UniCourt Influencer Q&A with Camille Stell of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services
Camille Stell is a fixture in the legal community and the definition of an innovative entrepreneur. On a daily basis, she helps law firms create strategic plans and succession plans to ensure their long-term success. But on a larger scale, she is deeply involved in the A2J movement and making legal services and tech accessible and affordable where it has been historically a premium-cost commodity available to only the few and the privileged.
Camille’s work through Lawyers Mutual & Consulting Services complements her efforts in the A2J space through her involvement with the Duke Law Tech Lab and the NC Pro Bono Resource Center Advisory Board, and she has recently broken into the publishing and content space, having recently released a few books.
We were thrilled to chat with Camille and to learn more about her background, her career goals, and her advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs within the legal industry.
UniCourt: Tell us your story. What is your background, and what led you to what you are doing now?
Camille Stell: I was always interested in law but not sure what role to take. Meredith College started its Paralegal Program when I was a freshman, so it was a great fit for me to complete the certification program upon graduation. I have worked in every size law firm from seven lawyers to 2,000, and there is something to enjoy about each of them. However, I really appreciate the hard work of being a solo and small firm owner. There are so many demands and these folks play a crucial role in small towns all over North Carolina and states throughout the country. I see solo, small, and mid-size firms struggle to keep up today. The demands are great, and resources are often tight. I saw a gap in the market for consultants offering to help solo to mid-size firms modernize their practices.
UC: What types of services do you provide for law firms through Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services?
CS: I assist lawyers in modernizing their law firms through creating strategic plans and succession plans. Many law firms get through each stage of growth by happenstance. My goal is for lawyers to have a strategic plan for developing their practices, growing their practices, and ultimately transferring ownership of their firms to their hand-picked Next Generation Owner.
UC: How can legal professionals leverage technology and legal data for business development and strategic planning? How does this differ from solo practitioners, to small law firms, regional/mid-size firms, and larger law firms?
CS: My first experience with a CRM was at a large firm in the early 2000s and the product cost was $100,000. That is not an option for most solo or small firms. I have really enjoyed seeing tech innovations and subscription services that make products such as CRMs and practice management tools available for many more lawyers. But even though these products are available in their price points, lawyers let their lack of tech interest and tech skill hold them back. Building a vibrant law practice requires both the old-school relationship building skills that your granddad’s practice had combined with the tech tools that are affordable for the newest law school grad looking to hang a shingle.
UC: Tell us a bit about your work within the Advisory Group for the Duke Law Tech Lab. What initiatives are you currently working on, and how does your experience helping law firms with strategic planning contribute to the Lab’s mission?
CS: The Duke Law Tech Lab nurtures early-stage legal tech companies with a mission of improving access to justice (A2J).
I love supporting the companies who participate in the pre-accelerator program by showing up for Demo Day. Demo Day represents the culmination of their work through the Tech Lab. The founders showcase their products before a panel of judges to compete for financial awards, as well as exposure to other accelerator programs and potential investors.
The role I most enjoy is connecting with the early-stage company founders to share insights on how to best strategically network with lawyers in private practice. The founders may need to sell their products to lawyers, or they may need to partner with lawyers to build referral relationships. I love meeting entrepreneurial-minded tech innovators, learning from them, and sharing my networking tips as well as my industry knowledge.
An added benefit of the Advisory Board is working with the law students involved in the program about issues important to the profession, as well as their interest in creating A2J solutions. I’m amazed and inspired by the students as well as the founders.
UC: As a member of the NC Pro Bono Resource Center Advisory Board, what are your thoughts on how lawyers can use technology to increase access to justice in the most underserved populations?
CS: The more I study the issue, the more I realize there isn’t one solution. We must be working on multiple solutions at a time. My work with the Pro Bono Advisory Center involves increasing awareness of pro bono opportunities, making pro bono easier to perform, and providing more opportunities for people to serve, as well as raising money for pro bono service providers. But we must also explore regulatory reform, leveraging technology to allow legal services to move from a one-to-one model to a one-to-many model where it is appropriate, allow additional legal professionals into the mix of who can serve the public such as limited licensed professionals, and finally, gain more collaboration from lawyers with those who may not hold a law degree but are passionate about improving the profession and allowing greater access to our judicial system.
UC: What advice would you offer to women in law who would like to pursue a non-traditional legal career path like you did?
CS: I have had such a thrill building my career. Be curious. Over the years I kept finding new things to do and new places to do them. Get comfortable with uncomfortable. Changing paths moves you out of your comfort zone. There is always the period where I second-guess my decision as I move from mastery of a job to student. And I’ve done this over and over. But the thrill of succeeding at new challenges greatly outweighs the complacency that can come with fear of change.
Network like your professional career depends on it, because it does. Strategic networking has helped me pursue different paths along my career journey. Bring authenticity and reciprocity to networking and you will enjoy it regardless of your introvert or extrovert status. I always try to give more than I get, but it usually works in the inverse. The adage is true: the more you give, the more you get.
UC: What are some of your favorite sayings? What are some real-world examples of how you’ve seen those sayings come to life?
CS: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” In law, there is pressure to be perfect from creating a document with zero errors to being a perfect spouse, parent, adult child, neighbor, practitioner, employee, boss, manager, or leader. Since perfection is rarely obtained but always strived for, many legal professionals are worn down and burned out, with suffering mental health and physical wellness. Every single project does not have to be perfect. Our best is usually more than enough, and sometimes good is all that’s needed.
UC: What are your goals for the rest of the year? What projects are you working on? Are there any events in the legal tech or access to justice spaces we should be aware of?
CS: I have a few tech-related projects underway in 2021. I’m partnering with a consultant friend who is offering online learning platforms for coaching and professional development. I’m developing new content for them to be delivered in non-traditional ways. I launched an online community, Leading Law, in 2020 and I plan to devote more energy to building both the content side and the membership side. And finally, a project that isn’t tech oriented: I’m writing a new book. My pandemic project was to co-author a book on succession planning through selling your law firm. My 2021 goal is to write the natural sequel which is how to purchase and integrate a law firm.
I also serve on the N.C. State Bar Regulatory Study Committee where I participate in monthly meetings. A few members of our Committee have created a CLE program which we have offered multiple times across the State and we plan to continue this in 2021. I’m hoping our Committee will be creating a report with recommendations by mid-year.
I recently attended (virtually) the ABA Women in Legal Tech event, and I’ll be in attendance at the Clio Conference later this year either virtually or in-person. I follow Bill Henderson’s Legal Evolution blog, I’m subscribed to the ABA’s Legal Innovation Regulatory Survey for updates, as well as follow and participate in events with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal Justice System (IAALS).
UC: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Where can we learn more about you and your work?
Connect with me on LinkedIn
Thanks for including me. I’ve enjoyed our time together!
Accept New Challenges, Become a Student, and Conquer Complacency
Camille’s career is living proof that by constantly accepting new challenges, being willing to be a student, and going outside of our comfort zones, we can reap tremendous rewards, serve others through our work, and lay the foundation for an incredibly fulfilling long-term career. It was a pleasure speaking with Camille, and we look forward to following her success in the coming months and years!