Building a Sustainable, Successful, and Socially Conscious Law Firm with Ryann Peyton
Feb 02, 2023
Think back to the time you decided to become a lawyer. What was your motivation? Did you aim to be a lawyer to serve the marginalized and underserved? Being in the legal profession is more than just reputation, money, and esteem. However, the longstanding traditional law practice makes it difficult to break free from this status quo. Fortunately, there is a way to align your practice and values while maintaining a successful and meaningful career.
In this episode, Ryann Peyton, Director of Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice, joins us to discuss what it means to build a socially conscious law practice. Ryann explains how adopting this business model creates a win-win situation for both lawyers and clientele. She also breaks down the process of getting into the LEJ incubator.
If you want to know why you should adopt a socially conscious law practice, this episode is for you.
Here are three reasons why you should listen to this episode:
- Understand the definition of socially conscious law practice.
- Discover why you should adopt a value-based pricing model.
- Learn more about the Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice.
Who Is Ryann?
- Ryann calls themself an accidental lawyer. They originally wanted to be an FBI agent and work in behavioral health.
- When they were practicing litigation, Ryann was burnt out and didn’t feel love for their career.
Ryann: “There are two types of people in the legal profession. There are those who practice — and they’re fantastic people — and then there are those people who take care of the profession and the people in it.”
- Ryann switched toward doing the work of caretaking in the legal profession.
- They do a lot of mentoring, professional development, and program creation. They aim to make happier, healthier, and more successful lawyers.
- Outside of their career, Ryann is a mom, spouse, and outdoor enthusiast.
Moshe: “There’s definitely different directions that you can go and your profession can take you.”
Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice
- Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice or LEJ is a solo and small firm incubator. It’s focused on helping solo practitioners build socially conscious law practices.
- A socially conscious law practice serves marginalized and lower- to middle-income clients.
- Middle-class people are stuck in the justice gap. They earn too much to qualify for legal aid but not enough to work with lawyers’ traditional rates.
- Instead of billing by the hour, LEJ lawyers use non-traditional pricing models.
- Non-traditional pricing models help clients engage with the case, provide affordable legal services, and allow lawyers to build a sustainable practice.
Ryann: “We see it as a win-win for clients and for lawyers because the clients are getting access to justice in a way that other legal models aren’t serving them, and lawyers are getting a chance to build a practice they want to work for.”
LEJ Business Model
- The business model varies from lawyer to lawyer based on their practice area.
- LEJ advocates for value-based pricing. They help lawyers determine a profitable price for the value they bring.
- The billable hour makes lawyers associate their value with the time it takes them to do their work.
Ryann: “I think there’s sometimes a misnomer that if you focus on this middle-income, then it’s not successful, it’s not sustainable, because these folks don’t have money for legal services when the truth is that they do.”
- It’s a misconception that there’s no success in focusing on middle income earners.
The Role of the LEJ Incubator
- LEJ is an expertise-type incubator. They don’t provide capital nor underwrite the work their lawyers are doing.
- Their role is to provide teaching, mentoring, and community support that lawyers need to launch their socially conscious practice.
- Their lawyers stay with them for a year for training. LEJ only provides them support afterward.
- LEJ’s lawyers pay a small fee to participate in the incubator. The incubator underwrites a lot of the cost as a program of the Colorado Supreme Court.
- LEJ is the only incubator across the country supported by the court instead of a bar association or foundation.
Becoming Part of the LEJ Incubator
- LEJ has an application and interview process to ensure the right fit.
- They accept lawyers with an entrepreneurial mindset, as well as those who genuinely want have a socially conscious practice.
- LEJ only accepts 10 participants a year.
- After the 12-month program, they also offer an optional mastermind program for participants looking to scale their practice.
- All alumni and cohort lawyers serve as mentors and trainers in their program.
Defining a Socially Conscious Law Practice
- LEJ accommodates lawyers who are interested in serving underserved areas.
- They have lawyers who focus on immigration, family law, small business, bankruptcy. They exclude contingency-based areas like personal injury.
Ryann: “Personal injury law as a practice model, because it’s mostly contingency based, there’s not so much of an access to justice issue there. People can go and hire a lawyer at no cost and have their needs met.”
- LEJ is one of the most diverse lawyer programs in Colorado.
Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program
- LEJ is part of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP).
- CAMP has been around since 2013 with the mission to help people find their place, people, and purpose in the legal industry.
- They help lawyers identify mentors and address pain points in the profession. CAMP also provides professional development and training on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- LEJ was a standalone program for three years before it was pulled under CAMP.
Applying for the LEJ Program
- The LEJ program launches every January. They do a two-week intensive boot camp to describe the program and get the participants in the entrepreneurial mindset.
Ryann: “For these lawyers to be successful, they have to start seeing themselves as business owners and entrepreneurs from day one.”
- They begin their routine training after the boot camp.
- They take applications all year long and close around October. They do interviews through November.
- They focus on the right fit when screening applicants. They also keep the doors open for folks who want to apply again.
- They have lawyers who are fresh out of law school, new to solo practice, as well as solo practitioners looking to change their model.
Ryann’s Parting Piece of Advice
- Set your own definition of success.
Ryann: “In this profession, it’s really easy to live somebody else’s idea of what success is or vision for success.”
- The more you can articulate your definition of success, the happier and more successful you’re going to be.
Ryann Peyton serves as the Director of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP), a program of the Colorado Supreme Court. A former litigator and a seasoned consultant and advocate on professionalism, diversity, and equity in the legal field, Ryann is a frequent commentator, presenter, and lecturer. Prior to joining CAMP, Ryann focused their law practice on civil litigation with an emphasis on LGBTQ families and civil rights. Ryann has been routinely recognized for their legal practice, most recently earning the 2019 American Bar Association Rosner & Rosner Young Lawyer Professionalism award. Ryann sits on the boards of several Colorado legal organizations and currently leads the Colorado Bar Association as President. Ryann earned their law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law and holds an LLM and undergraduate degree from the University of Denver.
If you wish to get in touch with Ryann, you may connect with them on LinkedIn.
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