The Modern JD spotlight series is a feature on Lawyernomics that highlights attorneys that are using technology, their brand and marketing in innovative ways to connect with clients and their peers. These attorneys come from different practice areas across the country but have one thing in common: they have evolved with the times to meet the needs of their clients and practice. This week we are excited to share attorney, Gabriel Cheong of Infinity Law Group.
What is your area of practice and why did you decide to get into it?
The vast majority of my practice is centered around divorce and custody litigation. My firm also does family mediation and Guardian ad Litem (GAL) work.
I had the opportunity while in law school to intern at a legal service agency dedicated to representing victims of domestic violence in divorce and child custody litigation. While there, I learned the nuts and bolts of family law litigation and received basic training in how to deal with children and families in crisis. After graduation, I decided that that was the field I want to pursue that I would be able to make the most difference in. I find it very rewarding because my clients usually come me when their lives are in shambles and my job is to help pick up the pieces up with them and rebuild a new life. If I do my job well, at the end of the process, they would at least be laying down a firm foundation for the rest of their lives. I also find that I help my clients find clarity during one of the most uncertain and confusing time of their lives. I love helping them and their children.
How has being a lawyer changed since graduating law school?
Being a lawyer, especially a lawyer in solo practice, has gotten easier over the years. There are so many free resources for new solos to hang a shingle now. Technology helps with efficiency, remote work, listservs and meetups for mentorship and networking, and software that helps small firms compete with larger firms. Even as recent as 15-20 years ago, the thought of a newly minted attorney, being able to successfully start a practice straight out of law school was unimaginable. Now, it’s a common reality.
Where do you envision your practice and profession as a whole going in 5 years?
There are a few things coming together that will fundamentally transform how we practice law or who will be practicing law in the near future. There is a lot discussed about “justice gap” and no one has yet to come up with a solution to solve it. Another reality is that technology is making many industries and professions obsolete. People are turning to technology to replace skills and tasks they used to hire professionals for because technology can do it quicker and cheaper.
While all this is happening, most lawyers are blind or in denial about the dangers that are quickly approaching over the horizon. We feel safe and protected in our monopoly over the practice of law and justified in charging sky high rates that only 10% of the population can afford. The cracks are starting to show and certain state bars opening up the practice of law to non-attorney legal professionals.
Lawyers need to find a new way to practice law or find a new profession altogether.
How do you think your practice is unique compared to others? What is your firm’s secret sauce?
My firm is the only firm in Boston doing all fixed fee family law litigation. I don’t compete on price. I compete on service and value. My service model does not depend on how many hours I work on a case. My fee is based on the value that I provide to my client; my value comes from my experience and advice, not my location or hourly rate. My clients like knowing how much they’re going to spend so they can budget for it, unlike traditional hourly fees where they feel as if they’re writing a blank check to their attorney.
Do you see yourself as a lawyer first? Business person first? or Client service first?”
I see myself as helping families first, then my business second. My business is to help families. I just happen to do that by practicing law.
How do you use your personality or brand in creative ways to connect with clients?
My brand, Infinity Law Group, is known for high quality, value based fixed fee pricing for all family law matters. We have tons of reviews online and our reputation in the community garners us referrals. My non-profit work is geared towards helping immigrants and running a free legal clinic embodies our dedication to helping people and not a law firm simply out to make money.
How has Avvo helped you connect with clients?
I’ve been actively engaged in Avvo since we both started in 2007. Clients use Avvo to look up lawyers and they use it to read reviews. Smart marketing is going where your clients are already looking. Personally I think Avvo is providing a service to both clients and attorneys. They’re making that connection that didn’t exist before. Just like Yelp did for food, Avvo is doing for attorneys.
Where do you find inspiration professionally and/or personally?
I find inspiration from people much smarter than me and usually in other professions. Attorneys on a whole are not that innovative so I tend to look towards those individuals who are breaking the mold in what they’re doing despite their upbringing or what people say about them.
What’s the piece of technology you couldn’t live without and why?
I could not live without my iPhone 6S+. I can run my entire law practice from it if I wanted to from answering calls, to sending faxes, emails, and even editing documents (though it’s a bit small for that).
What kind of a role does technology play in your practice?
I would not be able to run my firm the way its set up now without technology. As a solo who started out in 2007, technology allowed me to open a firm with very little overhead, working and marketing my practice from home. It helped me to compete with older, more established, brick and mortar firms.
Favorite app on your phone?
Pokemon Go. Don’t judge me!
The best tip or trick for balancing everyday work and life?
When you first start out, there is no such thing as work/life balance, there’s just work. You work your butt off so that you can build a business that will eventually be able to run itself and generate enough business so that you can start to enjoy life and time away from the office. After that, you have to start looking at how you can generate income without actively working. There’s a Chinese saying, “If you can’t make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.” How fast you get from the initial start-up to that elusive work/life balance depends on your drive, dedication, willingness to learn from others and your own mistakes and execution.
Describe, in three words, the Modern JD or the 21st Century Lawyer.
Adapt. Respond fast.