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Elevate Co-Founders – Building a Law Company for the Future

In celebration of our tenth anniversary, Elevate brought 9 of our co-founders together for a conversation.

Celebrating A New Decade

In celebration of our tenth anniversary, Elevate brought 9 of our co-founders together for a conversation.  This 15 min podcast episode includes highlights from that discussion.

  • [00:27] – Listen in as Kunoor Chopra reflects on early discussions to join Elevate and the essential and immediate support of those first customers.
  • [02:09] – Pratik Patel, VP of Innovation, comments on an immediately shared vision, a humble beginning, and our mission to move the industry forward.
  • [03:56] – Tariq Hassan, VP of Procurement Services, reflects on a customer’s reaction to Elevate entering the market – and the impact Elevate has had on the lives of many.
  • [05:08] – Vijoyata Lama, Project Lead, talks about her decision to join Elevate and our willingness as an organization to address complex topics and build a culture of acceptance.
  • [07:08] – Mark Redmayne, VP of Business Development, talks about outcome predictability and jointly improving the businesses of our customers, never losing focus on our values.
  • [08:45] – Elevate’s President, John Croft, talks about structuring the business for the future, having unquestionable faith Elevate would grow into that structure and the impact of Elevate on creating the law company market.
  • [10:31] – Joyce Thorne, VP, Head of People, reflects on establishing an organization focused on its people.
  • [11:28] – Lokendra Tomar, Chief of Staff and Chief Corporate Development Manager, talks about growing faster than we thought we would grow.
  • [11:59] – Liam Brown, Chairman, CEO talks about the speed of growth, reflects on the state of the market in 2011, how the market has and is responding, and the opportunity ahead.

Enjoy!

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Podcast Transcript

Note: This transcript has been adjusted to improve readability. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human transcribers. The context and more than 95% of the actual transcript have been preserved.  We strongly encourage our listeners to listen to the audio.

 

Nicole Giantonio: Hi, I’m Nicole Giantonio, the Head of Global Marketing at Elevate. In celebration of our 10th anniversary, I had the honour of recording a conversation with nine of our founders. This 15-minute podcast episode includes highlights from that discussion.

 

Kunoor Chopra: Hi, I am Kunoor Chopra, I am based in Palm Springs, California, and I am the Vice President of Legal Services at Elevate. When I met Liam for the first time, we were having lunch. When he told me he was going to build another company in the legal space, I was shocked because there were so many competitors, including a company that he had built. However, as we talked, I realised how aligned we were because we realised that there was still a lot more to do in the industry; things were evolving and changing. Yet, many of these other companies remained static in the version 1.0 solutions they were bringing to their customers. And so we knew we wanted to build a customer-centric, customer-focused company, listening to what our customers’ needs and challenges were and building the solutions around that, and that’s how we came up with this holistic consulting tech and services approach at Elevate.

I think customers really wanted us to succeed; we had a great network. I was looking at my LinkedIn messages from 2012, early 2012 today, and I’m reaching out to folks, and they’re responding, “Yeah, we heard you guys were doing this. We would love to talk.” We had people’s ears. They wanted us to succeed. Some key customers put their trust in us in the early days, and I would say a lot of our success is thanks to them. And I think our secret power was, we had all done this before, and we brought that to Elevate. I’m surprised that it’s been ten years, so when we’re coming together to have this discussion, I was like, “Wow, it’s really been ten years,” because I thought you’re one that, wow, in 10 years, we will have solved so many of our customers’ problems. Honestly, I feel like we’re just beginning at times, and I think there’s still so much more to do. It’s going to be another 10, 20, 30 years’ worth of changing this industry and transforming this industry.

And so we knew we wanted to build a customer-centric, customer-focused company, listening to what our customers’ needs and challenges were and building the solutions around that, and that’s how we came up with this holistic consulting tech and services approach at Elevate.

Kunoor Chopra

Pratik Patel: Hi, my name is Pratik Patel, I am based in Houston, Texas, and I am the VP of Innovation here at Elevate. It was just a small team, but everyone that I met coming in was just very genuine. You could share the radical ideas that you had about how legal would change, and if you kind of come from everywhere, we’ve come from a lot of that was met with resistance, maybe a lot of challenges, and when I met this crew, it was very much inviting. I remember being on a whiteboard in LA with Liam and Kunoor before meeting everyone else. Mark, you and I were joining at the same time, and we put our vision on a whiteboard of what we wanted to do. And I looked around the room, and I remember everyone saying, “Yup, that sounds about right.”

