#LegalTechLives with Patrick Palace, Owner of Palace Law

Soojung Chang
April 16, 2018

Right off the jump, let’s start with the question everyone wants answered. I’ve heard from a reliable source (ahem, Andrew) that you once did yoga with dolphins? Is this true?

You see what just happened there? A guy does a little yoga, maybe owns a yoga studio, teaches lawyers about meditation and mindfulness and then bam! Suddenly I’ve been mentally transported by association to a tropical locale, undoubtedly wearing white gauze, listening to 1980s Yanni and communing with wise and gentle sea creatures to learn the secrets of life, likely by telepathy, with Shakti, the wisest of the porpoises.  

*Sigh* Truth be known, sadly I have not ever done yoga with dolphins. But, I’m all in should the opportunity arise. A little down dolphin sounds fun.  

Now that the important question has been answered, can you tell us a little about your background? How did you get into law? Why did you end up specializing in workers’ compensation and personal injury?

I grew up in a family of social do-gooders. You know the types—social worker, art teacher, Ph.D sex researcher, etc. What? You don’t have a sex therapist in your family?  Too bad, because we have awesome, awkward holiday dinner conversations. But I digress. As the youngest child in this crowded space growing up, law was my way of expanding the family “business” and doing good, too. After law school in Chicago, I started in civil rights work and that quickly turned into representing injured workers involved in workers compensation and PI matters. It’s satisfying when you can actually make a person’s life better.

It’s clear that you are passionate about legaltech and helping lawyers become more efficient using modern processes and technology. How did you start learning about legaltech and when did you start incorporating it into your practice?

As a member of the Washington State Bar Board of Governors (WSBA BOG) I had a front-row seat (albeit at the 10,000-foot level) to see the practice of law through the eyes of 37,000 lawyers. When I later became the State Bar president, I used my soapbox megaphone to help lawyers better understand the rapid changes occurring in the legal environment and to give them ways, including tech, to retool their practices to thrive again. Tech drives the profession and is the answer to finding new ways to do more, faster, better and for more people. After nearly seven years of talking about tech as a Bar leader, when my term ended I put my full focus inward into my own practice and put everything I had learned into totally reinventing my office from the bottom up. Palace Law has become a laboratory where innovation and creativity is not just encouraged; it is one of the foundational and cultural core values we live by.

Do you find any difficulties in convincing lawyers to modernize their practices? What strategies or tips do you have when lawyers face objections from fellow lawyers when it comes to encouraging them to think big and use legaltech?

It all comes down to time management. Most lawyers are so busy practicing law, they simply don’t have time to research tech tools, implement new case management programs, create more efficient procedures, develop analytic databases and consider new business or management models. But when you see another firm killin’ it because they made changes that are driving rapid growth and leapfrogging all the other firms, that’s when lawyers start to put down the pleadings, look up and take notice.

Law is like all other business. When a full Uber passes your empty cab, you have two choices: invest all your time in protecting your job by fighting the intruder or invest in innovation, adoption and implementation of tech tools to compete and thrive. History teaches us that resistance and protectionism is a waste of time. Just ask Blockbuster and Ma Bell … if you can find them.  

At this year’s ABA Techshow, you led a panel discussion titled Resetting Your Law Firm for a Changing Economy & Marketplace where you recommended that lawyers think like entrepreneurs. How can lawyers become more entrepreneurial? What is a good way for them to get started?

Two-thirds of our profession is solo and small firms. We are entrepreneurs, but we are lawyers first. Most of us aren’t experts in all the other areas of business such as sales, marketing (social media, public relations, web presence, SEO management, etc.), all types of management (operations, human resources, information technology, risk management, project management, etc.), styles of management (agile, lean, scrum, Six Sigma, etc.), accounting, investment, research and development, and so on. But let’s be real, nobody knows all this stuff!

The answer? Hire subject matter experts from other business areas into your law practice. Hire consultants, independent contractors or interns. Partner with tech startups, tech companies, or hire young, tech-savvy employees. For example, in my office the last four hires were for non-legal positions. Right now I am building breadth of expertise in communications, project management and user experience design. The investment in non-legal expertise has already given tenfold returns.  

Finish this statement with whatever first comes to mind (like a Rorschach test): Lawyers need to realize…

…That we are in a window of unprecedented opportunity to innovate and grow rapidly for those that choose that path today.  

You just recorded an episode of the Lawyerist with Sam Glover about the future of the legal profession. Can you tell us about that discussion? Also, what happened at the meeting you called at the ABA Techshow?

The Techshow Summit was a fairly impromptu gathering of 40-plus diverse leaders from many areas of our profession including academia, big and small firms, members of the judiciary, tech companies, legal service providers, insurance, local and national bar leaders and others.  

I suggested at the outset of the Summit that: “We must re-regulate, a multidisciplinary legal service system that accepts investment capital for the purpose of building a profitable legal system to provide affordable legal services to all consumers.”

The question for the Summit group was how do we build that bridge from here (today) to there (as soon as possible)? It was a very productive meeting of the minds. Everyone shared a piece of the answer. After the event was over, Sam Glover and I drilled a bit deeper into these issues on the Lawyerist Podcast, which will air April 23rd.

Patrick Palace doing yoga

You own a wine company in addition to your own yoga studio. How do you find all the time? What do you think people forget when it comes to time management?

I launched Sunken Cellars Winery in 2015. This year I will bottle a little over 400 cases of Albarino (dry white), 2016 Cabernet Sauv (20 months in new French oak) and Tesaro Red (Italian blend). The yoga studio, Yoga Palace, was a really fun venture that gave me a safe haven from stress and introduced me to a community of amazing people. My wife and I  sold the studio recently to a group of my yoga teachers, but I still practice daily.

Finding the time isn’t that hard when you are doing the things you love. That’s the key to time management. I think most people have a day job, exercise before or after work and find time to enjoy a drink with friends. That’s exactly what I do, but now I get paid to do it. Otherwise, same same. It’s really more about managing a happy life by making your work life your life work. Do what you love. Love what you do. The rest falls into place.

We ask everyone the same final question, and we’ve heard some pretty far-out answers. What non-work related invention would you like to have right now?

1st Choice: I would love a “Easy-decision-and-be-totally-good-with-it” tool. Somehow, we have all been led to believe that there is just one best answer among our choices. I think multiple choice tests in school have totally messed us up. Life just isn’t like that. There can be all good answers!

The real problem isn’t the choices; it’s our fear of making the wrong choice, or thinking there must be more unknown options we need before we can choose. The result is too often no choice gets made. We “kick the can” farther down the road (“I think we need a study,” “Lets refer this to a committee to report back recommendations,” etc).

So this tool makes all choices easy, compromise a cinch, and here is the best part; you feel really good about the decision. For example:

Ice Cream Vendor: “Chocolate or Vanilla?”
Wife: “Honey does this make me look fat?”
Defense Atty Cross Examination: “When did you stop beating your wife?”
Stranger: “Is that your dog?”
Take questions like these all day with the “Easy-decision-and-be-totally-good-with-it” tool. Easy Peazy!
2nd runner up: The “Happy Dog” attitude adjustment pill
3rd runner up: A temperature controlled, full body, gaming Onesie

Soojung Chang

Soojung is a content marketer at ROSS Intelligence. She is also a writer, user experience designer and former journalist who is interested in all things related to technology and startups.