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Limitless Lawyer: Mindset and Entrepreneurship with Tom Dunlop

Limitless Lawyer: Mindset and Entrepreneurship with Tom Dunlop

July 14, 2021

Transcript

Charlotte Smith:

Hello, and welcome to the Limitless Lawyer Podcast. I am your host Charlotte Smith. Today on the show we have a Brit, another Brit on the show. We have Tom Dunlop. Tom is the CEO and founder of a legal tech company, Summize. It is a contract management platform and Tom is an absolutely awesome guest. In his former career, he was a lawyer and in-house counsel. He was also a professional athlete on track for the Olympics. And so in today's conversation, we are really going to dive into what it is like to leave the law and found a legal tech company. We are going to explore the impact that Tom's background in being a professional athlete impacted his mindset when it came to practising as a lawyer and becoming an entrepreneur.

Charlotte Smith:

Hello and welcome to the Limitless Lawyer Podcast. I'm your host, Charlotte Smith. And today we have Tom Dunlop on the show. Tom is the CEO and founder of Summize. He is going to be such an awesome guest. So, Tom, I am absolutely delighted to have you on the show today.

Tom Dunlop:

Well, thank you very much, Charlotte. No, it's a pleasure to be here.

Charlotte Smith:

So why don't we just dive right in and you just share a little bit about who you are and the work that you do?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, no, of course. So I guess in many ways, and this is probably a traditional introduction to a founder story. But I'd say it's been quite an unconventional I guess route to where I've ended up. But a non-relevant to start with was actually I thought my career was really going to centre around sports. So I don't know whether I bring this up as to kind of really hold on to the fact that I used to be an athlete and kind of I'm probably getting a bit too far distant in the past. That means that I can still really call on it, but I was once an athlete believe it or not. And that was kind of really the career path I was going on. It was very much Olympics, kind of be involved in the kind of sports side of whether it be nutrition or psychology or something along those lines.

Tom Dunlop:

And that was kind of really where my passion was as a teenager I guess growing up. And then it was kind of a chance application for law that I did when I was applying to universities that kind of really shaped I guess my career going forward. So as I was I guess turning into professional badminton player, I went to university and did my law degree. And then it was kind of at the end of completing my law degree that it was that choice really. Do I really go wholeheartedly into the kind of badminton side of things and really I guess aim for the Olympics or do I focus on a different career? And that's kind of where I chose to go down the legal route. And it was kind of at the time as well which helped I think was I was trying to found my own start-up naturally.

Tom Dunlop:

So it was a bit of the first tech adventure, which was like a comparison site for solicitors. Which is ahead of my time I think with that one because I think that's probably now actually a really good idea, but after that, it was a little bit too early, it wasn't as monetized. So I did that for a little bit, but then I think really my journey into the legal industry and becoming a practising lawyer was there was an opportunity to essentially become a sports lawyer or agent for footballers in the UK primarily, and then Olympic athletes. So I joined this kind of sports management agency thinking right, this has got to be right for me. I've got a background in sports, I've got a law degree in my LPC and it was great.

Tom Dunlop:

And it was really interesting, but I think what we really found was just the practice of law was just a much better business model if I'm honest. It was very much kind of working with great clients. You gave them advice, you billed them, they paid on time and it was just really good work. So that was kind of where I went into practice and trained in private practice in a law firm. And then really from there obviously became an in-house lawyer pretty early on after qualification and pursued the in-house legal career. And so I guess where we are today, which is in founding Summize a couple of years ago. So yeah, very varied kind of sports and then a little bit of a tech venture then back into law and then now back into a tech venture again so yeah, mixed background.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah, it's a fascinating journey. And I can see that making that decision when you were kind of 18 ish should you continue on the athlete path or the legal path, that must've been a really difficult decision to make.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, it was to be fair because I think when I was growing up with all this kind of strange I guess dynamic I had which was if I wasn't ... If you know, from what I said I got a bad grade at school, I'd be kind of like, "Oh, that's fine. I'm going to be an Olympic athlete anyway. I don't need my grades." And if I lost the badminton match in whatever round I'd kind of turn around and go "It's fine. I've got my law degree, I'll do that instead." So it was constantly on my mind. And I think yeah, it kind of got to the point where becoming I guess a full-time professional wasn't actually as glamorous as being a junior, like in the junior England startup. Because it was very much about the team flying everywhere and it was a great experience flying around the world, representing your country.

Tom Dunlop:

But as a senior, it felt very much quite alone really. You felt kind of you know, you trained on your own, you flew on your own, you played your tournament, you lost or won, but then he came back on your own and it was quite a lonely existence. And I think that for me made me think it wasn't something I was willing to I guess bet the next four or five years of my life to see if I could make it to the Olympics when I had obviously a different career path down the legal route as an option as well.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. There's so much mindset stuck in there as well that we could kind of unpack. What lessons did you have from being a professional athlete and playing at such a high level at a young age that you have taken now into your career as a start-up founder, your legal career as well?

Tom Dunlop:

Yes. I mean huge amounts of influence it's had on almost a lot of parts of my life, you almost forget how much of an influence that kind of background I had does have on the culture we have within the company and just me personally. So I mean, one of the things I always used to do as an athlete was because at the time I was the number one in Europe, I was the best player, a national champion. And I always had this mindset of the when I worked on call I was the best, no one could beat me. There was nothing anyone could do. And I was almost kind of already going to win because of that mindset. And a lot of the things I did to get to that mindset was what now I call kind of continuous improvement and the Kaizen kind of mentality, which we really push a lot in Summize. But it was very much kind of like one example.

Tom Dunlop:

And I give this example a lot, but I think it's a really powerful one was I just used to get up at half four and train at 5:00 AM before college, before school. And it wasn't because that meant that I was training more hours than anyone else. It just meant that I knew that they weren't doing that. And it was just that kind of mentality of walking onto a promising call and thinking "I know that I'm doing more than you. I know that I'm sacrificing more. I know I'm just doing those extra little things, whatever it might be and the small little things that add up that eventually mean that that's why I'm the number one and you're not."

Tom Dunlop:

And that's a huge part of what I've carried through to my career, which is yes, it's competitive but I'm not one of those people that would throw a TV if I lost a race in the office. It's one of those things that it's more about looking at every aspect of what you do and just looking at the small things that you could do better than other people. And ultimately they do add up and become why you win. It's very rarely that silver bullet that a lot of people that associate with becoming an Olympic athlete. It's very hard to kind of point to that one moment in time that you realize you would go into or that kind of crystallization I think that's very true of business as well. So yeah, that's the biggest one but a lot.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. That was fascinating. I don't know if you have ever read David Goggins book? I can't remember the exact title of it, but there is a philosophy in there as well about getting up and training early in order to kind of build those incremental shifts and outlap everyone else essentially and yeah it's fascinating. Okay. So you chose the law. How is that?

Tom Dunlop:

Well, I mean the fact that I left the law probably says a lot about it, but no, I think it was great in a lot of ways because I think there's a lot of transferable skills. I think my kind of personality fit well, but I think sooner I realized that I needed to be an in-house lawyer. I needed to be much closer to the decision, much closer to I guess the business results of what that advice meant. And I think then when I went in-house and when I started to work for tech companies in particular, as well as the GC or legal director of basically software companies that were fast growth. And that was both in the UK, but also the last job I had was a Silicon Valley based software company.

