Leadership and growth in a crisis: 'Things are going to get better,' legal tech CEO says
Ari Kaplan. Photo by Lauren Hillary.
Ari Kaplan recently spoke with Joey Seeber, the CEO and co-founder of Level 2 Legal Solutions, about leadership and growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Level 2 Legal Solutions is a provider of managed services based in Tyler, Texas, that focuses on privacy compliance and litigation.
Ari Kaplan: Tell us about your background and the genesis of Level 2 Legal Solutions.
Joey Seeber: Level 2 Legal is a managed services provider specializing in privacy, compliance and litigation. It was founded in 2009 during the financial crisis. I am a lawyer, I’ve been a mayor and have owned other businesses in the automotive sector.
Ari Kaplan: How has Level 2 Legal adapted to the current crisis environment?
Joey Seeber: We went remote in 24 hours back in March, which seems like a few years ago, rather than a few months ago. We let our clients know what we had done, both to reassure them about our level of security and our ability to staff our projects seamlessly. We even acquired new business along the way due to our ability to pivot quickly.
Ari Kaplan: In addition to your business experience, you were the mayor of Tyler, Texas. How has your leadership style changed over the past few months?
Joey Seeber: I don’t know that my leadership style changed, but I think the variables are different. Ultimately, leadership is about building teams that are much more qualified than the leader to engage in various specialties. When I was mayor, we worked collaboratively to solve problems and serve the public. It is the same thing we are doing now, but we are doing it for our clients. The values are the same: teamwork and listening to your constituents—in this instance, your clients. As such, I would not say that my leadership style has changed. Rather, the way that we execute has changed.
Ari Kaplan: What are the obstacles and opportunities that that leaders are seeing?
Joey Seeber: We emphasize the value of listening and communicating with our team. For that reason, we have focused on the emotional wellness of our professionals in the current distributed working environment. For example, I speak individually with our staff, and we are very transparent about the work that is coming in and the projects on which we are concentrating. We have newly established companywide care groups and check in regularly with our employees to ensure their well-being. The effect for our clients is that those who are working on their matters do so with less fear and a higher level of engagement to produce consistent results.
Ari Kaplan: What strategies have you employed to ensure that the organization itself can weather a downturn?
Joey Seeber: Greater transparency and listening to our employees and clients. We are communicating as much as we can because in a time of fear and uncertainty, people want to know what is happening. This also benefits our clients because it allows our professionals to focus on their needs.
Ari Kaplan: How have you needed to adapt your responsiveness, both to employees and to clients, given the newly distributed workforce?
Joey Seeber: Well, it feels like we are all working all the time, so while there may have been more of a separation of work and home a few months ago, that has blended together. Now, we are actually trying to make sure that people draw boundaries and take time for themselves. Still, there is an expectation among clients and employees the people will be more engaged so responsiveness has become even more important.
Ari Kaplan: You have announced several new hires recently. How has the onboarding process changed?
Joey Seeber: It’s not just a difference in onboarding. For the first time, we hired two people at the same time at the executive level, having never met them in person, so the entire recruiting and interview process was remote. We brought them to our home office in Dallas to onboard, but some of that process was performed virtually, as well. It is quite a different experience but contains the same elements with more creativity.
Ari Kaplan: Are there any suggestions for how an organization can maintain a collegial and supportive culture in an environment where individuals cannot necessarily interact personally and directly?
Joey Seeber: Be creative and make sure that you’re using technology as effectively as possible to check in with employees and clients personally, despite the absence of direct communication. It is important to go over and above to make up for that in other ways.
Ari Kaplan: What advice would you give to a new CEO in the legal industry, especially one who is navigating significant change for the first time?
Joey Seeber: Start out with a long-term view of where you are going, and make sure that you are solving a problem that is a real need, not simply a good idea. In fact, it is important to be super-focused on that need and how you are going to solve it. Regardless of whether times are changing or not and where there is a crisis or not, listen. As lawyers, we give advice and counsel others on what to do, so we need to heighten our listening capability. It is an especially valuable skill as a CEO, as you need to listen to your market, competitors, company leaders and employees. As CEO, if you want people to do what you say, you have to hear their response.
Ari Kaplan: Where do you see the legal sector headed?
Joey Seeber: We are seeing the acceptance of more activity happening remotely, whether that’s a workforce, a hearing or event trials. The same is true with technology, such as using electronic signatures in place of “wet” signatures. I don’t know exactly where the legal sector is going, but I know that change has been accelerating and will continue to accelerate. As there is no real end in sight and this crisis will continue to impact everything that we do, our business models are shifting. We need to be able to work in a distributed manner and take advantage of the opportunities that it presents for the long haul. The other point that is not just specific to legal, but things are going to get better.
Editor’s Note: Kaplan recently co-hosted with Level 2 Legal Solutions a nationwide dinner series for corporate counsels focused on law department innovations.
Listen to the complete interview at Reinventing Professionals.
Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change and introduce new technology at his blog and on iTunes.