I started my own law firm on March 1, 1995, after leaving Clarkson, Lever & Gore. It was just me and my trusty first-generation Pentium computer, and I spent the first year in an “executive suite” office space—leased month to month. I had few clients, but they were good clients and I took good care of them. My friends, both in and out of the legal profession, were generous in referring to me, I think in part because of the passion & commitment I demonstrated in to my clients or maybe because they felt sorry for me. Regardless of why they referred to me, I mysteriously kept afloat and grew to the point where I could hire my first employee.
The internet was still a dial up affair that screeched upon connection, and web crawling really meant crawling at the pace of a snail. If I wanted to look at a document in the bankruptcy court I either had to hire an attorney service or go there myself, give my driver’s license and wait around for it for about an hour, and then go over to the copy service and tediously point out the parts I needed. If you had a court hearing you actually had to go, regardless of whether the only thing you’d hear at the podium was “granted” for a mere one minute after spending three hours in court and on the road. (More later on how all that has changed now).
Before long there was talk of changes to the bankruptcy laws, and I started to feel more insecure than ever as a sole practitioner because predictions of my area of practice going away were a constant drumbeat. I decided to diversify.
I went to the University of California, Irvine at night to get my Certificate in Personal Financial Planning from 2001 to 2003. While there I took a course in practice management for financial planners and saw how the offices were organized and how software made an end-to-end solution to the entire process. I had never seen anything like it in the legal profession, but then I found there were software solutions for law practice that integrated with each other on a computer network environment. I upgraded my system to a network and bought the software and hired the consultants to build the system. My employees and I have all used it since, and it has created a seamless client experience as well. Since then I’ve been constantly on the alert for any improvements technology or business processes will allow.
I also strove to improve myself as a lawyer. I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I joined NACBA, (National Assoc. of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys) and the cdcbaa (Central District of California Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney Assoc.), in addition to other organizations to increase my legal knowledge and stay current. I am a regular participant and constant monitor of the cdcbaa list serve which allows dedicated bankruptcy practitioners like myself to advise each other and discuss issues. None of that would have been available without the internet, or the relatively recent creation of this organization.
Today, as LeverLaw turned twenty, much has changed and change will remain a constant. PACER (Public Access to Electronic Records) allows the download of any document in seconds from the Court, and I receive an email called an NEF (Notice of Electronic Filing) that has links to every document filed in my case with a free download that I put into Worldox, my document management software. The Court’s website gives tentative rulings every night, and if my matter is granted I don’t have to go to Court at all.
My network software is no longer the best and is restricted by being on my own network so we’re cautiously but relentlessly migrating to the “cloud” where our systems will be even more powerful. We’ve been 2.5 years in our new offices that are extremely comfortable and wired for state-of-the-art systems.
So if you’ve read this far (thank you) you’ve indulged me in a look back at the past, but my orientation is always toward the future. I’m always looking to improve LeverLaw just as I look to improve the finances of all the clients who come across our platform. I’m grateful to my team who works here and to all those who came across the platform to help me build it. We’ve morphed into more than a bankruptcy firm, having added financial planning to the process, so that there is a real value-added experience and ongoing resource for those recovering from financial setbacks. There is no standing still—let’s all make progress forward together.