And I remember walking out thinking, “Well, that conversation was much harder everywhere else.” As we built the company, we made choices around what we spent our money on – we spent it on the people, on the investments, and what we didn’t spend it on were the things that we knew we didn’t need to build the business in the way that we wanted to. So we’d always show up in a law firm or a law department, and they could never tell that I had just come from a small desk that I’d folded up a few hours back. That’s how scrappy we were, but it didn’t represent how good we were. It was just a representation of how resourceful and scrappy and committed we were to make this happen in the right way, so I love it, I love the fact that we were like that, I love the fact that we all came from what I’d call humble beginnings of Elevate.

I think it still surprises me how difficult it is to generate the outcomes that everybody wants. We’ll walk into law departments or law firms, and folks would say, “This is what we really want,” while others are still uncertain. Even customers who know they want this third version of doing things, and even with the experience and talent we’ve brought together, it can still be difficult.

 

Tariq Hassan: My name is Tariq Hassan, I’m based in London, and I’m Head of Procurement Services. My first impression of customers was when I went on a call with Liam. Even though we were a very small company, what struck me was that not once did their top management team question Elevate’s ability to deliver. To me, that was probably the biggest compliment. One of the mentors I had said over the years, the yardstick I use is not EBITDA, not revenue. I look at my company and say, “How many families have I touched and fed?” From that point of view, when I look at Elevate, the yardstick he used to use for every employee, 3.5 people have been fed behind the scene, and then I look at Elevate, I always have that bias. And I’m so impressed with what we have created—from ten people to 50 people to 100. Now, we are anywhere north of 1300-1400 people. Then you use that 3,5 metric against it. We are feeding 3000 – 4000 people around the world, and that’s what makes me proud.

 

Vijay Dalama: My name is Vijay Dalama, and I’m currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am working with the contract services team as a project lead. I was so excited. I was like, I couldn’t believe it, like, “Okay, I have an offer letter.” and it was a big sign for me; I was like, it is a new beginning. It’s a new climb, and I have to take it. There was no thinking, and whatever I couldn’t do in my previous organisation, I would do it here. We went to this office in Gurgaon, and I clearly remember that office. This tiny space where hardly four people could comfortably sit, everyone had to stand if one person had to go out. There was so much happening in that room. We were so excited, and there was an exchange of ideas. It was not just on an organisational level. Even at an individual level, there was so much happening because everyone was responsible for setting up our business unit. It was really exciting, a little of the racking too, especially coming from not working in a start-up in the past. So it was a lot of opportunities ahead. And very exciting, I would say.

I’m not surprised at what we have achieved and how much we have grown in the last ten years. We invested a lot of time laying the foundation right and continuously focusing on opportunities to improve in every way we could. I have been pleasantly surprised about how Elevate has chosen to talk about difficult topics and even address social justice issues and the environment. In my past experience, these topics were considered sensitive topics to be handled only by HR. So this makes me feel more at home. I was already at home; I was still at home. It makes me feel proud that we are building a culture of acceptance; it is very refreshing.

I’m not surprised at what we have achieved and how much we have grown in the last ten years. We invested a lot of time laying the foundation right and continuously focusing on opportunities to improve in every way we could.

vijay dalama

Mark Redmayne: Hi. Mark Redmayne, I’m located in Los Angeles, and I’m VP of Business Development. I think about how easy a decision it was and how logical that seemed to build a solution in the legal space. We knew we could establish a shared vision of culture and dedication by getting like-minded people to join the journey, from former colleagues to customers to competitors. It’s not only about the reduced cost but also the added value consistency. It’s the predictability of the outcome. I think there’s been a lot that we’ve focused on, and we’ve learned from our mistakes, we’ve learned from our successes that have allowed us to do that, and we talked about some of the early days, customers that took the chance, that partnered with us to make this happen, and it’s still happening today.

We have customers that are looking to us, and we’re working with them. Partnering for a better outcome, we’re not just chasing revenue for revenue sake; we’re looking to jointly improve what they are doing, what we’re doing, and provide this collective improvement to the market and their customers. We haven’t lost sight of the foundation we started with for the past ten years when just a few people. I do find the one commonality that we all have, regardless of our experience or focus or whatever it is, the fact that we’ve never lost sight of what became the values that we care, we innovate, we deliver. I believe that will continue through the next ten years and beyond. I would say that is the one thing that I would like to see.

 

John Croft: I am John Croft, the company president, and I’m based in London. We absolutely knew we were building something really big that would last. So from day one, all of our behaviours and interactions, and processes were almost exactly the same as today. We did fifteen fives, and we did water coolers, and we did all of the sorts of the rhythm that Elevate has today. I remember, Liam, at one of the early monthly board meetings we had, and there’s kind of like a board pack. I call this meeting to order and the CFO, will you. And it was just like, “You, me, and Rich?” And it was like, “Well, what are our numbers?” “Well, we haven’t sold a thing.” The process was there. And so, all of a sudden, a year later, when we did have a lot of numbers to talk about, we weren’t trying to figure it out as we were going.

