What led you to give back to ASU Law?
I credit ASU Law for giving me the knowledge, experiences and tools used to earn my professional and financial successes. Only five years after I graduated from ASU Law, my brother asked me to join him in starting a software company that eventually became a dot com company that now trades on the Nasdaq stock exchange (Ticker: EHTH) with a current market capitalization of $2.79 Billion. I recall at least three specific reasons ASU Law was instrumental in that success.
When we started as a software company our first client was a large insurance company that asked us to develop software to allow their insurance agents to market their products on the internet. I had learned in Prof. Dennis Karjala's Patent, Trademark and Copyright class that if we created the software as a "work for hire", the insurance company would own the intellectual property rights to the software but if we licensed the software to the insurance company, we would continue to own the I.P. so I negotiated a software license agreement instead of a development contract. Owning the I.P. allowed us to later convert the software company into a dot com company. I did not know it at the time but what I learned in that class changed the course of an entire company.
The most significant skills I learned at ASU Law did not come from a class but came from an ABA competition I entered: the Negotiation Competition. The negotiation skills I learned during the training for that competition serve me to this day but were especially instrumental in the success of our company. Profs. Robert Dauber and Gary Lowenthal coached my negotiation partner and me through the various rounds of the competition including Nationals. We didn't win but the negotiation skills I learned were invaluable. We were still a small start-up dot com company when I met with the General Counsel of the largest health insurance company in California. I had nothing to offer, no leverage, and I had to convince him to allow our company to submit health insurance applications without a wet signature, to allow a “never been done before in the insurance industry” electronic signature to form a binding contract. I used all the negotiation skills I learned at ASU Law to convince him to take the risk. Our small company was the first to ever submit an insurance application using an electronic signature which subsequently changed the entire industry.
When someone wants to obtain health insurance, they must submit a signed application which, if accepted by the health insurance company, forms a contract. Basic contract law applies: offer, acceptance, consideration, terms & conditions, etc. However, the process of an insurance agent giving an application form to the client, the client completing the form with a signature and giving it back to the agent and the agent then submitting the application to the insurance underwriter typically took two to three weeks. It seems simple today but the issue we faced was how to cut the weeks long process into days or hours utilizing technology. Using the internet we could get the client to download the application, complete it, but they still had to print the application, sign it and mail it back. The “ah-ha” moment was realizing that a binding contract can be created without a wet signature if there was a “meeting of the minds” and evidence of the intent to submit an offer to purchase health insurance. Substituting certain digital information provided by and unique to the applicant in lieu of a wet signature could be used to form an enforceable contract. Utilizing this electronic signature process allowed our company to shorten the weeks long process of applying for health insurance into a matter of hours thereby making our small dot com company into the largest health insurance broker in the country.
Why do you feel it is important to philanthropically support ASU Law?
ASU Law is a well-respected, highly ranked law school educating the next generation of lawyers. The law school attracts some of the best and brightest students but not all of them have the economic means to attend or they graduate with heavy student loans. Philanthropic support gives ASU Law the opportunity and, I believe, the responsibility to accept the best, brightest and yet diverse student body. To my knowledge, I was the first attorney to graduate from ASU Law with an East Indian heritage; my parents immigrated from India. Traditionally young adults are pushed into medical, science or engineering fields. No one in my family, including myself, ever expected me to become an attorney. However, due to life circumstances and experiences I applied to law school and was thankfully accepted at ASU Law. I hope I have served the East Indian community in metro Phoenix well. ASU Law needs to continue educating and graduating student of various backgrounds and cultures so that the lawyers can serve an ever-diversifying population.
What excites you the most about the future and our next generation of lawyers and legal sector leaders?
I have the ultimate faith in the future generation of citizens and particularly lawyers. The practice of law and the legal profession have dramatically changed during my brief career. The use of technology, the availability of resources and the political climate are so vastly different today than when I graduated from ASU Law. Much more importantly though are the issues the next generation of lawyers will face including the issues raised by the Covid-19 pandemic and the increased tensions resulting from the breakdown in race relations. The issues seem daunting but the new lawyers, with the proper education, training and guidance provided by ASU Law, will have the knowledge and perspective to tackle these issues. The future will be different but amazingly bright.
What advice do you have for our students as they embark on the next chapter of their lives?
Be BOLD! Think outside of the proverbial box and take educated risks. That sounds more like advice given to entrepreneurs, but it applies to lawyers as well. Whether you are a prosecutor negotiating a plea deal, a litigator preparing for trial or a transactional attorney putting a complex deal together, be open to new, creative solutions that may stretch the traditional legal boundaries. Your ASU legal education is simply the starting block of your legal journey. Don’t be afraid to take the more difficult looking path because the harder path may have greater rewards.
Make Your Impact
It is only through the incredible support of generous donors like Nick Patel that we are able to offer scholarships to 100% of our incoming JD students. A gift in support of student success is a gift in support of our community’s success.
Please consider investing in ASU Law and the bright young legal minds of tomorrow by making an impact today.