Tom Dunlop:

And that felt to me like a really perfect balance because I was a lawyer, I had a lot of the skillset which was kind of part of my personality, but at the same time, I was in a really creative entrepreneurial environment. They kind of really encouraged that continuous improvement, that better way of doing things. And then that felt like a really perfect mix. So I guess the legal career I think it's very easy to get disillusioned early on in your career. And I think there's lots of reasons why, but I think that I kind of went through those steps, but really found my sweet spot in-house particularly in tech. So I've really enjoyed it and to be honest if it wasn't for I guess, I was having that itch and that underlying need to almost create something myself. I'd be very happy as an in-house lawyer in a tech business.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. And isn't it amazing how sometimes we just have to go on these journeys and it is learning and growth and figuring out what feels good and what works for us and perhaps, areas that aren't fulfilling those so that you can then end up at the destination.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah. It is. It is definitely. I totally agree.

Charlotte Smith:

So sounds as well, so you have this work ethic, the discipline, the mindset of a professional athlete. Then there was also this interest in business and innovation. Where did that come from and how have you cultivated that?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah so really because I mean a lot of entrepreneurs or I have a way of kind of taking entrepreneurs and founders as well that I don't believe there's as such as entrepreneurs, but I'll come on to that a minute. But I think what I found was when I was young, I wasn't particularly creative. I wasn't the person that was necessarily, I used to say the typical entrepreneur story is I used to sell sweets at school that I bought for a pound and sold for one pound 50. And it's kind of always been there.

Tom Dunlop:

For me kind of it wasn't because I was so focused on sport, but at the same time, I remember meeting someone who was basically a family relation and he had his own kind of electronics business. And it was, I remember just being sat down and this was kind of almost like not the light bulb moment, but that kind of really I guess the realization, this is something I could be interested in. Whereas it just sat there and just coming up with all sorts of crazy ideas, almost like a black book of crazy ideas about how he can almost use the technology to solve problems. And even back then one of them which really stuck with I don't know was he just looked at the bin in the kitchen and was like, "You know what we should do? We should build a compressor that means that once you put something in, in recycling bin, you close the lid and it automatically kind of presses it down and it means that you kind of do that for recycling."

Tom Dunlop:

Just this kind of crazy idea just by looking at a bin. And I kind of thought, wow that's like, it'd be so excited. And then suddenly I started thinking about the business plan and went with it. And so I think how feasible it was and then the price, but literally on the space of about an hour conversation. It was that moment really that I guess I would like to think I kind of adopted a kind of entrepreneurial mindset. And I think that you see that in a lot of people that genuinely look at their day-to-day life, whatever they're doing. It might be just how you log on in the morning, the first five actions you do. Is there anything you do in that day that you could improve or is there a certain thing that you actually question almost every part of your life and can you kind of do it better?

Tom Dunlop:

And really it was kind of from that moment when you just kind of look at something which you would never look at twice normally, and it was almost a reinvent, a better way of doing something that kind of stuck with me. And I think ever since then, I've always have that sort of mentality of well, don't just accept whatever you're doing at that point because that's the way it's always been done. Just always just question everything, always just think is there a slight improvement I can do? That might not be a product or a piece of software. It just might be a kind of personality thing or a kind of like ... I'm trying to find the word. Just how you go about a routine thing basically in terms of how kind of habits book. But yeah, it was the kind of that moment really, that really, really triggered my entrepreneurial side I guess.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah, that's amazing. And it's really fascinating to hear how a small moment like that when you're younger can have such a kind of great impact not just over your future kind of career history, but just how you live life and show up. How to make their subtle efficiencies so that we can be more productive and get more done. So that's really cool. So I'd love to hear a little bit more about founding Summize, the idea. And then taking that leap of faith and going for it. How did that all come together?

Tom Dunlop:

I think it was a combination of I guess starting working in those companies. I mean, I kind of in some ways the background as to how I start to think about entrepreneurial. So kind of this entrepreneurial mindset. I certainly had this kind of continuous improvement or kind of actual mindset anyway about how to do things better and things like that. And then obviously working in software companies that were all about being innovative. All about solving a problem that was probably disruptive or probably something that hadn't been thought of before. And so it was literally one of those moments. I was working in a software company. We were being acquired by a kind of big U.S. IT company. And I had to review 500 contracts. And the process was I looked obviously at all the tools. I was kind of reluctant to do it manually because that was just the personality.

Tom Dunlop:

But I looked at the tools, they were really kind of big expensive enterprise-level products, they took ages to train. I didn't get how they worked. And I had to get on with the DD kind of geologist project that day. Someone had just pressed a button and said, "Tom, here's a list of contracts. You need to produce a summary of each of these contracts." So it was kind of at the moment. I did it manually and it was obviously very painful. But I walked over to one of the senior software engineers who I knew very well at the company. And I just kind of said, "Look, I've looked out there, no one can do what I wanted to do, which is just create an easy summary of the key terms very quickly, but something they actually understand and is quite kind of easy to use because it wasn't some kind of computer science degree that I needed to retain before using the software.

Tom Dunlop:

And that's how it all started really. And then I think obviously because after those conversations we started to trade ideas around. I then moved to another in-house role then I was kind of thinking actually the product can't just be too honed in on that one specific use case, because I had that as one use case in one company. But then I had the day-to-day contract reviews to do that were commercial agreements for sales. I had red flag reviews to do for supplier agreements. I had contract management. There was so many very different use cases that I had that I started to then try and develop the idea to be flexible enough so that essentially a piece of software could work, be really easy to use and be flexible to work across all those different use cases. And that's really how it moulded to the point where we got a prototype working.

Tom Dunlop:

And I kind of tested that with GCs that I knew, law firms that I knew and just kind of said, "What do you think?" And we got basically on the back of that, and mostly you get a call up you're signed up to agree to do trials, that kind of thing. We got basically some pre-seed investment and that allowed us to essentially get a development team really creates an actual viable product that we could sell. And so that’s the start of the story I guess from the product. And I think from a risk point of view, or when did I make the leap? I mean it felt inevitable. It felt that at some point I would just do it. And I think when I came up, when I was talking before about the entrepreneurial mindset, this is what I mean about the kind of entrepreneurial.

Tom Dunlop:

I think there's a very big difference between having an entrepreneurial mindset and being a founder. And I think that I was always hearing to be a founder as well as just come up with good ideas and I've met loads of people who've got entrepreneurial mindset and they talk a great game about the ideas that they've got. But actually, I knew that unless I actually took the plunge, I actually dedicated time to it full-time. And obviously, we had investment, which helps. I was never going to become that founder. So it was kind of a combination I guess of the experience that I had which led me to come up with the idea. Obviously, that gets you so far but really as soon as I went full time, it was then really by execution on creating a product to within a certain timeframe and actually selling the product. So that's how we kind of I guess got going.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I love that distinction between having an entrepreneurial mindset, which a lot of people do and the ability to create and problem solve and innovate. But there's a real difference between having that mindset and actually taking the jump. Plunging off into the unknown, getting into the fundraising process. And that could be scary. You're walking away from a well-paid salary as a lawyer into the unknown. So how did you manage that from a mindset standpoint?

