Wisconsin Lawyer: 10 Questions Brian Potts: Building a Better Mousetrap, er, Keyboard:

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    Brian Potts: Building a Better Mousetrap, er, Keyboard

    Have you ever been so frustrated with a piece of equipment or process that you thought, “There must be a better way,” only to find there isn’t? That’s the kind of experience that leads to innovation. Just ask Brian Potts. He became fed up with his generic keyboard – it took too many steps to insert “legal” symbols – so he invented a keyboard just for lawyers. Introducing the LegalBoard.


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    Brian Potts

    Brian Potts shows off his invention, the LegalBoard keyboard. Hands are still required; eyes on the keyboard are optional.

    In 10 words or less, what is the LegalBoard?

    The LegalBoard is a keyboard designed by lawyers, for lawyers.

    What are the keyboard’s main features? How does it differ from a regular keyboard?

    The LegalBoard has tons of features that are different from a typical keyboard. The keyboard functions normally (including the number pad) when not in legal mode. But with the press of our LegalBoard symbol (which is on the numlock key), the number pad and the keys across the top transform into legal keys.

    There are keys that insert section, paragraph, and copyright symbols. There are keys to add a footnote or comment. And then when you’re done typing the footnote or comment, you can hit “Shift” together with the footnote or comment key and go back to your place in the text. You can turn track changes on and off with a key or start a bullet list or change the line spacing.

    You can even add entire legal words, court names, and citations with the press of a key. Hit the “Ct App” key, for example, and it will print “court of appeals.” Want it capitalized? Just hit “Shift” with the “Ct App” key.

    Do you have a background in legal technology? If not, did you feel you were stepping outside your comfort zone?

    At the outset, I didn’t know anything about legal technology. I’m a litigator, with an environmental and energy law bent. I was definitely stepping outside my comfort zone with this project, but I learned a lot and had a really fun time doing it.

    From inception to production, how long did it take? What life lessons did you learn along the way?

    It took almost exactly one year from when I came up with the idea until it hit the market. Of course, at first – not knowing anything about the process of manufacturing and designing a product – I thought it wouldn’t take more than three or four months. That’s my personality, though. I’m a make-it-happen kind of guy. I figured we would be selling keyboards pretty quickly. But it’s amazing how many steps there are in doing something like this. You just have to be diligent and keep taking the next logical step until everything (hopefully) comes together.

    Your company launched in early January 2017. How are you marketing your product?

    So far we’ve been incredibly lucky and haven’t had to do a lot of advertising. The product has sold itself. The public reception and press have been amazing. We are doing a very small amount of online advertising now and have been approached by lots of people who want to help us market the keyboard. At this point, however, we’re going to wait and see how things go over the next few months and then start ramping up the marketing effort.

    LegalBoard

    Have your distribution and sales exceeded your expectations?

    Absolutely. At the rate sales have been going, we’re going to sell out our first batch before we can even get more made and ready to ship (which is a good problem to have).

    Lawyers are often depicted as not wanting to try new things. Do you generally think that’s true? How would you persuade a leery lawyer to try the LegalBoard?

    I definitely think there are some lawyers who are stuck in their ways. A few probably still don’t even know how to use a computer. That’s obviously not our market. But the LegalBoard is so simple to use that pretty much any lawyer who uses a stand-alone keyboard should buy one. It’s only $65. And even if you only use the legal keys a few times a day or even a week, it’s still better than a regular keyboard. I mean, the standard keyboard layout was made for accountants and hasn’t really changed since the typewriter. Why would a lawyer want to use an accounting keyboard when he or she could use the LegalBoard instead?

    What do you do for fun?

    Hang out with my amazing wife, Abigail, and my two kids, Lily and Sal. I also play ping pong and tennis and love to write opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines.

    You couldn’t have done all of this by yourself. Who helped you with this project?

    I’ve been so lucky. I really can’t say that enough. I came up with the basic idea, but then it turned out I had lots of friends who had the exact expertise I needed to make it all happen. My wife (a lawyer with the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office) helped with deciding which legal functions to put on the keys; one of my best friends in Madison is a computer engineer who helped make the prototypes; another good friend owns a graphic design company in Mineral Point (Mayday Press) and helped do the logo, keyboard design, and packaging; and my brother and sister-in-law are web designers. As a lawyer, I also could do most of the legal work myself and I had lots of guinea pig lawyers to help test prototypes.

    Where can someone get a LegalBoard?

    Right now we are only selling them on our website: www.legalkeyboards.com. Maybe one day we will sell them in big box stores or on Amazon. But right now, since we are the only game in town, selling only on our own website makes the most economic sense.

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    Are You A Legal Innovator? Do You Know One?

    Nominations are now open for the 2017 Wisconsin Legal Innovators. Through the “That’s a Fine Idea: Nominate a Wisconsin Legal Innovator” initiative, the State Bar of Wisconsin will showcase examples of legal innovation in the November Wisconsin Lawyer magazine.

    Complete the nomination form available at www.thatsafineidea.com. Nominations open until June 30, 2017.