Joe chats with Joey Seeber and Leigh Vickery of Level 2 Legal Solutions about taking a small, boutique approach to large legal department and Biglaw problems. Legal work goes on during a lockdown, and Level 2 is busy assisting its long-term partners in getting stuff done. It takes creative problem solving and a nimble business culture to thrive in times like these.
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Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer
In Extraordinary Times, Lawyers Need Creative Solutions
Intro: Welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and pop culture all while thinking like a lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.
Joe Patrice: Hello and welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer. I’m Joe Patrice from Above the Law. We are still not able to record from our usual studio, so if we sound a little bit different, that would be why. Hopefully, it’s not anything you would have noticed had I not mentioned it, and now that I realize I probably by mentioning it mean you’re going to hear it, and it’s going to be the only thing you hear. So I probably screwed this all up for all of you, but hopefully, we sound great and I’m glad everybody can still tune in.
Given the events going on, it’s a little bit more difficult to get people together for a show, but thankfully, we have some folks who are willing to talk today. So I’d like to bring them in. I have Joey Seeber and Leigh Vickery, both of Level 2 Legal here. How are you all?
Joey Seeber: Doing well. How are you?
Leigh Vickery: We are good. Thanks for the y’all.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. Well, I’m actually a big believer in the y’all even though I have never lived south of southern Iowa. I have always been a big ya’ll believer but no — so up here I’m locked down in a house upstate, so I don’t really have access to my usual stuff. So that’s why it’s been a little bit on a — little bit dicey but no, how are you all doing down there?
Joey Seeber: We’re good. We’re locked down like everybody else, but doing okay.
Joe Patrice: Well, in a lot of ways, I feel — I know we talked nearly a month ago. It kind of feels like it should have been more, but about a month-and-a-half ago we were chatting at Legalweek New York about what you all do, and it strikes me that this is a good time to revisit the importance of legal technology because many firms — while we all understand that a lot of firms have come to the realization that they need to move into the 21st Century if not the 20th. This is kind of one of those moments where a lot of law firms realized, oh, I really do need to take seriously my firm’s technological capabilities as people have to do stuff they’ve never done before.
So talk through what Level 2 is doing for folks, and I assume even doing without much interruption as we go through this.
Joey Seeber: Yeah, that’s the truth. I mean, I think that this is, it’s kind of a proof point for a lot of people, right. This is not the time to be figuring out your technology, to be figuring out your security, to be figuring out your values and your relationships with your clients. We pivoted quickly. We had been working on the ability for our people to work remotely in selected situations and we’re already doing that with a few people.
Fortunately, we’ve invested in technology and kind of upgraded our systems over the last 18 months and so when we saw this coming actually before the orders to shelter-in-place or stay at home, we went ahead and transitioned our workforce really in about 48 hours. So we are about hundred people working remotely mostly in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area.
Leigh Vickery: And I will kind of add on to that, Joe, just being Innovation is in my title for better or worse, but for people like me, I mean, Joey hired me 18 months two years ago, the infrastructure — like this is a good way to see what law firms really are innovative or if they just had an innovation officer or any company for that matter because you build your company, you design it for flexibility and agility for opportunity or crisis. If you’re thinking with innovation so the infrastructure we built, moving from the past, older models of law and technology to where we are now at the risk of sounding a bit cold.
This is like a dream when he gave me the green light to go because all of this was in place where we practice, we are ready, and it was designed — the flexibility was designed, Internet isn’t structure for no matter what our clients needed, never did we anticipate crisis to be it but it wasn’t just a business continuity plan, it was an innovation plan so that we can be as flexible as possible, as fast as possible. That part has been interesting to see what companies really can do it, or could do it, or already doing it versus the ones that now are waking up a little bit too late.
Joey Seeber: This is not a Black Swan event, to pick up on what leaders said, none of us anticipated that there would be a global pandemic but you have to be prepared for whatever is around the corner and this is the time when whether or not you’re really agile, whether or not you really can pivot, whether or not you’ve really been innovating, preparing or have the relationships with the technology that it needs to be able to — that you need to be able to perform in these times, that’s when it really comes out and we’ve been very fortunate.
Leigh Vickery: Yeah, and the culture tip to hold it up, the foundation was there from the people as well.