Tom Dunlop:

I mean, one of the things that I picked up again from sport, and again this is why it's had such an influence on my life in some ways is when I was quite young when I used to play in some of the kind of poorer countries, certainly in the Eastern European area. And one of the again, you talked about the small moments have such a huge impact on people's lives. I was walking through this Polish marketplace. It was about an hour away from the Castle in Warsaw and it was basically felt like I'd just come back to the 1920s. And it was poverty-stricken. I was walking through in my England tracksuit, all the kind of latest kind of I guess tracksuits and gear. And everyone's kind of looking at you almost like you got the feeling that this was a really, really poverty-stricken place.

Tom Dunlop:

And I was kind of walking on the way it's a play going through this marketplace. And I remember just walking on court thinking like, you know what? I know that I've done all the work, that I'm the best. And actually don't put so much pressure on yourself to win absolutely every game. People lose a game. As long as I've done everything that I've learned and put into it, at least be grateful for the fact that I know that I go back home, I've got a comfy house, I've got a family. The kind of worst-case scenario of me losing wasn't actually as bad as I probably built up in my own hand.

Tom Dunlop:

And that's a really kind of it sounds almost based, but actually when I kind of went through my career, I really have these people would describe me as very easy-going, very chilled out. But really I'm probably more competitive than any person you've ever met, but at the same time, if I lost a race in the office as I kind of described before, I wouldn't go into a lot of talks around. I just kind of like yeah, I can kind of deal with it and move on. A very practical way of thinking. So that's kind of what mindset I had when I did the start-up. It was kind of, "Well look, we've got an investment, we've got a great product. We validated it. The market's massive. There's clearly a need for it. If it fails I can get a very high paid job as a lawyer in a tech business. I don't fear the worst-case scenario." And so it wasn't a hard decision to be honest because of all those things.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I love that example of being an athlete that experience has got you comfortable in being comfortable with failure. Which I'm not so sure that the legal profession breeds people that are comfortable with failure because it attracts so many high achievers and we are on this kind of trajectory that you must perform. And it was very kind of hierarchical in terms of like the next steps that you take to associate to partner level and so on. And I experienced it myself. There's this kind of fear of failing and what will happen. But I love your perspective there as well. Like, so what if I fail? Failure isn't actually failing, it's learning, it's insight. And actually, we're really lucky here in the Western world. We're very lucky we've got access to so much kind of abundance really. And so having that gratitude is important.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah. And it definitely was. And I think we come outside like that kind of winning mindset of an athlete. I think the ones that you can always almost see it. When you get to a certain level as an athlete, the physical level of the skills that you have become irrelevant at a certain level. When you're at the world championships. And I remember this with certainly the Chinese team, it was this kind of strange dynamic where you're competing with the best in the world, you kind of who can play the best shots? You can all do whatever each other can do on the day. The difference is your mentality and the difference is whether you're going to crumble under the pressure. Whether you're in the zone as they call it, which really means you've got because it's kind of I guess your mind is allowing your body to be as free as it wants to be in terms of relaxed and not to play the shots that you know that you can play.

Tom Dunlop:

And when you've got all right impression on your back, which is that ... And I remember seen literally the Chinese team, you could tell that some of the players that used to play in there. I saw them off court and it was literally life or death almost it felt. Like if they lost, that was their chance kind of escaping whatever personal situation they were in. And you kind of witness this kind of pressure, but actually on call, I knew that if I got throw a hand against some of these athletes, I didn't have that pressure and I could play quite freely. Whereas I knew that they would get uptight, they'd start to doubt themselves. They start to think, those little thoughts were creeping about what if. And that was my competitive advantage, that's why I won.

Tom Dunlop:

And I think that that's what you completely ride this kind of pressure that's existed on people in high-performing jobs like a lawyer. I just think it's crazy. If you actually speak to people that perform at such a high level in a sports field or anyone else, as soon as you put that pressure on yourself, you increase your chances of failure significantly. And that's what again we foster a huge culture of personal development of continuous improvement. And we focus on that to the point where we buy books for everyone. We have all the books on the corner. If anyone wants to do a course, anyone thinks they want to develop a particular skill. We do it. We have breakfast hours where we just learn about things and it's that personal development and that constant kind of not being fear of failure and all trying to learn and not put that pressure on yourself is huge.

Charlotte Smith:

So what was your biggest piece of advice be to someone who does have the propensity to put a lot of pressure on themselves? What are some kind of tangible steps to free up that energy?

Tom Dunlop:

I mean, I guess in some ways it's quite easy to kind of say to put things into perspective without doing it. But I think what I used to do as an athlete was have like, and this was a bit of a sports psychology kind of thing that we had. Because we accessed amazing services in Olympic setup, as you can probably imagine in some ways. But I used to always have a trigger word or a trigger statement or something like that, that really what you want to do is put yourself in a happy place, put yourself in, it might be just at home, sat on the couch, watching the TV. It might be with your family. It might be a place that you feel comfortable, a place that you feel happy and a place that you feel actually all that stuff that I was worrying about work doesn't make a difference.

Tom Dunlop:

And there will be moments that other people have and you want this kind of trigger word. And I actually can't remember what mine was. It was something random, but it might be like home, or it might be like a sign or a picture or whatever it might be. But I used to have this trigger word and it used to kind of take me back to a moment where I felt comfortable. I felt in control. I felt that I kind of remembered what my feeling was at the time. I remembered how I was playing for example. And I think it was really powerful. I actually use in a really random context now, but I use it when I come home from work. There's always a place in the motorway and it's a sign and it's my trigger that as soon as it gets to that place, I switch off from everything that's going on my mind in terms of work and I just think right when I get in the door, go see your kids.

Tom Dunlop:

Go and ask how her day has been. Talk about the homes. Don't immediately go into work and bring your work problems into the entire home and be like, "Oh, this meeting. Oh we did this," or immediately talk about something great. Always put yourself in that mindset of kids, family first. Just get yourself into that mindset. So I actually use that trigger in a slightly different way, but just in day-to-day life. And I think it's really powerful. And I think that you can do that in a workplace.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I think that's such great advice and techniques like tapping where you can get the neuro pathways to be siring together and recreate the negative thought cycles and reframe that to be something more positive. So yeah, really cool. So do you play badminton anymore?

Tom Dunlop:

Do you know what, it's one of those things that I ... so after I quit kind of great Britain and peace on a level, I still had the bug a little bit. So I played in the Swiss Professional League. So it sounds very exhausting actually, but so I played for Geneva and used to play in the kind of professional badminton league for a couple of years. But then I remember just literally flying home one day and I thought I'm not training anymore. I was still winning, but I was just about beating people I used to beat really easily. And I thought to myself, I don't want to be that player. I can't compete, lose and be happy with it and be happy with myself if I'm not training. So I literally put down my racket and haven't played since. So I've not played for years now. It's not enjoyable almost when you know you could play and/or you used to. And then I'd pick a racket and would be nowhere near that level. Yeah, I just don't know.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I want to ask you one more question on the athlete piece, and then I'm going to kind of redirect just for a second. And that is, you talked a lot about when you are a professional athlete, it is about the mindset. It is about the discipline and training. Then there are also components like sleep and eating well. How can we take lessons from the professional athlete world and apply that to being an entrepreneur? Applying that to being a lawyer, working in these high pressured environments. How can we take the lessons from being a professional athlete and yeah, use it to increase our performance at work?

