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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

With his award-winning startup, Ryan Alshak (JD 2013) seeks to transform the way lawyers work 

By Julie Riggott

Ryan Alshak (JD '13)

What is the bane of every lawyer’s existence? Certainly one of them is keeping track of billable hours.

Lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Ryan Alshak JD ’13 saw this problem as a business opportunity — and a way to make a difference. He quit a BigLaw job two years ago to launch Ping and transform how lawyers track their time.

“Our purpose is really to change the way that people think about working,” says Alshak, Ping founder and CEO. “It’s to first rid lawyers of the things they hate to do most, such as timekeeping, but the ultimate goal is to allow professionals to understand where their time is being spent and how to optimize that time.”

Instead of giving law firms a data dump, listing the time and duration of every email and phone call on a given date, Ping curates that timesheet. Ping’s AI is able to determine if a given activity is billable, which client matter it relates to and what the legal code is — across all apps, programs and devices. “That’s really what differentiates us from any other player on the market,” Alshak says.

In 2017, Ping was named Legal Tech Startup of the Year at the American Bar Association’s first pitch competition. Since then, the company has seen many developments. “We ran a two-week pilot with the product, and it resulted in a 13 percent revenue lift across pilot users,” Alshak says. “We’re talking about massive economics by changing the way a firm operates.”

Now, Ping is targeting and rolling out the product to their next three or four firms. They also received significant funding and are aggressively growing out the team (from their current team of five software engineers, a designer, a businessperson and AI engineers with PhDs in particle physics).

And a milestone is just on the horizon. “We are in the process of closing our U.S. partner firm, which I can’t go public about yet, but it’s one of the largest firms in the world,” Alshak adds.

As a USC Gould student, Alshak was hyper-focused. “I loved law school, I loved the people, I loved learning,” he says. “I also knew my goal was to be a lawyer for the Los Angeles Clippers.”
 
He achieved his dream as an associate at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips. But “when I was in litigation, there was one thing that always gnawed at me,” he says. “I loved my job, but I didn’t feel like I was creating value.”
 
Alshak, who graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in political science in 2009, admired what some of his fellow graduates had done when they built and sold their own companies. “It wasn’t that I was jealous of the financial windfall, although that’s a great byproduct, but it was the notion that they had created value at such a young age,” he says.
 
He remembers that entrepreneurial spirit at USC. “USC inculcates the entrepreneurial mindset of ‘you are unique and you have the ability to change the world,’ and I believe that my Gould education will pay off many times over.”
 
As for Ping, Alshak feels good knowing that his invention can help people to “spend every minute with intention.”
 
“It’s something that gets me up in the morning and makes me smile when I’m burning the midnight oil,” he says. “If I can help someone get out of the office one minute earlier to see their wife or kids or mom, that would be everything. This is very personal to me and the team.”
 
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of the USC Law magazine.
Photo: Brett Van Ort

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