This year, I am celebrating my five-year work anniversary at Elevate. I was reminded of this milestone thanks in part to a flurry of congratulatory notes on LinkedIn (a result of those unsolicited reminders of meaningful career events in our networks). As I received and responded to these messages, I reflected on my tenure at Elevate and recognized that it is the longest in my professional career, second only to the time I spent running LawScribe. I was reminded of the journey that led me to Elevate.
I was a practicing litigator at Nossaman and Fulbright from 1998 to 2003, where I had the opportunity to participate in trials and arbitrations. As a fifth-year lawyer at Fulbright, I reached a point where I had to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up – become a big firm partner or… well, there weren’t many other options at that time (today, law students are fortunate to have many varied opportunities including project management, technology, data analysis, etc.). The thought of becoming a big firm partner frightened me because I had no idea how to develop a book of business. I was also conflicted because I saw that some of the clients I represented struggled to pay their bills. One client in particular, a contractor who had constructed several well-known restaurants in California, had brought a breach of contract action which wasn’t covered by insurance. I could see how painful it was for them to continue with the action, which would likely result in loss of money due to high legal bills.
I realized there must be a better way for this client, and many others, to obtain legal services. I also knew there had to be a better way for law firms to run their businesses, to maximize profitability (without exponentially increasing billable hour rates).
To help address these challenges, I started a company called LawScribe – a pioneer in an industry that was yet to be defined. Our business model focused on labor arbitrage, to provide cost-effective legal and business services to corporate law departments and law firms. Our main delivery center was in India, and as my cultural background added credibility to what I was selling, I soon became the company’s most prominent sales person. Over time, I grew to love sales because I believed in the products and services I was selling.
At LawScribe, we built a very strong IP team. We amassed a solid customer base. However, while many of my contacts at Fortune 500 companies expressed a desire to partner with LawScribe, general feedback was that this wouldn’t be possible until we were a bigger company, with a broader delivery platform. I had to make the decision to either raise outside capital to grow from within, or join forces with a company that already had the platform. In 2010, I sold my company to UnitedLex for two main reasons: to not reinvent the wheel (and raise venture capital), and to bring an established platform to my existing customers and contacts.
My journey at UnitedLex was satisfying and challenging. Though I converted significant customer opportunities and brought in a lot of business, over time I realized I was facing a disconnect both professionally and personally. Professionally, I had a differing vision for the future of the legal services industry. Personally, the cultural fit wasn’t right for me. I knew I needed to make a change. I craved an environment where I could be myself, accomplish what I wanted for my customers, and contribute to the evolution of the legal industry at large; providing a range of solutions to meet customers’ needs.
Fast forward a little over a year. Just for the heck of it, I reached out to Liam Brown, founder and CEO of the very successful legal services company Integreon. He also lived in Los Angeles and while we both knew of each other, we had never met. I still remember our lunch meeting at The Fig in Santa Monica in January of 2012. We were chatting and he asked me, “if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?” While we disagreed on one point (whether to raise venture capital. We both came from different experiences – I had built a family-funded company and had limited capital), our respective visions of building the best legal services company were simpatico. We both knew that it was about more than simply providing ad hoc legal services, and that we needed to build a model integrating strategy, operations, technology and talent solutions for our customers. By the end of that lunch, I knew I wanted to build Elevate with this person.
The rest is history in the making. Five years in, Elevate has taken great strides in our journey to become the preferred legal service provider for corporate legal departments and law firms. Our success has led us to be the recipients of several awards: The LA Business Journal ranked us as the 4th fastest growing private company headquartered in Los Angeles for 2015; Chambers has ranked us as one of the top global legal service providers for three years running; we were 53rd on the Inc 500 list of fastest growing companies in 2016. We continue to go from strength to strength, to innovate and change the landscape of the legal services industry.
Elevate has enabled me to do everything I wanted and more. From Day One, Liam and the executive team have been supportive, both personally, and in building a company focused on diversity initiatives (I talk about my personal journey in Out and About: The LGBT Experience in the Legal Profession). We have built a dynamic platform focused on solving our customers’ continually evolving needs, without anyone else (investors) telling us how to run our business. We have a wonderful global team of individuals, focused on providing high quality support and exemplary customer experience.
Thank you to all who have been, and those who continue to be, a part of this journey.
“We knew that it was about more than simply providing ad hoc legal services, and that we needed to build a model integrating strategy, operations, technology and talent solutions for our customers.”