In our A2J Q&A series, Mary Juetten checks in with lawyers, bar leaders and entrepreneurs working to solve access to justice issues. This time, Patrick Palace tells how his firm uses data to better focus on clients’ needs, and shares his thinking on why ethics rules that act as barriers to innovation must change.
I was thrilled to interview colleague and friend Patrick Palace. He’s the owner of Palace Law, a firm of workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers that has been recognized by the Lawfirm 500 as one of the top 100 firms nationwide for its growth and innovation. Patrick, who also owns Sunken Cellars vineyard, is a former president of the Washington State Bar Association and currently serves on the National Council for Bar Presidents Executive Council. Patrick also served on the Washington Association of Justice Board of Governors for nine years. He was chosen from 2013 to 2017 by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the nation’s Top 100 trial lawyers and, also in 2013, Seattle Met magazine named him one of the top attorneys in Washington. In 2012 he was the first to be awarded the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association’s Outstanding Service Award.
Patrick has produced and moderated two television programs: “The Peoples Law School” and “LawTalk.” These programs provide consumers with information about our legal system and citizens’ rights and remedies under the law. He has also been a regular interviewer on radio in Washington, interviewing thought leaders on legal innovation and access to justice.
Describe your morning routine.
My morning routine is 5 a.m. wake up, 6 a.m. yoga, 7:25 a.m. smoothie and 8:30 a.m. coffee to plan the day.
What is the first thing you “check” each morning?
My attitude. You only get one chance to start your day right, so be thankful immediately.
Where do you like to work?
I like to work at … well, uh … my work, where I work doing my work because it works. (Did I use “work” too many times? Worked though it, right?)
What’s your email strategy?
My email strategy is FOMO (fear of missing out) driven. I check it a lot between small projects.
What’s your best productivity habit?
My best productivity habit is doing the things I love and delegating all the things I do not love.
What’s your favorite productivity tool?
Yoga. Clear the mind, work the body, and both will reward you all day and for the rest of your life.
What’s the one habit you wish you could kick?
I wish I could kick my ever challenged, limited attention span … Next question?
What’s your nightly routine?
I cook a dinner for family or friends (which of course includes a glass of Sunken Cellars wine), complete anything that will keep me from resting, wind down with my two Great Danes by the fire, couch or bed, and sleep deeply in peace.
A Deeper Dive into Patrick’s A2J Commitment
How do you define access to justice (A2J)?
Access to justice is delivering everyone basic legal services in an easily consumable way and at a price that consumers can afford.
Tell us about your connection to A2J.
I represent hard-working men and women in workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. For 25 years, I have helped injured people solve their problems and worked to get them the benefits they need and deserve. I often think about ways that I can meet their needs better, faster and cheaper. The concept of A2J underscores what Palace Law aspires to accomplish.
How are you solving access to justice for your clients?
One effort to provide A2J was the creation of Palace Law’s PatBot, which assists everyone who has a workers’ compensation case with:
Our website also has the Case Value Calculator, which asks users three questions and provides a calculated value to injured workers so they know what their case is worth in dollars.
What role does technology play in A2J?
Technology plays a huge role because it opens us to new opportunities to deliver legal services. For example, AI and machine learning alone can and will eventually leverage the work of lawyers exponentially so that legal solutions can become affordable and easily consumable. We are in the beginning stages, but as the for-profit business models develop, the price of legal solutions will come down. The DoNotPay app is a great example of using technology to provide free legal solutions for specific and common legal problems.
Do you see the “digital divide” (access to technology) as an issue?
The “digital divide” to me is more about lawyers’ inability to create tech solutions, rather than any disconnect with consumers’ ability to use technology.
It is for this reason, I believe A2J will progress much faster once there are financial incentives for legal allied professionals to enter the legal services market.
The delivery of legal services will advance rapidly with the infusion of expertise from outside the legal field. We simply need to lower the barrier to entry and expand the regulatory boundaries to facilitate the creation of new models, new tech and new partnerships between lawyers and experts in other areas like computer science/engineering, marketing, investment, banking, accounting, communication systems, public health services and so on. The potential is nearly endless.
Do you see client knowledge of legal issues, or the education gap, as an issue?
I do not see the level of a person’s education as a barrier to accessing legal services. If consumers can order shows on Netflix, buy goods on Amazon or call an Uber, then technology is not a barrier for legal services either. However, there is an educational component to helping people understand that they have a legal issue and that it’s not just a “life problem” or a “personal problem.”
We will need to do better at educating people to identify what is and what is not a solvable legal issue so that they can identify a legal problem and reach for a legal tool the same way they point and click to make a purchase on Amazon.
What have you had to change based on feedback?
We have slowly and intentionally built our office based on client feedback. It’s been said that “the eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know.” Being consumer-centric means listening to what our clients need, rather than viewing all problems and solutions through the lens of a lawyer. We totally re-created our client intake process based on client needs. We rebuilt our website utilizing user metrics. We have changed the way we communicate with clients based on feedback. We track our paralegal and attorney performance utilizing their net promoter score (NPS) scores. The more feedback we obtain, the more systems we are able to re-envision.
How are you growing the firm?
We are growing the firm by gathering data on everything we do. Peter Drucker famously said, “What isn’t measured, isn’t managed.” At Palace Law, we live by this concept. When our metrics show that things aren’t working, we change them quickly. We then remeasure and readjust until we find what works. When things are working, we double-down to optimize them. It’s a simple concept for growth by trial (measure) and error (correction).
(For more on this, listen to the LegalTalk Network Podcast “Elevate 2019: Using Data, Proces Review & KPIs to Drive Growth and Productivity” with Patrick, Jack Newton and Mary Juetten.)
Where does funding come from?
Our funding at Palace Law comes from within. We manage our cash to build working capital reserves so that we have the capacity to invest in projects that will grow the firm. With the current rules of professional conduct limits on fee sharing, this is the only realistic model for most small- and medium-sized law firms. But if we change that rule, new sources of funding and outside investment could bring fresh cash into law firms.
What is your best tip for supporting A2J?
There is a huge untapped legal market that awaits the creative legal service provider who can access it.
My best tip for supporting access to justice is to look for methods to decrease costs and decrease price.
Some estimate $300 billion and up to a trillion dollars in revenue being left in the market because we as a profession charge too much.
So, charge less, make more, serve the unserved.
Where is the A2J movement going?
The A2J market is being courted by and is already profitable for nonlawyer legal service providers that understand most lawyers are only marketing to the wealthiest tier of legal consumer and leaving the vast majority of the market without legal services. If this trend continues, lawyers will lose this market. However, states like California and Utah, to name a couple, are looking at changing regulations to open the possibility of alternative business structures, redefining the practice of law and effectively ending the protectionist barriers associated with UPL (unauthorized practice of law). If these changes materialize, then the possibilities dramatically change and lawyers may effectively capture and share the “A2J” market to the benefit of all consumers and providers. Only time will tell.
Where are YOU going?
I’m going to do some handstands and get back to work. I have a market that needs attending to.