Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 1: Dirty Little Secret

The Lawyer?s Desktop

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The idea was to provide an integrated package at a price that was suitable for the small to medium sized law firm. It would provide time and billing, case management, and calendaring modules. There were individual products on the market that met some of these needs, but not an integrated solution. We both had significant experience working with data models, so we were confident that we could reverse engineer a coherent model based on existing products. At least on this score, we were quite successful. With respect to almost everything else, it became painfully clear that our ambitions far exceeded our ability to execute the project.

I made a significant number of strategic business and technology blunders that ultimately provided me with a world-class education, but at a very steep price. I will share the story with you, even though, a decade later, I still cringe at the emotional and economic toll it took on me, and on my family.

Failure and Wisdom


Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.

—Eric Hoffer

I certainly have learned far more from my failures than from whatever limited success I have attained. The lessons learned from bringing The Lawyer’s DeskTop to market were many. One of the most important lessons I learned, all too well, was the reality of risk. You cannot begin to understand risk until you put your own money on the table. The risk is commensurate with how bad it will hurt you to lose it.

Risk is that knot in your stomach that entrepreneurs learn to live with, but never get accustomed to. When all was said and done, I estimated that this education cost me about $150K USD. While this might not seem like a big number by dot-com standards, when it comes out of your own wallet, it hurts (bad). Obviously, all business ventures include a certain amount of risk, but software ventures are riskier than most. I will use my personal experience as an example for the kinds of things that can go wrong.

When I started The Lawyer’s DeskTop, I thought I had all the tools that I would ever need:

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