Lawyers Are Heroes! Meet Attorneys Brooke O’Neil and Sarah Scott,
Idaho-based attorneys who recently joined forces to create the boutique law firm, Law / Alternatives / PLLC. O’Neil and Scott focus on family and fiduciary areas of the law, in addition to mediation services.
O’Neil and Scott decided that lean, legal tech was the goal when establishing their small law firm. By employing remotely accessed, cloud-based legal software, they are able to provide more affordable services to a greater number of clients.
What made you guys want to be lawyers?
Sarah: You’ll love this: Perry Mason. I really enjoy the detective work involved in putting all of the pieces put together when trying to resolve a case.
Brooke: I worked as a file clerk in an estate planning law practice right out of high school. I liked the way the business worked and I liked the way people worked: happy to come in and happy to leave. That shaped my idea of something I wanted to do.
What kind of law do you practice?
Brooke: I handle everything from adoption to probate and trust administration – mostly family related issues. Everything from adoption and guardianship to estate planning and probate.
Sarah: This is the way that I like to describe it: we handle families from birth to death. Anything that an individual might encounter in his or her personal life such as pre and post marital agreements, adoption, estate planning, guardianship and/or conservatorship, divorce, and probate.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
Sarah: My dream job, when I win the lottery, is to have a no-kill animal shelter patterned after Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah.
Brooke: My two other choices were accountant or teacher.
What are you most proud of on your resumes?
Brooke: The things that I’m most proud of are being part of the Idaho Guardian and Fiduciary Association. I was a vice president with the association for many years when it was in its infancy. Also, I’ve received two pro-bono service awards from the Idaho State Bar and I’m very proud of those.
Sarah: I think that something else Brooke’s not mentioning is that she handled the first same-sex step-parent adoption case in Ada County.
What are the most valuable things that lawyers can do for their clients?
Sarah: We try to carry our clients’ burden of stress. Clients want someone who will listen to them and take over some of the weight of the problem.
What kind of freedoms does practicing lean offer?
Sarah: We are expanding our small law practice into mediation because we want people to have greater access to justice. For a lot of folks, that’s financially unattainable. We really needed to change our overhead and change the way we practiced, so that’s really what has motivated our move into lean law and into the cloud. When I first started practicing law, computers were hardly used and now we’re in the cloud.
What was easier than you thought?
Sarah: I’m going to be really honest and tell you that having Jonathon’s help (Jonathon Fishman, LeanLaw’s Chief Services Officer) through the process has been invaluable. We were trying to practice law at the same time we were trying to make this complete change in our law firm’s practice management.
Brooke: Being able to access everything from everywhere. I was able to that before, sort of, but it wasn’t intuitive and everything was slightly off. Now, for example, being able to enter something on my Clio account while I’m in court is really helpful.
What are the most important tools that you use in your practice?
Brooke: I would say email and scanning. It’s really allowed us to communicate much more quickly with clients, It gives clients a sense of being in touch much more frequently. And then being able to scan and e-mail documents so that clients can review a letter before I send it. Before they would have to come to the office and review the letter. Two weeks could go by before the letter went out and now, it’s a half an hour.
Sarah: I used to spend a ton of time on the phone but with email and other methods of communication, it is very different. However, I do think technology creates another challenge in how to maintain a personal relationship with clients when you’re doing most things electronically.
Brooke: There’s a fine line that Sarah and I have talked about many times between being extremely lean and cutting overhead and still having a place where clients feel comfortable in and they feel like they have a level of confidence in you and your practice. People want to see an office. They want to see a conference room. As much as you may not believe those things are necessary and we can replace them with technological solutions, it may not be the right thing for every practice. Now, if I’m practicing real estate law, maybe I really don’t care. But if I’m dealing with kids or with elderly parents, if I’m dealing with a massive life change, I think I would like to have somebody in an office who I can actually go see and feel comfortable discussing very personal issues with.
What is something your clients would never guess about you?
Sarah: That I’m an avid mountain biker.
What’s the last great book you read for pleasure?
Brooke: I’m sort of a big science fiction fan. The second in Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes series, Finders Keepers.