has taken more time and resources than first envisaged.

“I had a lot to learn about software development, business management, sales and marketing but thankfully it’s all coming together and I’ve had a nurturing experience through the support of the Invest Northern Ireland Propel programme and the Springboard programme at the Northern Ireland Science Park.  

“My wonderful pool of mentors and advisers kept me on the right track, right through concept to launch and beyond.

“It’s a tremendous buzz. It’s amazing that if you do have a good idea you can very easily get yourself into position where you can see your product, tool, service, whatever it is, take shape before your eyes.

“Of course it requires massive reserves of energy, passion and resilience but there is an extensive support network available to those who look for it and can operate within the disciplines required to see it through.

“Through the Propel programme, it was also great to work with others who were sharing the journey with different products and services and to benefit from their knowledge and experience.”

Follow your star!

Her advice to other entrepreneurs considering breaking out of their set careers is to just go for it.

“Follow your star! If you really believe in your idea and have a relatively clear idea about the need that it meets and its ability to beat the competition, you should take the time to test your logic with people who can guide your journey.

“Inevitably many great ideas fall by the wayside for any number of reasons and failing fast can often be a great thing, but sometimes great ideas make it through and why shouldn’t that be yours?”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years