Tom Dunlop:

I mean, it comes back to that there is no silver bullet and there is no kind of one thing. And it is a collection of very small things. And that's how I used to treat it. Sleep was one thing and my diet was another, which I think some people try and look at one of those things as the one thing that will solve all our problems. Like if I just eat really well, I will perform at the highest level. But you need to couple that with the obviously sleep patterns, your diet. Obviously how much water intake you have at the time. It was even little things like who you surrounded yourself with, how did you spend the few nights before a competition? Even some people might even call it almost like a superstitious level.

Tom Dunlop:

I think a lot of athletes have superstitions, but actually, my view is not superstitions as such. It's the little things that they do that gets them in that mindset of being a winner. And I think that's a really yeah, there's almost I think sometimes when you look at oh you ask an athlete, how did you win the world champions? How did you become an Olympic gold medallist or a team? How did you win the world championship? And I bring in, there could be some that have the answer, but it's very rarely that they can just go, "Oh, well it was these three things." We know exactly what it was. It's a combination of these tiny, tiny things and this obsession with the detail and really making sure that all of those aspects are at their optimal performance, which means that you are in a great place.

Tom Dunlop:

And I think that's really the answer, it's not to try and find a silver bullet. It's everything kind of in moderation and making sure that you're looking at every aspect and how can you just improve? We call them 1%. So everyone calls them different things, marginal gains, whatever it might be. But how can you kind of improve just that one little bit best as to what you already do? So sleep, how can we just get half an hour more sleep if that's what you want to do? It might be exercise. Today, every day I'm just going to do 10 minutes of something each day and work your way up. Diet, you don't just want to go from eating really badly to just being on a shake diet for a week. It's never going to be sustainable. So it's all about those kinds of gradual steps to get you to where you need to be and really realizing that it's not those silver bullets and I think that's an athlete mindset compared to I guess how people-

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. So we've talked about you founding Summize. Let's talk about the product.

Tom Dunlop:

Yes.

Charlotte Smith:

Tell me about your clients. Tell me about the product. Tell me about the pain points that you really provide solutions to.

Tom Dunlop:

So I think when we started Summize, I think obviously it was to review contracts. I think the primary use case was contract review. And I think really focusing on I guess the pain points certainly I had when I was looking at whether it be other products or when I was looking for a solution was, contracts review, for example, can take many different forms. It takes a long time obviously, but I didn't want a piece of software to automate it and replace what I did. Because ultimately how I reviewed a contract one day may have been different to two months down the line when a whole lot of new variables kind of I was conscious of. So what kind of we're focused on as a software business is we work where the lawyer does, and that's the first thing. So we see it a contrary view that I guess I'm going to talk about the features, but essentially we create summaries of contract really quickly.

Tom Dunlop:

That's the primary functionality of what we do. But one of the big differentiators is we work in things like Microsoft Word, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Slack. We're not trying to be a platform. We're not trying to be the next Salesforce for contracts or this big heavy platform where essentially you have to get your legal users or your business users to adopt a whole new product. So we're trying to make everything that you use today that deals with contracts smarter and save those efficiencies, whether it be 10 to 15 minutes per contract. Things like our Microsoft Word add-in does exactly that. Whether it be understand the definition quicker or creating a to-do list when you're creating a contract or accessing your playbooks. So precedent clauses, all the Microsoft Word. So when you're doing a DD, being able to summarize contracts really quickly and can creating a report.

Tom Dunlop:

So we really call it a full contract life cycle, but we have kind of those three core values. Which is working where the lawyer does, making it easy to use, which I think is obviously very, very important. And then also focusing on that and providing immediate value rather than something which takes six months to implement. And it's really hard to train and get up to speed. So that's kind of in a nutshell what we do. In terms of clients, a real mix. So we have some large in-house teams, people like FIFA for example, speaking of sport and some large public companies with very large in-house legal teams to small tech companies. Sole counsel like U.S. Birchbox is a sole counsel, really cool company that's growing. And then law firms, similarly corporate commercial teams primarily, but basically anywhere again from large institutional firms like DWS for example to more regional boutique firms. We actually really like working with the kind of more alternative legal services providers. People who want to kind of focus on that delivery of legal services rather than just the knowledge of legal services.

Tom Dunlop:

And I think that's where we really play in and compliment quite well.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I think that's such a fascinating market for sure. So, yeah. Very cool. Very cool. So to wrap this up, I like to ask the question, what does limitless mean to you?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah. You almost have to put yourself in which context I guess, to be honest. I think the mindset actually, I think it's a really kind of interesting one when we talk about kind of what we've talked about my me being an athlete and that kind of mindset. I think what it also breeds is that being afraid to start a start-up or being afraid about intimidated by not going to the big law firms and thinking you might have that imposter syndrome or something like that. I think the athlete mindset is a great one to adopt where you've got really big goals, but how are you going to get there? Just really focus on those kinds of smaller continuous improvement steps. So I think limitless personally, I just think it's being open to kind of self-development but obviously a personally improved. Having big goals but really focusing on the small steps you can take to get there. If that kind of makes any sense but-

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. No, I think that's an amazing definition. So Tom, I really want to thank you for joining me today. I really enjoyed our conversation. And where can people find out more about you, more about Summize and connect with you?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah. I'm on LinkedIn, I'm required to be on LinkedIn. So it's there. Obviously, our website summize.com is actually we've recently updated and it's a great place to find out certainly what we do and some videos-

Charlotte Smith:

It looks really nice by the way. Yeah.

Tom Dunlop:

Oh, good Charlotte. But yeah it's obviously that.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah, perfect. Okay. Well, thank you so much.

Charlotte Smith:

That was such a fun conversation. And I think that Tom really demonstrated what it takes to really cultivate the right mindset to being a successful lawyer, being a successful entrepreneur and founder of a legal tech company. So before I close, I want to talk to you all about my mastermind that I am launching in August. It's going to be starting at the beginning of August for six people. Six lawyer leaders who are ready to up-level in their lives and their careers. In this four-month mastermind, we are going to really dive deep and experience powerful group coaching. In addition to this, you're going to have access to a group of lawyer leader colleagues. People exactly like yourself, who you can call on.

Charlotte Smith:

This sense of community. Individuals who are experiencing some of the same challenges in stepping up and leading legal teams, businesses, and that self-leadership which is incredibly important when we are performing in high stress, high-level careers. So if you're interested in exploring and hearing a little bit more about my mastermind, then simply go to my website, charlotte-smith.com/mastermind. And you will be able to find all of the details.

Charlotte Smith:

If you are interested, reach out, book a console, and let's see if this is going to be a good fit for you. It is going to be an absolutely amazing experience. I guarantee it, where you will lifelong contacts that are operating in the legal profession. Thank you for listening to today's show. We will speak soon.