Joe Patrice: You saying the culture from the people is a good transition point because even back when we last for talking and this wasn’t even on our horizons, one of the key themes that I took away from talking about Level 2 was a focus on that ability to be nimble basically, to do what you needed to do for a client not really come down with a — here’s our process, adapt to it but more of a let’s find out what clients need and we will figure out how to pivot to do that. The sort of skills that — probably come in very handy right now.
Leigh Vickery: Absolutely, and thank you for noticing that as well.
Joe Patrice: I mean, yeah, so to go back to that, the kind of the pitch for Level 2 that we had back then was tell some of these stories of how Level 2 works with clients when they come in and have these different kinds of requests.
Joey Seeber: I can speak to one that happened right in the middle of this crisis in the last couple weeks. I mean, we have — first of all I need to back up a second. Level 2 is, we’re a managed service provider not a law firm. So we support legal professionals in law firms and then enterprise corporate clients.
We had a law firm with whom we’ve had a relationship for many years, call right as this was all kicking off. What we did was, proactively send out our remote work plan and our security credentials, if you will, for working remotely to the law firms, lawyers and companies that we work with, and within I don’t know 24, maybe 48 hours we got a call from one of the firms with whom we had a relationship a long time until we have a very significant matter, kind of high-stakes and we’d like to talk with you about working on it and —
Leigh Vickery: To put it mildly.
Joey Seeber: Yeah, but look, I think what happened, and again, I’m making couple of presumptions but this is a very large, I mean, this is Am Law 50 firm. They have an internal team that does exactly what we do and they obviously have many qualified attorneys, but they were reaching out to us to do it and I got to believe it was because we were ready and we sent them our protocol, we sent them our security measures and they knew that we can handle it. We had worked with them before, we had built that trust. So I think people are looking for who they can trust and who they know is going to get it done.
Leigh Vickery: Joe, I think I have an important piece here for your listeners, and Joey is talking about trust and relationship and my team was — we were the point for all of this intersect and he is breezing past what — I am now gray-headed from some of the scenes besides the fact I can’t go to this one, I know how great that this, anyways, but we have that relationship. So it’s alright for us to say, we don’t know or we will figure it out and we did overnight but there were pieces, and that relationship allows you, it’s not like you have to be super to end all, but they guided us on a couple of things that they needed extra, extra secure for this particular matter specific and it was all right to say, by in the morning we’ll be there.
Now, I mean, what it took overnight to add this one particular thing, I don’t want to ever go back to again, but we did it, because infrastructure was there and the relationship was there. We didn’t lose it because we didn’t have it. You see what I’m saying, so it’s like, I don’t want people to be afraid of being able — in this time it’s all right to say, okay, we’ll figure it out together and we trust you, this is what we need, you just have to be able to deliver very quickly when speed is the new currency.
Joey Seeber: I think when you operate in the environment that we operate in, we are a services provider. Client service it’s always been what we’re about, and so as a services provider, supporting legal teams that’s — this is what we do. So you got to figure it out.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, it really goes to how sometimes corporate buzz speak becomes a mantra that it probably over-kicks its coverage. For years in technology we’ve talked about selling solutions, and solutions, and solutions, and it seems as though what you offer which is probably the right answer and taking step back from that is, it’s not that we sell a solution, we sell problem-solving. You gave us something, we don’t have that solution. We’ll get it for you in the morning but we solve problems, we don’t have like these neat already pre-boxed solutions to the things that are going to happen that you don’t know are going to happen.
Leigh Vickery: Yeah, those two things do not play well together and so to Joey’s credit too, I mean he is an attorney, I think 99 of the 100 people are attorneys, so you can guess who is not an attorney, but he saw the value of bringing that in from outside so that you don’t think in the box. You were able to add some creativity and allowing us to take some risk in innovation. Innovation is messy. Anybody who is selling an inbox product is not innovative, sorry, it just isn’t, but it’s being able to solve a problem and quickly, like you said, and they are all specific.
I mean every client we have, the approach, the communication style, everything has to be able to change on a dime and so we hire that way, we hire people who think that way so that we don’t kill them in the first month, but there is that energy and that hunger to be able to solve problems for someone because you care in a service business.
