Financial Q&A: Paul Garibian de Nota

Paul Garibian is the President of Nota, a digital solution that helps lawyers track and manage client funds in their IOLTA accounts. Nota is powered by M&T Bank, one of America’s top Forbes banks, five years in a row.

Listen to Paul discuss the purpose of custom software that allows lawyers to focus on the practice of law and how this can benefit their practices, as well as his perspective / ideas on the future of law. legal technology.

Why not start with a little bit of your background. I guess your professional background is a little different from what I usually talk to for these parts.

I actually studied computer engineering along with finance and entrepreneurship.

Good for you. I’m sure most of my legal colleagues can’t relate to this training at all.

Thank you. It gave me a solid foundation to work for a variety of software startups in the insurance and banking industry. I have worked with many global finance companies and insurance providers and have worked in building product management software for banks for the past 20 years. Being in startups gave me the opportunity to work with many different companies and before joining Nota I was at Finastra as Director of Payments and Technology Operations.

How did you find yourself in your current role?

One of the companies I worked for was acquired and I had a very good opportunity to work directly with the client. Until then, my job was mainly to create software for the clients of my clients. The most attractive thing was the possibility of working directly with the user. This is essential, if you are two or three layers away from the customer, you are missing a lot of information that can create a lot of value for your customers. It was a natural match. I was at a point in my career where this was exactly what I wanted to do, and I understood the structure and policies that I would be working with.

What exactly were you asked to do?

When I joined Nota, it was just a concept around the idea of ​​trust accounting. It was late 2019. I was basically product manager, engineering manager, sales manager, all in one.

He was building a startup, but with the resources of a Fortune 500 bank. We had a concept to help lawyers track and manage client funds in their IOLTA accounts, and someone had to figure out how to market them, how to market them. actually do?

We had the help of consultants and even worked directly with lawyers to make sure we created a meaningful tool. For the most part, we were building things on our own from scratch.

Did you have trouble attracting talent?

We have hired and continue to hire a lot of talent that banks have not traditionally been able to attract. Banks are increasingly starting to think of themselves as technology companies.

Nota operated under M&T Bank, but we wanted to attract people who weren’t just bankers. We had a lot of flexibility, which helped us attract a diverse group of employees.

Basically we’d be like, here’s a capital allocation for 18 months, here’s what we’d like to see, and then we might figure out how best to make it happen. It gave people the chance to be creative and put their ideas into action.

What was it like working in this kind of environment under the restrictions that come with being part of a large corporation?

It was great, actually. We had to behave like a start-up, but we never raised capital, and we were already responsible for an integrated bank. At M&T, capital management is very important. They have more than 40 years of profitable quarters, it is a company with very strong values. I thought of it as having the regulatory oversight of a Fortune 500 company with the flexibility of a startup.

What kind of product were you actually making?

Our first product, which we’ve since improved, was a better IOLTA account for lawyers. We were approaching this from the perspective of a traditional IOLTA account being bulky, it brings anxiety, it’s not easy to use. We were asking ourselves, “How can we improve this?”

So, for example, we have allowed users to create sub-accounts per customer rather than a single IOLTA bucket bank account, where you then have to use other software systems or even spreadsheets to ensure it. monitoring.

We have simplified the user experience. We wanted to make it easier to write checks, we wanted users to have the ability to integrate with other technologies, to use cloud technologies, for example. We were looking to create a financial platform exclusively for lawyers, and no one else is doing it.

The aim was to create a seamless experience for lawyers, especially in the financial sector, and I think we have to a large extent achieved that.

And after?

Here we have a great opportunity to provide personalized banking products exclusively for lawyers. The legal industry is very fragmented, most lawyers don’t make more than $ 2 million in revenue, so there is still a lot to be done in terms of awareness.

We are constantly improving our original product, and an operating account exclusively for lawyers is what follows. Consumer-style checking accounts will follow shortly thereafter.

It has become almost obligatory for me to ask this question now, but how has the pandemic affected your work?

While the pandemic has obviously been a national tragedy, COVID has helped accelerate the adoption of this technology by five years in my opinion. With everything happening remotely, it has been easier to attract new users, and we have received very positive feedback from our community so far.

We work closely with our users. We see them as an extension of our team. It was helpful to see this level of user engagement.

Well, it looks like you have a lot of exciting work going on. Thank you again for taking the time for this interview. Any initial thoughts you would like to leave with readers?

We just hope we can help you increase your capacity to impact social justice in our country. We believe that all lawyers can play a role in this regard.

Lawyers spend only 31% of their time working on client files. The rest of their time is spent on things that are work and need to be done but that don’t add value. We want to be a financial partner for all lawyers in order to make them more efficient, so that they are better able to make a difference in the lives of their clients.

If we can help make lawyers more efficient, profitable and financially stable, we hope that will help improve social justice in this country.

Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigator and author of Your Debt Free JD (affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, writes for a wide variety of publications, and enjoys both financial and scientific skills. Any opinions he expresses are probably pure gold, but are nonetheless his only and should not be attributed to any organization he is affiliated with. Either way, he wouldn’t want to split the credit. It can be reached at [email protected].

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