You can keep up to date with all things ‘Summize’ by following us on our social media channels:

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Limitless Lawyer: Mindset and Entrepreneurship with Tom Dunlop

By
July 14, 2021

Transcript

Charlotte Smith:

Hello, and welcome to the Limitless Lawyer Podcast. I am your host Charlotte Smith. Today on the show we have a Brit, another Brit on the show. We have Tom Dunlop. Tom is the CEO and founder of a legal tech company, Summize. It is a contract management platform and Tom is an absolutely awesome guest. In his former career, he was a lawyer and in-house counsel. He was also a professional athlete on track for the Olympics. And so in today's conversation, we are really going to dive into what it is like to leave the law and found a legal tech company. We are going to explore the impact that Tom's background in being a professional athlete impacted his mindset when it came to practising as a lawyer and becoming an entrepreneur.

Charlotte Smith:

Hello and welcome to the Limitless Lawyer Podcast. I'm your host, Charlotte Smith. And today we have Tom Dunlop on the show. Tom is the CEO and founder of Summize. He is going to be such an awesome guest. So, Tom, I am absolutely delighted to have you on the show today.

Tom Dunlop:

Well, thank you very much, Charlotte. No, it's a pleasure to be here.

Charlotte Smith:

So why don't we just dive right in and you just share a little bit about who you are and the work that you do?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, no, of course. So I guess in many ways, and this is probably a traditional introduction to a founder story. But I'd say it's been quite an unconventional I guess route to where I've ended up. But a non-relevant to start with was actually I thought my career was really going to centre around sports. So I don't know whether I bring this up as to kind of really hold on to the fact that I used to be an athlete and kind of I'm probably getting a bit too far distant in the past. That means that I can still really call on it, but I was once an athlete believe it or not. And that was kind of really the career path I was going on. It was very much Olympics, kind of be involved in the kind of sports side of whether it be nutrition or psychology or something along those lines.

Tom Dunlop:

And that was kind of really where my passion was as a teenager I guess growing up. And then it was kind of a chance application for law that I did when I was applying to universities that kind of really shaped I guess my career going forward. So as I was I guess turning into professional badminton player, I went to university and did my law degree. And then it was kind of at the end of completing my law degree that it was that choice really. Do I really go wholeheartedly into the kind of badminton side of things and really I guess aim for the Olympics or do I focus on a different career? And that's kind of where I chose to go down the legal route. And it was kind of at the time as well which helped I think was I was trying to found my own start-up naturally.

Tom Dunlop:

So it was a bit of the first tech adventure, which was like a comparison site for solicitors. Which is ahead of my time I think with that one because I think that's probably now actually a really good idea, but after that, it was a little bit too early, it wasn't as monetized. So I did that for a little bit, but then I think really my journey into the legal industry and becoming a practising lawyer was there was an opportunity to essentially become a sports lawyer or agent for footballers in the UK primarily, and then Olympic athletes. So I joined this kind of sports management agency thinking right, this has got to be right for me. I've got a background in sports, I've got a law degree in my LPC and it was great.

Tom Dunlop:

And it was really interesting, but I think what we really found was just the practice of law was just a much better business model if I'm honest. It was very much kind of working with great clients. You gave them advice, you billed them, they paid on time and it was just really good work. So that was kind of where I went into practice and trained in private practice in a law firm. And then really from there obviously became an in-house lawyer pretty early on after qualification and pursued the in-house legal career. And so I guess where we are today, which is in founding Summize a couple of years ago. So yeah, very varied kind of sports and then a little bit of a tech venture then back into law and then now back into a tech venture again so yeah, mixed background.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah, it's a fascinating journey. And I can see that making that decision when you were kind of 18 ish should you continue on the athlete path or the legal path, that must've been a really difficult decision to make.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, it was to be fair because I think when I was growing up with all this kind of strange I guess dynamic I had which was if I wasn't ... If you know, from what I said I got a bad grade at school, I'd be kind of like, "Oh, that's fine. I'm going to be an Olympic athlete anyway. I don't need my grades." And if I lost the badminton match in whatever round I'd kind of turn around and go "It's fine. I've got my law degree, I'll do that instead." So it was constantly on my mind. And I think yeah, it kind of got to the point where becoming I guess a full-time professional wasn't actually as glamorous as being a junior, like in the junior England startup. Because it was very much about the team flying everywhere and it was a great experience flying around the world, representing your country.

Tom Dunlop:

But as a senior, it felt very much quite alone really. You felt kind of you know, you trained on your own, you flew on your own, you played your tournament, you lost or won, but then he came back on your own and it was quite a lonely existence. And I think that for me made me think it wasn't something I was willing to I guess bet the next four or five years of my life to see if I could make it to the Olympics when I had obviously a different career path down the legal route as an option as well.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. There's so much mindset stuck in there as well that we could kind of unpack. What lessons did you have from being a professional athlete and playing at such a high level at a young age that you have taken now into your career as a start-up founder, your legal career as well?

Tom Dunlop:

Yes. I mean huge amounts of influence it's had on almost a lot of parts of my life, you almost forget how much of an influence that kind of background I had does have on the culture we have within the company and just me personally. So I mean, one of the things I always used to do as an athlete was because at the time I was the number one in Europe, I was the best player, a national champion. And I always had this mindset of the when I worked on call I was the best, no one could beat me. There was nothing anyone could do. And I was almost kind of already going to win because of that mindset. And a lot of the things I did to get to that mindset was what now I call kind of continuous improvement and the Kaizen kind of mentality, which we really push a lot in Summize. But it was very much kind of like one example.

Tom Dunlop:

And I give this example a lot, but I think it's a really powerful one was I just used to get up at half four and train at 5:00 AM before college, before school. And it wasn't because that meant that I was training more hours than anyone else. It just meant that I knew that they weren't doing that. And it was just that kind of mentality of walking onto a promising call and thinking "I know that I'm doing more than you. I know that I'm sacrificing more. I know I'm just doing those extra little things, whatever it might be and the small little things that add up that eventually mean that that's why I'm the number one and you're not."

Tom Dunlop:

And that's a huge part of what I've carried through to my career, which is yes, it's competitive but I'm not one of those people that would throw a TV if I lost a race in the office. It's one of those things that it's more about looking at every aspect of what you do and just looking at the small things that you could do better than other people. And ultimately they do add up and become why you win. It's very rarely that silver bullet that a lot of people that associate with becoming an Olympic athlete. It's very hard to kind of point to that one moment in time that you realize you would go into or that kind of crystallization I think that's very true of business as well. So yeah, that's the biggest one but a lot.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. That was fascinating. I don't know if you have ever read David Goggins book? I can't remember the exact title of it, but there is a philosophy in there as well about getting up and training early in order to kind of build those incremental shifts and outlap everyone else essentially and yeah it's fascinating. Okay. So you chose the law. How is that?

Tom Dunlop:

Well, I mean the fact that I left the law probably says a lot about it, but no, I think it was great in a lot of ways because I think there's a lot of transferable skills. I think my kind of personality fit well, but I think sooner I realized that I needed to be an in-house lawyer. I needed to be much closer to the decision, much closer to I guess the business results of what that advice meant. And I think then when I went in-house and when I started to work for tech companies in particular, as well as the GC or legal director of basically software companies that were fast growth. And that was both in the UK, but also the last job I had was a Silicon Valley based software company.