But it is, it’s a challenge. That’s why I said the challenge of it was, not to sound cold, but it was like, hell yeah, we finally get to practice what we have been doing for a long time and a 100 people keep their jobs.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, in the first week or so of this, as it’s going along, I think a lot of the people who read Above the Law and write in to us were talking to us about technology from the perspective of how do I just connect, how do I show up, how do I get this done and that done.
And you really hit on in that anecdote the next wave of the problem that people are going to have to start realizing or hopefully have already started thinking about, which is the security aspect of it. When everyone in the world is remote how do you keep things secure and that’s what a lot of the narrative hasn’t — at least in the press and what people are asking us about, hasn’t caught up to. I have so many people asking me, wait a minute, how do I get a gallery view on Zoom and not as many people asking me how is it I don’t get bombed and that’s been coming up.
Actually last night, this is off topic a little bit but the — all these law schools who are continuing to teach, some of them have built in custom solutions but a lot of them are utilizing stuff like WebEx and people can get into that and so I am already hearing stories of classes that have had to be canceled because people get in and destroy the WebEx space.
Leigh Vickery: I guess they are not encrypting their video conferencing.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, well, again, it’s because nobody is on the same networks, yeah, exactly.
Leigh Vickery: That’s right.
Joey Seeber: I think that one of the things is first of all, any of us who say we have got it figured out, we are a 100% secure and that can’t happen to us, just wait, I mean there are vulnerabilities in any system.
Leigh Vickery: Except for ours, but go ahead.
Joey Seeber: Well, I was about to speak to ours and that is we connect from homes in the same way that we connect at the office, okay, so we are connecting the same way, through the same portal, if you will, and so it’s just you are using a different machine and we have been doing that for a year-and-a-half and so it was a matter of different equipment.
I make it sound very simple; it was not, there was a lot of work that a lot of people did so that we could, but you have to be thinking about those things ahead of time. The crisis is not the time, as I said before, it’s not the time to kind of figure out what’s my security, how am I going to do this, it’s too late then, you are already behind.
Leigh Vickery: We are lucky Joe and Joey, we are very lucky because of the industry we are in. We are used to that. We are going into — Citrix in the law firm, virtual machines are not far in. So they understand, our workforce understands what they are doing when they are home, and we have got it so locked down and auditing constantly that I am not as concerned about that as I am other pieces of this puzzle.
But I am curious Joe what you would say to this theory or idea or is this anything, I mean we have not been bought or sold, acquired, we are not part of someone else with different back doors into things and all of a sudden you are remote on top of all of that. Do you see a correlation between data security, companies that are solid all the way through like we know our infrastructure, we are not patching into this company we just thought that all of a sudden they are remote, we are not quite sure to speak to some of the recent events that have happened with cyber crimes, I feel like those companies are a bit more vulnerable right now. They don’t really know what they have and they don’t — or what they are missing.
Do you see that at all from where you sit, companies with multiple acquisitions recently are going to have a harder time changing this paradigm, I am just curious?
Joe Patrice: Yeah. No, I haven’t heard any specific stories about it, but it does — it’s something that’s long been a concern, that these — you take on a whole different infrastructure or you are outsourcing how you connect to something and that all — every new piece exposes some measure of risk. Depending on what you do, it may not be feasible for you to be in control of your entire infrastructure and so you do these things.
Now, you are in a different place where it’s actually feasible, if not essential that you control your infrastructure. So people in your industry, you are going to have a great advantage if you have control of every — and know every nook and cranny of what your system is.
Leigh Vickery: It’s an advantage by kind of sticking to our core values all these years of independence, long-term thinking, we are not going to owe anybody short-term money has come out — it’s like suddenly because we are smaller, because we know our infrastructure, we know the entire security plan, suddenly we are — it’s a differentiator that we are finding just as a result of following your values versus an intentional maybe business decision. So it’s just interesting times.
Joe Patrice: In a lot of ways it fills a space — so while I talk about legal tech, I come from the legal lawyer world and you fill a space that’s similar from a client perspective to the boutique law firm, by being small — when a client’s in house is looking around to who to hire, you go for the boutique firms when you have — you really need bespoke style solutions, you need people who are very focused on a thing; they may not be able to do this grind it out forever thing that’s going to go on forever that you might hire Skadden for, but the boutiques are where you go when you need actual specialized talent in stuff and that’s what kind of staying that small and nimble, I always see you in that kind of place of staying that small and nimble such that you can really create these solutions for people when they need them, for the specific tasks that they need.
