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Robin Sosnow

Culture

When it comes to the law, what does it mean to tap into the power of the crowd? For lawyer and entrepreneur Robin Sosnow, it means innovation.

Sosnow specializes in equity crowdfunding, helping start-ups and early-stage companies raise funds from the community-at-large. Many people only associate crowdfunding with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo which allow people to raise money for projects, products and causes in exchange for rewards. Equity crowdfunding, meanwhile, has the potential to revolutionize how companies access capital on a much larger scale.

With equity crowdfunding, “startups are actually selling equity interest in their companies, so they’re selling ownership to a large number of investors in order to raise up to $1 million in capital,” Sosnow explains. Rather than being limited to approaching accredited investors, friends or family, equity crowdfunding allows companies to solicit investments from the general public through a registered broker, a funding portal like Republic, or, for commercial real estate, Prodigy Network.

Rules of Impact // Robin Sosnow

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“In the world of crowdfunding, we are seeing this liberalization in investments, and a disruption in the old model of financing. That is a similar trend to what we’re starting to see in the legal field. Legal tech is really all about disrupting the way that legal services are consumed and the way that legal services are provided.”


Equity crowdfunding was made possible by the passage of the JOBS Act, signed by President Barack Obama in April 2012. “It came into effect as the result of an IPO task force which was charged with figuring out why the number of IPOs had so significantly declined since the technology boom in the 1990s,” Sosnow says. The task force identified a number of problem areas including “macroeconomic conditions, political insurgency, instability in the equity markets, and a perceived lack of confidence among investors,” she continued. The JOBS act was intended to create jobs and encourage investments into startups to stimulate economic growth.

For Sosnow, entering the new field of equity crowdfunding combined her longstanding interest in globalization and impact with opportunities to help individual organizations succeed. Her larger vision is to create economic prosperity that benefits many people by helping to fund new companies that can employ more workers. “I saw that it would not only be niche within the legal services spectrum, but it also had the potential to help change people’s lives,” she says. “What better can you do for someone than help them get a job or help them give a job to another person?”

What better can you do for someone than help them get a job or help them give a job to another person? tweet

She began her path to becoming a lawyer long before the concept of equity crowdfunding existed, choosing to focus on globalization in college. This provided an opportunity to innovate and work across a variety of different clients within the confines of a field shaped by tradition. “Globalization is this great common thread that really weaves its way into the topic of where law is going in the future,” she says. “How is legal tech changing the legal marketplace? How does globalization impact investments in private companies, domestically and abroad?”


“Globalization is this great common thread that really weaves its way into the topic of where law is going in the future.”

Travel within the realm of education played a pivotal role in shaping her decision to pursue a career in law initially. As an undergrad, she studied at St. Louis University in Madrid before returning to the U.S. to attend Arcadia University, where she graduated with a degree in International Relations.

A trip to Costa Rica further propelled her to focus on advocacy and social impact. As a part of Arcadia’s International Peace and Conflict Globalization Program, Sosnow studied the Boruca, an indigenous tribe that faced displacement after a dam was built on its ancestral lands. Encountering a beautiful and sustainable culture at risk of disruption, she felt the only real help could come from the intervention of lawyers.

“I had an unbelievably powerful experience being introduced to a group of people who live in a completely sustainable way: recycling everything they use, eating only what they need to eat, cultivating all of their own food. I took the coldest showers of my life outside for as brief as possible because it took so much effort to collect the rainwater where we were staying,” she says. “I left with a new appreciation for indigenous culture, and also an appreciation for the power of law to protect or promote different interests in society.”

“I left with a new appreciation for indigenous culture, and also an appreciation for the power of law to protect or promote different interests in society.”

Coming out of law school at Suffolk University in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, Sosnow identified equity crowdfunding as the perfect area of specialization. The harsh state of the job market challenged Sosnow to think critically about how she wanted to approach her career, identifying needs in the marketplace which allowed her to help business owners scale their companies at a time when many industries were struggling.

Today, as a solo practitioner working with bootstrapping startups in fintech, food, and real estate, among other industries, Sosnow uses legal tech to help automate services and keep costs down.

“Big and even mid-sized law firms often charge really high hourly fees or have large hourly fees and pretty high capped fees on projects of this nature,” she says. “Software platforms can generate these documents directly with the issuer, or the company that’s crowdfunding.”

Leveraging the power of legal tech helps Sosnow augment her services to startups and provide access to clients who might not be able to traditionally afford her. This pragmatic approach presents a huge opportunity for the future of law.


“I don’t operate a big law firm and I don’t work for one, but I could certainly support those startups who want to get more involved and take that leap within the legal tech space,” Sosnow says.

“The biggest opportunity for disruption and innovation on the horizon: utilizing the blockchain for smart contracts.”

“Typically, when they’re not in the same physical space, lawyers send documents to one another via email or through data rooms, so the idea that a contract could be put on a blockchain rather than over email is a more secure process,” she explains. The blockchain acts as a public ledger, enabling the possibility that smart contracts can self-execute. “Parts of the contract can be coded and placed on the blockchain which activates certain clauses when the right information is received. Another feature of smart contracts is that they can be linked to external data sources, so for example, a smart contract on a blockchain could be made to change the value of an asset, depending on the news it receives from the stock market.”


“Narrow your focus so you can provide that singular function and either outsource the rest to someone else or have a product that really answers a single solution. That’s where things are moving and that’s where I think you’ll find success.”

Sosnow envisions a future where lawyers and legal tech are fully integrated into hyper-efficient, highly specialized practices that allow delivery of incredible quality services at a fraction of the current rates. Her first step towards realizing this vision was founding Law Lab, a new community that acts as a bridge to innovative lawyers and legal tech startups, that resides at The Assemblage NoMad. Her vision is to build it into a movement that transforms the legal profession.

Between leading innovation across the traditional field of law through equity crowdfunding, embracing legal tech and Law Lab, Sosnow offers tactical advice to people trying to navigate the challenges ahead for their careers and businesses. “Narrow your focus so you can provide that singular function and either outsource the rest to someone else or have a product that really answers a single solution. That’s where things are moving and that’s where I think you’ll find success.”