Every Lawyer Needs an Assistant

Entrepreneur Rhett Marlow 02EMBA has identified a need: to increase office efficiency and strengthen network support for independent lawyers through LexHelper.

By Michelle Valigursky

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Front office reception, back office billing and paperwork support, client scheduling, and meticulous documentation – all are critical needs for a busy lawyer with a business to run. But staffing all of these positions with talented individuals can be a cost-prohibitive proposition for independent lawyers. LexHelper bridges this gap by providing virtual operational support solutions and technology.

Founded by Rhett Marlow 02EMBA, LexHelper’s value proposition is clear. “We know that if your time is booked out to the overhead line on your P&L, it's very difficult for you to grow the top line,” Marlow says of LexHelper’s unique business model. “We have the tools and process that allow you to focus on the top line, while enhancing the bottom line.”

Going Virtual to Boost Success

According to National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) statistics for 2014, nearly 52,000 individuals passed the bar examination to practice law. “Of those, nearly half typically go into solo practice and another 15 percent work in small practices,” Marlow explains.

With only so many hours in the day, a lawyer in business for him or herself often wears many hats to juggle caseload demands. Tripp Watson, the entrepreneur lawyer and business consultant behind The Watson Firm in Birmingham, AL, assesses his daily roles and responsibilities. “A typical day involves a little bit of everything, from getting into the office, and sometimes being my own janitor, to doing the legal work and getting out doing business development itself, and going to hearings, doing everything in between,” he says.

Like many other independent lawyers, Watson faces a daily challenge. “There are so many hours in the day. Having a virtual assistant allows me to be able to work with somebody else, to fill in some of the gaps of the day especially when I’m committed. LexHelper helps me to focus on the most profitable areas of my business by allowing me to do the work that makes me money while also allowing me to focus on the things I do best.”

Establishing a repeatable process is imperative to any business success, and Marlow has put systems in place to increase an independent lawyer’s efficiency, manage influx of business, and track progress. When it comes to logging billable hours, “There is a cost associated with each incoming and outgoing call.” Marlow says. “LexHelper offers a way to provide uniform client management and billing without sacrificing the quality time needed to develop positive attorney-client relationships.”

Rhett Marlow 02EMBA

Rhett Marlow 02EMBA

An Entrepreneur’s Winning Track Record

LexHelper is the latest in a series of successful entrepreneurial ventures for Marlow. Though he graduated from the University of Alabama as an aerospace engineer, Marlow’s career led him into the automotive sector as a Tier 1 supplier to all major U.S. automakers. “Automotive was a great experience,” he recalls of his foundational years in business.

After a few years, Marlow wanted a different pace of life, moved to Georgia, and joined a startup in the automotive space. As the second person in the company, he helped to propel its growth over nine years to more than $50 million in revenue. “We started from dirt, literally. I laid out the factory and production lines for optimal efficiency, bought the equipment then hired and trained the production team”

From this success Marlow took an equity stake in another Georgia-based consulting startup that dealt with supply chain management. With growth from $2 million to $96 million in just four years, the company was by all measure successful. But at this point in his career, Marlow experienced an epiphany that changed his life. He thought, “I need to be doing this on my own.”

The opportunity for a solo venture came when Marlow realized the potential in assisting Walmart and other superstores like Kroger and Winn-Dixie to reduce annual food waste. He launched Viridiun, a recycling company that devised a method of keeping food waste out of landfills through a proprietary sustainable purpose.

“The Southeast hadn’t yet built up good options for composting,” Marlow explains. So, working with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the University of Georgia Agricultural School, Marlow launched a new solution to grind the perishable foods, add dry matter, and create feed for animals. “We built feed mills on farms, delivered fresh food ingredients to the mills for processing, then sold the farmers the feed produced in the on-site mill,” he explains. “It was a self-contained sustainable process.”

After Marlow exited Viridiun, he co-founded and maintains an ownership position in Foomanchew, a technology-based startup that addresses the Asian cuisine market in cities across the United States. Marlow combined extensive research and process evaluation with consumer convenience in an ecommerce brand and app that merges diners’ love of Asian cuisine with trustworthy health grades information and consumer reviews. With leveraged production systems and joint marketing, the business continues to grow.

Whether he’s focusing on solving legal administrative issues, sourcing raw materials globally, recycling millions of pounds of food waste annually, or perfecting the art of preparing Asian cuisine, thinking like an entrepreneur comes naturally to Marlow. “There is no shortage of opportunities to grow a business. The key is to learn everything you can about the market, then apply your own skills and experiences to solving the problem. Never quit, but be willing to make course adjustments, especially early in the process. Most importantly, have fun with what you’re doing. Life is too short.”

LexHelper

Editor's Note: At home, Marlow’s wife, Kelli, lends her industrial engineering expertise to each entrepreneurial venture. Even his sons, Parker and Payton, are entrepreneurs. At just 13 and 17, the two have launched a thriving lawn care business that nets more than $12,000 annually. “They bought their own equipment, manage sales operations, and keep their books,” Marlow says. “I’m waiting to see what they will launch next.”  

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Michelle Valigursky