Laurel Edgeworth: The Matchmaker
Posted Aug 24, 2009 4:20 PM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky
Laurel Edgeworth prefers the driver’s seat. Tall, slender and athletic, her light blond hair cut into a sleek bob, the Sacramento, Calif., native is a master of control.
Within four months of graduating from law school, she passed the California bar exam, stepped into a full-time position at her firm, and launched an online business: Law Clerk Connection. LCC is a virtual forum that allows law students to bid on contract clerking assignments at small-to-medium-size firms across the nation.
The website also provides a haven for solo practitioners to discuss the trials and tribulations of setting up shop, often after a life in BigLaw.
“She’s a zealot,” says David Silversmith, a technology consultant based in Washington, D.C., who brainstormed with Edgeworth online and on the phone about programmers and software options for the fledgling business. “I’d ask her: ‘Is there anything else you want to do? Solve world hunger?’ ”
If Silversmith had met Edgeworth in person, he would have noticed something else: a scar starting at her hairline that curves through her eyebrows and another zigzag line above her left eye. Edgeworth spent months relearning how to walk on once-shattered bones and years battling debilitating headaches after an accident her freshman year of college sent her car over a cliff.
“I would wonder if I was ever going to become what I wanted to be, or be relegated to a second-class life,” Edgeworth says.
Her mother and business partner, Sherry Kinnison, credits Edgeworth’s recovery and the launch of Law Clerk Connection to her daughter’s ability to strictly, passionately focus on a single task and not become overwhelmed by details.
While recovering from three facial surgeries requiring more than 1,000 stitches, Edgeworth wore a plastic shield to smooth the healing tissue—even in public.
She worked three part-time jobs to pay for her legal education, including packing flowers and delivering the Wall Street Journal. “She just kept on going,” Kinnison says of her daughter. “I admire her tremendously.”
Edgeworth, 34, graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in December. She now practices at Timothy M. Cary & Associates in Cameron Park, Calif., which provided a sounding board for her idea of using technology to build direct relationships between law students and smaller law firms.
To de-stress, Edgeworth takes to her Tirreno Razza road bike, riding 20 to 40 miles daily as she trains for her first 100-mile race this fall. Even on her bike, the tech-savvy Edgeworth is digitally connected through her iPhone. “It’s my favorite gadget for making time more or less productive,” Edgeworth laughs.
Edgeworth believes Law Clerk Connection will make time more productive for her clients through its competitive bidding model and its secure platform for document transfer between nationally dispersed law clerks and firms. LCC offers legal research tools and hosts discussion forums for students and attorneys to help them foster virtual mentorships and swap ideas on ways technology can enhance the profession.
“She’s using technology to create a virtual forum for the legal community,” says Silversmith, whom Edgeworth found through a tech-focused employment website. “Her initiation of LCC incorporates the type of work she’s promoting,” he says.
Hear Laurel Edgeworth talk about her new business.
Although Edgeworth has invested nearly $20,000 in time and money into her startup, the long-term goal is to develop a self-operating program so she can focus on her practice representing public agencies. She now devotes five hours a week to the site and contracts with a few part-time staffers. The online legal network has averaged more than 132,000 hits and 4,500 visitors a month since its launch in March.
“The responses from law students and lawyers have been positive,” Edgeworth says, although Bolingbrook, Ill., attorney and LCC user Mazyar Hedayat cautions that increased traffic is vital to the online community’s success.
Edgeworth is enduringly optimistic. “We’re still educating lawyers, and I know it’s going to be gradual growth,” she says. “But once more people use it, then even more people will use it. This model can really help lawyers utilize their time better.”
That and, perhaps, time management lessons from a master.
Photos by Martin Klimek