Tom Dunlop:

And that felt to me like a really perfect balance because I was a lawyer, I had a lot of the skillset which was kind of part of my personality, but at the same time, I was in a really creative entrepreneurial environment. They kind of really encouraged that continuous improvement, that better way of doing things. And then that felt like a really perfect mix. So I guess the legal career I think it's very easy to get disillusioned early on in your career. And I think there's lots of reasons why, but I think that I kind of went through those steps, but really found my sweet spot in-house particularly in tech. So I've really enjoyed it and to be honest if it wasn't for I guess, I was having that itch and that underlying need to almost create something myself. I'd be very happy as an in-house lawyer in a tech business.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. And isn't it amazing how sometimes we just have to go on these journeys and it is learning and growth and figuring out what feels good and what works for us and perhaps, areas that aren't fulfilling those so that you can then end up at the destination.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah. It is. It is definitely. I totally agree.

Charlotte Smith:

So sounds as well, so you have this work ethic, the discipline, the mindset of a professional athlete. Then there was also this interest in business and innovation. Where did that come from and how have you cultivated that?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah so really because I mean a lot of entrepreneurs or I have a way of kind of taking entrepreneurs and founders as well that I don't believe there's as such as entrepreneurs, but I'll come on to that a minute. But I think what I found was when I was young, I wasn't particularly creative. I wasn't the person that was necessarily, I used to say the typical entrepreneur story is I used to sell sweets at school that I bought for a pound and sold for one pound 50. And it's kind of always been there.

Tom Dunlop:

For me kind of it wasn't because I was so focused on sport, but at the same time, I remember meeting someone who was basically a family relation and he had his own kind of electronics business. And it was, I remember just being sat down and this was kind of almost like not the light bulb moment, but that kind of really I guess the realization, this is something I could be interested in. Whereas it just sat there and just coming up with all sorts of crazy ideas, almost like a black book of crazy ideas about how he can almost use the technology to solve problems. And even back then one of them which really stuck with I don't know was he just looked at the bin in the kitchen and was like, "You know what we should do? We should build a compressor that means that once you put something in, in recycling bin, you close the lid and it automatically kind of presses it down and it means that you kind of do that for recycling."

Tom Dunlop:

Just this kind of crazy idea just by looking at a bin. And I kind of thought, wow that's like, it'd be so excited. And then suddenly I started thinking about the business plan and went with it. And so I think how feasible it was and then the price, but literally on the space of about an hour conversation. It was that moment really that I guess I would like to think I kind of adopted a kind of entrepreneurial mindset. And I think that you see that in a lot of people that genuinely look at their day-to-day life, whatever they're doing. It might be just how you log on in the morning, the first five actions you do. Is there anything you do in that day that you could improve or is there a certain thing that you actually question almost every part of your life and can you kind of do it better?

Tom Dunlop:

And really it was kind of from that moment when you just kind of look at something which you would never look at twice normally, and it was almost a reinvent, a better way of doing something that kind of stuck with me. And I think ever since then, I've always have that sort of mentality of well, don't just accept whatever you're doing at that point because that's the way it's always been done. Just always just question everything, always just think is there a slight improvement I can do? That might not be a product or a piece of software. It just might be a kind of personality thing or a kind of like ... I'm trying to find the word. Just how you go about a routine thing basically in terms of how kind of habits book. But yeah, it was the kind of that moment really, that really, really triggered my entrepreneurial side I guess.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah, that's amazing. And it's really fascinating to hear how a small moment like that when you're younger can have such a kind of great impact not just over your future kind of career history, but just how you live life and show up. How to make their subtle efficiencies so that we can be more productive and get more done. So that's really cool. So I'd love to hear a little bit more about founding Summize, the idea. And then taking that leap of faith and going for it. How did that all come together?

Tom Dunlop:

I think it was a combination of I guess starting working in those companies. I mean, I kind of in some ways the background as to how I start to think about entrepreneurial. So kind of this entrepreneurial mindset. I certainly had this kind of continuous improvement or kind of actual mindset anyway about how to do things better and things like that. And then obviously working in software companies that were all about being innovative. All about solving a problem that was probably disruptive or probably something that hadn't been thought of before. And so it was literally one of those moments. I was working in a software company. We were being acquired by a kind of big U.S. IT company. And I had to review 500 contracts. And the process was I looked obviously at all the tools. I was kind of reluctant to do it manually because that was just the personality.

Tom Dunlop:

But I looked at the tools, they were really kind of big expensive enterprise-level products, they took ages to train. I didn't get how they worked. And I had to get on with the DD kind of geologist project that day. Someone had just pressed a button and said, "Tom, here's a list of contracts. You need to produce a summary of each of these contracts." So it was kind of at the moment. I did it manually and it was obviously very painful. But I walked over to one of the senior software engineers who I knew very well at the company. And I just kind of said, "Look, I've looked out there, no one can do what I wanted to do, which is just create an easy summary of the key terms very quickly, but something they actually understand and is quite kind of easy to use because it wasn't some kind of computer science degree that I needed to retain before using the software.

Tom Dunlop:

And that's how it all started really. And then I think obviously because after those conversations we started to trade ideas around. I then moved to another in-house role then I was kind of thinking actually the product can't just be too honed in on that one specific use case, because I had that as one use case in one company. But then I had the day-to-day contract reviews to do that were commercial agreements for sales. I had red flag reviews to do for supplier agreements. I had contract management. There was so many very different use cases that I had that I started to then try and develop the idea to be flexible enough so that essentially a piece of software could work, be really easy to use and be flexible to work across all those different use cases. And that's really how it moulded to the point where we got a prototype working.

Tom Dunlop:

And I kind of tested that with GCs that I knew, law firms that I knew and just kind of said, "What do you think?" And we got basically on the back of that, and mostly you get a call up you're signed up to agree to do trials, that kind of thing. We got basically some pre-seed investment and that allowed us to essentially get a development team really creates an actual viable product that we could sell. And so that’s the start of the story I guess from the product. And I think from a risk point of view, or when did I make the leap? I mean it felt inevitable. It felt that at some point I would just do it. And I think when I came up, when I was talking before about the entrepreneurial mindset, this is what I mean about the kind of entrepreneurial.

Tom Dunlop:

I think there's a very big difference between having an entrepreneurial mindset and being a founder. And I think that I was always hearing to be a founder as well as just come up with good ideas and I've met loads of people who've got entrepreneurial mindset and they talk a great game about the ideas that they've got. But actually, I knew that unless I actually took the plunge, I actually dedicated time to it full-time. And obviously, we had investment, which helps. I was never going to become that founder. So it was kind of a combination I guess of the experience that I had which led me to come up with the idea. Obviously, that gets you so far but really as soon as I went full time, it was then really by execution on creating a product to within a certain timeframe and actually selling the product. So that's how we kind of I guess got going.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I love that distinction between having an entrepreneurial mindset, which a lot of people do and the ability to create and problem solve and innovate. But there's a real difference between having that mindset and actually taking the jump. Plunging off into the unknown, getting into the fundraising process. And that could be scary. You're walking away from a well-paid salary as a lawyer into the unknown. So how did you manage that from a mindset standpoint?