Joey Seeber: Yeah, there is no question. I mean we are intentionally independent and we definitely have areas of focus, if not specialty, in litigation, privacy, compliance, those are the areas that our clients are looking to us to work with them on and we are not for everybody. We work best when it’s a long-term relationship, when we understand the client deeply and the client understands us and we build trust over time.
We jokingly refer to it as we are a much better relationship partner than we are a one-night stand. If you are looking for the absolute lowest hourly rate and we need to get this done quickly, we are probably not for you. If we have an opportunity to talk about our value or the total cost or the ways in which we work, then yeah, let’s have that conversation.
But yeah, sometimes I in conversations do say, we are really more of a boutique service provider, let’s talk about what your needs are and maybe there is a match, maybe there is not and that’s okay.
Joe Patrice: Yeah. We are hearing some firms that are going through some layoffs and furloughs and we have heard of courts slowing down, but I don’t really view that — it seems as though the whole chain of operation is slowing down on some level, but I am curious and I kind of suspect the answer is you aren’t really seeing that, that the projects that you have to work on are continuing apace.
Joey Seeber: We have added, I don’t know, how many did we add last week, Leigh?
Leigh Vickery: 20.
Joey Seeber: 20? We have added 20 in the last few weeks. We have a couple of other projects that we have learned of in the last few weeks.
This reminds me, we were founded in the depths of the great recession and this feels a lot like that, it reminds me of that time. Our first day of operations we had come out of a law firm, but as our own entity was in January of 2009, right between the market meltdown in 2008 and the low of the market in March of 2009. So there were a lot of lawyers looking for work and we had some great talent. And for some people it was just a stopping place, a waypoint and then they went on and did something else and then many people stayed with us.
But I do think that in difficult times people look to who they can trust, who they know is going to get the job done and obviously in this environment then people are also concerned about the total cost and how can I get what I need and not pay any more than I have to, that’s fine. I don’t see it slowing, that’s for sure.
Joe Patrice: Well, that’s interesting, the timing and I wonder we were talking a lot about the values and how the company works and I wonder if some of that is something of a byproduct of what you came out of, that you started when the market was rough and you started trying to appeal to clients who were facing those challenges and it put you in a position where you built a culture that was more prepared for this sort of thing than maybe others.
Joey Seeber: I mean we were scrappy, we were nimble. I mean you have got to pivot. I can’t look over the invitation to share our core values which are not like the office core values. We live them, we hire by them, we promote by them, so it’s give a damn, get it done and show respect, and we live those values and we get it done, that’s just what we do, that’s in our DNA and it has been since the beginning.
Joe Patrice: No, that’s great. Well, hopefully for anyone out there listening who wants to build a relationship like this, then they should reach out. Who should they reach out to?
Joey Seeber: Any of us.
Leigh Vickery: Either of us, sure.
Joey Seeber: Yeah, reach out, we can be found easily.
Leigh Vickery: The whole company has my cell phone Joe and that’s how it’s — that’s how we are handling any requests coming, but Joey or I, either one would be happy to help or help people figure it out — I don’t mean just get business, but if we can help them figure out their next steps too, that would be a privilege.
Joe Patrice: That’s great. So thanks for joining us under these weird conditions where we are all from different places, but we got it all put together. So on our side, as a podcasting entity we also did a little problem solving here. So we got everybody together.
Leigh Vickery: That’s right.
Joe Patrice: Thanks. That’s Joey Seeber and Leigh Vickery from Level 2 Legal. Thank them for joining us and thank you all for listening. You should be subscribed to the show, give it reviews, you know the drill. You should be reading Above the Law where we are continuing to cover everything that’s coming out of this from the good news to the mostly bad news of layoffs right now. But I mean obviously there is worse news in other ways, but the worst news legal industry wise I mean.
You can follow me on Twitter @JosephPatrice. You should listen to the other podcasts in the Legal Talk Network family, also listen to The Jabot, which is one that Above the Law’s Kathryn Rubino hosts, and with all of those things said now, I feel I have got all of my boilerplate done. So thanks for listening all and we will talk to you next week.
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