So I think that was one of the useful things we did that enabled the growth to feel possibly a little easier. What is also interesting over the last ten years is that we haven’t just built a company; we’ve helped create a market. When we started, there were two ways of delivering legal services, you were a GC in an in-house team, or you were in private practice in a law firm. There were two ways, and everyone understood it, and all of a sudden, we showed up. It’s not just a third way, but it’s a bit of technology, it’s a bit of consulting, it’s a bit of doing things differently, it’s a bit of moving work, it’s like ten different things, and not only did we need to build the business, the business was ten also different businesses. Nobody had built some of those; certainly, nobody had built all of them and knitted them together to come up with what we now refer to as a law company.

 

Joyce Thorne: My name is Joyce Thorne, and I’m located in Michigan in the US. And my current role with Elevate is VP, Head of People. The idea and the vision that Liam had for setting up the people, the support for the people from the beginning, even before we had people driving home that we were going to create an organisation that would have profound support for growing our people’s skills and abilities. We’re largely a virtual company on the US side, and it’s interesting now that we’ve taken that model and gone even further with it in terms of people being able to work where they want to and how they want you. There’s a lot of freedom and autonomy that we offer our folks. When you look at where our managers come from, we’ve put ourselves in a position where it’s so nice to see that they come from the next level down most frequently. That’s a success because it’s saying that we’re putting our trust and putting our effort into the people within the organisations, and we’re looking to them first for the next leadership roles.

 

Lokendra Tomar: I am Lokendra Tomar, I am based in Mumbai, India, and I am Chief of Staff and Chief Corporate Development Officer. When people talk about, “Okay, how are you going to be a public business? How are you going to be a half a billion a business someday?” And we say we have already invested in that, and we are confident that we will be because we actually have built our business to be that way, and we are confident of scaling it up. We predicted that we’ll grow faster, but that it’s actually happened faster is, I think, a positive surprise.

 

Liam Brown: Hi, I’m Liam Brown, and I’m based in Los Angeles, and I’m the Chairman and CEO. I’m personally not surprised by the growth of the market. It is easy to say that looking back now, things we hypothesised or theories we had about the market opportunity; what we sometimes talk about as the explosion of the business of law. It’s easy for us in 2021 to say, “Well, obviously back in 2011, 2012 when we were coming together, I think that we had a track record, we’d seen what had happened.” The market hadn’t really coalesced. We were in the right place, right time, and I think that luck played an important part. When we look back on those first few years, it really was a start-up in the truest sense.

We had an idea about what the world would look like in 2021, and I think that’s going to be the same in law in another 20 years. I don’t think we have the answers, but we’ve got a lot of the tools, and we’ve got a lot of the people and expertise to figure that out with our customers and each other over the next 20 years. That’s my favourite thing about the company, we talk about diversity, and we talk about equability. We talk about inclusion, and we talk about social issues. We talk about profitability, and we talk about outcomes for customers, and we talk about making a difference in people’s careers. You can be who you are at Elevate, and I realise it’s easy for me to say. I would almost go so far as to say that’s probably the most shared experience at Elevate. Our first five to eight years were about building these capabilities.

The last couple of years have been much more expertise-oriented, where we’ve hired and brought in more experts, we brought envoys with domain expertise in different industries, for example, or different practice areas, we brought in more experience consultants with experience of managing the change, managing the journey, designing and getting customers to an outcome. This next couple of years, I believe, will be an important evolution for Elevate and law companies to become seen as more outcome-oriented and jobs-to-be-done-oriented. I think we’ve realised that, and we’ve been working on putting that together, and we’ve also been working on making sure that we have our economics, the way we charge for our services has been much more outcome-oriented. The way we build our software and processes has become much more focused on how we ensure that we deliver that outcome at that price. Legal services providers or providers of legal resourcing, whether or not they are providers and managed services, law companies are no longer something slightly less than or alternative, all of those peers and all of those professionals at all of those companies, including Elevate, have a seat and a place at the table in the ecosystem to make a difference. That, I think, is what the next ten years are going to be like.

This next couple of years, I believe, will be an important evolution for Elevate and law companies to become seen as more outcome-oriented and jobs-to-be-done-oriented.

liam brown

Tuned in to the next episode of The Elevate Together Podcast, available on Apple Comcast, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spotify, and elevateservices.com.

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