Tom Dunlop:

I mean, one of the things that I picked up again from sport, and again this is why it's had such an influence on my life in some ways is when I was quite young when I used to play in some of the kind of poorer countries, certainly in the Eastern European area. And one of the again, you talked about the small moments have such a huge impact on people's lives. I was walking through this Polish marketplace. It was about an hour away from the Castle in Warsaw and it was basically felt like I'd just come back to the 1920s. And it was poverty-stricken. I was walking through in my England tracksuit, all the kind of latest kind of I guess tracksuits and gear. And everyone's kind of looking at you almost like you got the feeling that this was a really, really poverty-stricken place.

Tom Dunlop:

And I was kind of walking on the way it's a play going through this marketplace. And I remember just walking on court thinking like, you know what? I know that I've done all the work, that I'm the best. And actually don't put so much pressure on yourself to win absolutely every game. People lose a game. As long as I've done everything that I've learned and put into it, at least be grateful for the fact that I know that I go back home, I've got a comfy house, I've got a family. The kind of worst-case scenario of me losing wasn't actually as bad as I probably built up in my own hand.

Tom Dunlop:

And that's a really kind of it sounds almost based, but actually when I kind of went through my career, I really have these people would describe me as very easy-going, very chilled out. But really I'm probably more competitive than any person you've ever met, but at the same time, if I lost a race in the office as I kind of described before, I wouldn't go into a lot of talks around. I just kind of like yeah, I can kind of deal with it and move on. A very practical way of thinking. So that's kind of what mindset I had when I did the start-up. It was kind of, "Well look, we've got an investment, we've got a great product. We validated it. The market's massive. There's clearly a need for it. If it fails I can get a very high paid job as a lawyer in a tech business. I don't fear the worst-case scenario." And so it wasn't a hard decision to be honest because of all those things.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I love that example of being an athlete that experience has got you comfortable in being comfortable with failure. Which I'm not so sure that the legal profession breeds people that are comfortable with failure because it attracts so many high achievers and we are on this kind of trajectory that you must perform. And it was very kind of hierarchical in terms of like the next steps that you take to associate to partner level and so on. And I experienced it myself. There's this kind of fear of failing and what will happen. But I love your perspective there as well. Like, so what if I fail? Failure isn't actually failing, it's learning, it's insight. And actually, we're really lucky here in the Western world. We're very lucky we've got access to so much kind of abundance really. And so having that gratitude is important.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah. And it definitely was. And I think we come outside like that kind of winning mindset of an athlete. I think the ones that you can always almost see it. When you get to a certain level as an athlete, the physical level of the skills that you have become irrelevant at a certain level. When you're at the world championships. And I remember this with certainly the Chinese team, it was this kind of strange dynamic where you're competing with the best in the world, you kind of who can play the best shots? You can all do whatever each other can do on the day. The difference is your mentality and the difference is whether you're going to crumble under the pressure. Whether you're in the zone as they call it, which really means you've got because it's kind of I guess your mind is allowing your body to be as free as it wants to be in terms of relaxed and not to play the shots that you know that you can play.

Tom Dunlop:

And when you've got all right impression on your back, which is that ... And I remember seen literally the Chinese team, you could tell that some of the players that used to play in there. I saw them off court and it was literally life or death almost it felt. Like if they lost, that was their chance kind of escaping whatever personal situation they were in. And you kind of witness this kind of pressure, but actually on call, I knew that if I got throw a hand against some of these athletes, I didn't have that pressure and I could play quite freely. Whereas I knew that they would get uptight, they'd start to doubt themselves. They start to think, those little thoughts were creeping about what if. And that was my competitive advantage, that's why I won.

Tom Dunlop:

And I think that that's what you completely ride this kind of pressure that's existed on people in high-performing jobs like a lawyer. I just think it's crazy. If you actually speak to people that perform at such a high level in a sports field or anyone else, as soon as you put that pressure on yourself, you increase your chances of failure significantly. And that's what again we foster a huge culture of personal development of continuous improvement. And we focus on that to the point where we buy books for everyone. We have all the books on the corner. If anyone wants to do a course, anyone thinks they want to develop a particular skill. We do it. We have breakfast hours where we just learn about things and it's that personal development and that constant kind of not being fear of failure and all trying to learn and not put that pressure on yourself is huge.

Charlotte Smith:

So what was your biggest piece of advice be to someone who does have the propensity to put a lot of pressure on themselves? What are some kind of tangible steps to free up that energy?

Tom Dunlop:

I mean, I guess in some ways it's quite easy to kind of say to put things into perspective without doing it. But I think what I used to do as an athlete was have like, and this was a bit of a sports psychology kind of thing that we had. Because we accessed amazing services in Olympic setup, as you can probably imagine in some ways. But I used to always have a trigger word or a trigger statement or something like that, that really what you want to do is put yourself in a happy place, put yourself in, it might be just at home, sat on the couch, watching the TV. It might be with your family. It might be a place that you feel comfortable, a place that you feel happy and a place that you feel actually all that stuff that I was worrying about work doesn't make a difference.

Tom Dunlop:

And there will be moments that other people have and you want this kind of trigger word. And I actually can't remember what mine was. It was something random, but it might be like home, or it might be like a sign or a picture or whatever it might be. But I used to have this trigger word and it used to kind of take me back to a moment where I felt comfortable. I felt in control. I felt that I kind of remembered what my feeling was at the time. I remembered how I was playing for example. And I think it was really powerful. I actually use in a really random context now, but I use it when I come home from work. There's always a place in the motorway and it's a sign and it's my trigger that as soon as it gets to that place, I switch off from everything that's going on my mind in terms of work and I just think right when I get in the door, go see your kids.

Tom Dunlop:

Go and ask how her day has been. Talk about the homes. Don't immediately go into work and bring your work problems into the entire home and be like, "Oh, this meeting. Oh we did this," or immediately talk about something great. Always put yourself in that mindset of kids, family first. Just get yourself into that mindset. So I actually use that trigger in a slightly different way, but just in day-to-day life. And I think it's really powerful. And I think that you can do that in a workplace.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I think that's such great advice and techniques like tapping where you can get the neuro pathways to be siring together and recreate the negative thought cycles and reframe that to be something more positive. So yeah, really cool. So do you play badminton anymore?

Tom Dunlop:

Do you know what, it's one of those things that I ... so after I quit kind of great Britain and peace on a level, I still had the bug a little bit. So I played in the Swiss Professional League. So it sounds very exhausting actually, but so I played for Geneva and used to play in the kind of professional badminton league for a couple of years. But then I remember just literally flying home one day and I thought I'm not training anymore. I was still winning, but I was just about beating people I used to beat really easily. And I thought to myself, I don't want to be that player. I can't compete, lose and be happy with it and be happy with myself if I'm not training. So I literally put down my racket and haven't played since. So I've not played for years now. It's not enjoyable almost when you know you could play and/or you used to. And then I'd pick a racket and would be nowhere near that level. Yeah, I just don't know.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I want to ask you one more question on the athlete piece, and then I'm going to kind of redirect just for a second. And that is, you talked a lot about when you are a professional athlete, it is about the mindset. It is about the discipline and training. Then there are also components like sleep and eating well. How can we take lessons from the professional athlete world and apply that to being an entrepreneur? Applying that to being a lawyer, working in these high pressured environments. How can we take the lessons from being a professional athlete and yeah, use it to increase our performance at work?

