[An interview between Kevin O’Keefe and Ivy Grey, of PerfectIt, at the 2018 ABA TechShow]
Kevin O’Keefe: Talking with Ivy Grey here at the ABA TechShow. Who are you, Ivy, and what do you do?
Ivy Grey: My name is Ivy Grey, I’m a practicing attorney and I am also the creator of American legal style for PerfectIt, which is a legal specific proofreading program for lawyers that runs within Microsoft Word. It’s just like spell check in terms of running right from the ribbon and guiding you through the errors. The thing that makes it different is that it finds 13,000 legal specific corrections that I personally chose and programmed in myself, drawing from the Blue Book, the Red Book, Butterick on Typography, Black’s Law Dictionary. Everything from terms of art that should be capitalized or italicized, to commonly transposed letters in terms of art. So the difference between a Burton error and a Bruton error. No legal secretary is going to find that and neither as Microsoft word, but we will find that for you.
Kevin O’Keefe: How’d you get into this? How long have you been practicing?
Ivy Grey: I’ve been practicing ten years.
Kevin O’Keefe: And what type of work?
Ivy Grey: Corporate bankruptcy. I do distressed M&A and then I litigate around the edges for mostly that lien priority.
Kevin O’Keefe: So how’d you get the idea to do this? How’d you get started, and launch this?
Ivy Grey: PerfectIt has actually has been in existence since 2009, and it was a general purpose program and my friend Daniel, who is the CEO and founder of PerfectIt was bugging me to try it and I said, “I don’t need it. I’m perfect.” And he said, “yeah, right.” But I ignored him for a while and finally I did my LLM dissertation and the day after I defended, he convinced me to try it by saying, “I bet you a bottle of your favorite high end scotch that if you run this on your dissertation, you’ll find errors.” And I said, “I don’t believe you. You’re on.” So I ran for on my dissertation that I’ve already turned in, so it was too late to do anything and guess who lost that bet? That would be me. So I couldn’t leave well enough alone. And I said to Daniel, this program is really amazing, but it would be even better if it were made specific for lawyers because lawyers use words differently and most programs don’t recognize how we use words. So if we say “in arrears,” Microsoft will always change it to “in areas” and that makes no sense in the context of what we’re doing. So it will look for those sorts of things, errors that are introduced in dictation programs or talk to texts or even just using Microsoft Word’s built in program too quickly. Word doesn’t believe that decedent is really a word, so it will change every instance of decedent to descendant. And that’s a problem because one’s alive, one’s dead. And it will change all of the meaning of what you were writing. But we will actually ask you, did you really mean to use that word? And I’ll find it for you.
Kevin O’Keefe: How does this solution work? I’m assuming it’s not local-network based, it’s got to be web-based, so are you uploading a document to it? How does it work?
Ivy Grey: It’s a Microsoft word add-in. It runs right from the ribbon. Right now our product is an install only. You don’t upload anything. We never see your documents. We are moving to the cloud but it runs within Office 2016 and Office 365. So again you’re not giving us your documents and there are no security concerns. We never see what words you’re using. It just scours your document.
Kevin O’Keefe: Okay, so you’re not collecting any data then.
Ivy Grey: No, we’re not collecting any data. People often want to know, well, how do users use it? What are the most common errors? On one hand it would be great to know, but we don’t know because we stay out of your business. So we leave that for you.
Kevin O’Keefe: So as far as your role, being a practicing lawyer and doing this, how are you juggling your time?
Ivy Grey: I am very fortunate because I have a really flexible role with perfect it and I also have a very flexible role with my firm that I helped to start, and so I spent about 50 percent of my time in each, usually a week on, a week off. You juggle it around court dates and, to be honest, I mean not to pat my own back, but also to pat my own back, I save so much time now with the proofreading that I have more time to do other things and I can stop that compounding cycle of exhaustion that forces law practice into the weekend for most people. So I usually get to avoid that.
Kevin O’Keefe: Is PerfectIt based in Chicago?
Ivy Grey: No, I’m in Chicago and Daniel splits his time between London and New York, so it’s actually a UK-based company.
Kevin O’Keefe: How often do you get to go to London?
Ivy Grey: I never get to go – Daniel saves the fun things for himself, and I worry about the blue book.
Kevin O’Keefe: So the only thing I regret was missing coming for was scotch and doughnuts, because I had other commitments. But this is exciting, what you’re doing. I think we met either via Linkedin or Twitter.
Ivy Grey: A little bit of both. I’m active on social media.
Kevin O’Keefe: See, and I don’t know that other companies realize how powerful that is. Here I am, just walking around, and for LexBlog we want to make sure we’re shining a light on certain companies we think are doing cool stuff, and we can do an interview like this. And other companies don’t realize what they’re missing by not using social media.
Ivy Grey: It is so true. I was in PR for 10 years before I became a lawyer, so I do understand the value of getting your name out there, but it was definitely pre-internet era and so it was Tim Baran from Good2bSocial who convinced me that I had to tweak it and I, typical lawyer in me, resisted everything and when I finally got out there I found a really great community and it has propelled the product, and propelled my name even on an individual level.
Kevin O’Keefe: So what would you tell other entrepreneurs about doing that?
Ivy Grey: You develop a voice and start small, commit to five minutes every single day. And as you engage with people and start to learn their personalities and the things that they care about, your engagement will grow and you won’t spend a ton of time, but you’ll probably spend an hour or two of impactful time on Twitter and social media each day and it changes the sales and it changes your reputation. People trust you. And in law, trust is everything.
Kevin O’Keefe: People have no idea how true that is. Law is a trust and relationship business. When you first started using Twitter, what did you do?
Ivy Grey: Tim had a list of the top people to follow on Twitter, so I followed all of those people and then anybody who wrote an article that I liked, I looked for them on Twitter and I followed them too. And I specifically searched for articles that were engaging to me, and that spoke to me about things that I knew and cared about. And then I would share them on Twitter with some level of discussion about them. Just sharing the link doesn’t really do anything for people, or simply retweeting but not engaging doesn’t help you. That’s really one-directional, and it feels like you’re shouting and people want to have a conversation. So find an article that you care about, find your angle, say something about it, put it out there, and then engage with people about it. Tag somebody that you care about that you want to start a conversation with, and it just all flows from there. The community is wonderful.
Kevin O’Keefe: How long ago did you start doing that?
Ivy Grey: December 2016, so not that long ago.
Kevin O’Keefe: Think about that. So that’s less than eighteen months. Now I know you well, Bob Ambrogi knows you well, there’s people at the TechShow who know you, and what you said there about writing the comment is so important, because when I write something and somebody shares it, okay. But if somebody actually engages with it, and looks like they read it, it’s amazing – somebody listened! And then I might respond. I’m definitely going to like what you said, but more than likely I’m going to say something back. So it’s almost like being at a networking event, among a receptive community.
Ivy Grey: You have to also give love to get love. When I write articles, I usually bring in somebody else’s ideas and make sure to attribute it to them. It’s not just me, me, me. It’s got to be consultative, where we’re building solutions together, rather than me just trying to shove my product down your throat, because that doesn’t bring people in.
Kevin O’Keefe: It’s so true, and I try to tell people that, and they try to tell me how busy they are, but you’re going to be busier trying to push your product out.
Ivy Grey: If you spend 15 minutes actually caring about somebody and engaging in a real way, it’s going to give you more than spending 10 hours of just shouting about yourself, and nobody wants to hear somebody like that. That’s what family dinners are for.
Kevin O’Keefe: Thank you very much, this was great.
New Speaker: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, Kevin.