Tom Dunlop:

I mean, it comes back to that there is no silver bullet and there is no kind of one thing. And it is a collection of very small things. And that's how I used to treat it. Sleep was one thing and my diet was another, which I think some people try and look at one of those things as the one thing that will solve all our problems. Like if I just eat really well, I will perform at the highest level. But you need to couple that with the obviously sleep patterns, your diet. Obviously how much water intake you have at the time. It was even little things like who you surrounded yourself with, how did you spend the few nights before a competition? Even some people might even call it almost like a superstitious level.

Tom Dunlop:

I think a lot of athletes have superstitions, but actually, my view is not superstitions as such. It's the little things that they do that gets them in that mindset of being a winner. And I think that's a really yeah, there's almost I think sometimes when you look at oh you ask an athlete, how did you win the world champions? How did you become an Olympic gold medallist or a team? How did you win the world championship? And I bring in, there could be some that have the answer, but it's very rarely that they can just go, "Oh, well it was these three things." We know exactly what it was. It's a combination of these tiny, tiny things and this obsession with the detail and really making sure that all of those aspects are at their optimal performance, which means that you are in a great place.

Tom Dunlop:

And I think that's really the answer, it's not to try and find a silver bullet. It's everything kind of in moderation and making sure that you're looking at every aspect and how can you just improve? We call them 1%. So everyone calls them different things, marginal gains, whatever it might be. But how can you kind of improve just that one little bit best as to what you already do? So sleep, how can we just get half an hour more sleep if that's what you want to do? It might be exercise. Today, every day I'm just going to do 10 minutes of something each day and work your way up. Diet, you don't just want to go from eating really badly to just being on a shake diet for a week. It's never going to be sustainable. So it's all about those kinds of gradual steps to get you to where you need to be and really realizing that it's not those silver bullets and I think that's an athlete mindset compared to I guess how people-

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. So we've talked about you founding Summize. Let's talk about the product.

Tom Dunlop:

Yes.

Charlotte Smith:

Tell me about your clients. Tell me about the product. Tell me about the pain points that you really provide solutions to.

Tom Dunlop:

So I think when we started Summize, I think obviously it was to review contracts. I think the primary use case was contract review. And I think really focusing on I guess the pain points certainly I had when I was looking at whether it be other products or when I was looking for a solution was, contracts review, for example, can take many different forms. It takes a long time obviously, but I didn't want a piece of software to automate it and replace what I did. Because ultimately how I reviewed a contract one day may have been different to two months down the line when a whole lot of new variables kind of I was conscious of. So what kind of we're focused on as a software business is we work where the lawyer does, and that's the first thing. So we see it a contrary view that I guess I'm going to talk about the features, but essentially we create summaries of contract really quickly.

Tom Dunlop:

That's the primary functionality of what we do. But one of the big differentiators is we work in things like Microsoft Word, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Slack. We're not trying to be a platform. We're not trying to be the next Salesforce for contracts or this big heavy platform where essentially you have to get your legal users or your business users to adopt a whole new product. So we're trying to make everything that you use today that deals with contracts smarter and save those efficiencies, whether it be 10 to 15 minutes per contract. Things like our Microsoft Word add-in does exactly that. Whether it be understand the definition quicker or creating a to-do list when you're creating a contract or accessing your playbooks. So precedent clauses, all the Microsoft Word. So when you're doing a DD, being able to summarize contracts really quickly and can creating a report.

Tom Dunlop:

So we really call it a full contract life cycle, but we have kind of those three core values. Which is working where the lawyer does, making it easy to use, which I think is obviously very, very important. And then also focusing on that and providing immediate value rather than something which takes six months to implement. And it's really hard to train and get up to speed. So that's kind of in a nutshell what we do. In terms of clients, a real mix. So we have some large in-house teams, people like FIFA for example, speaking of sport and some large public companies with very large in-house legal teams to small tech companies. Sole counsel like U.S. Birchbox is a sole counsel, really cool company that's growing. And then law firms, similarly corporate commercial teams primarily, but basically anywhere again from large institutional firms like DWS for example to more regional boutique firms. We actually really like working with the kind of more alternative legal services providers. People who want to kind of focus on that delivery of legal services rather than just the knowledge of legal services.

Tom Dunlop:

And I think that's where we really play in and compliment quite well.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. I think that's such a fascinating market for sure. So, yeah. Very cool. Very cool. So to wrap this up, I like to ask the question, what does limitless mean to you?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah. You almost have to put yourself in which context I guess, to be honest. I think the mindset actually, I think it's a really kind of interesting one when we talk about kind of what we've talked about my me being an athlete and that kind of mindset. I think what it also breeds is that being afraid to start a start-up or being afraid about intimidated by not going to the big law firms and thinking you might have that imposter syndrome or something like that. I think the athlete mindset is a great one to adopt where you've got really big goals, but how are you going to get there? Just really focus on those kinds of smaller continuous improvement steps. So I think limitless personally, I just think it's being open to kind of self-development but obviously a personally improved. Having big goals but really focusing on the small steps you can take to get there. If that kind of makes any sense but-

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah. No, I think that's an amazing definition. So Tom, I really want to thank you for joining me today. I really enjoyed our conversation. And where can people find out more about you, more about Summize and connect with you?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah. I'm on LinkedIn, I'm required to be on LinkedIn. So it's there. Obviously, our website summize.com is actually we've recently updated and it's a great place to find out certainly what we do and some videos-

Charlotte Smith:

It looks really nice by the way. Yeah.

Tom Dunlop:

Oh, good Charlotte. But yeah it's obviously that.

Charlotte Smith:

Yeah, perfect. Okay. Well, thank you so much.

Charlotte Smith:

That was such a fun conversation. And I think that Tom really demonstrated what it takes to really cultivate the right mindset to being a successful lawyer, being a successful entrepreneur and founder of a legal tech company. So before I close, I want to talk to you all about my mastermind that I am launching in August. It's going to be starting at the beginning of August for six people. Six lawyer leaders who are ready to up-level in their lives and their careers. In this four-month mastermind, we are going to really dive deep and experience powerful group coaching. In addition to this, you're going to have access to a group of lawyer leader colleagues. People exactly like yourself, who you can call on.

Charlotte Smith:

This sense of community. Individuals who are experiencing some of the same challenges in stepping up and leading legal teams, businesses, and that self-leadership which is incredibly important when we are performing in high stress, high-level careers. So if you're interested in exploring and hearing a little bit more about my mastermind, then simply go to my website, charlotte-smith.com/mastermind. And you will be able to find all of the details.

Charlotte Smith:

If you are interested, reach out, book a console, and let's see if this is going to be a good fit for you. It is going to be an absolutely amazing experience. I guarantee it, where you will lifelong contacts that are operating in the legal profession. Thank you for listening to today's show. We will speak soon.

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