Patrick Palace is a litigator who has made some life changes. He grew out his hair, sports athleisure wear more than suits, and focuses on legal technology and systems to expand his Tacoma, Washington, firm rather than trying to be the No. 1 trial lawyer and rainmaker.
A workers’ compensation attorney who also does plaintiffs personal-injury cases, he acquired five law practices in two years. Palace is also a former Washington State Bar Association president, and he’s trying to convince other lawyers to embrace innovation and change in the profession rather than beat it back.
His current volunteer work includes serving as vice chair of the ABA Center for Innovation and secretary of the National Conference of Bar Presidents—two groups with members who sometimes don’t agree on regulation changes in the law. “I’m a bridge,” says Palace, who supports re-regulation to allow law firm ownership by and limited licensing of nonlawyers.
“Guys like me can show how much their own firms leveraged technology and how many opportunities are out there. So bar leaders can be megaphones of opportunity, not naysayers of fear,” adds the Palace Law founder.
Palace grew up in Washington and attended Loyola University Chicago School of Law because he wanted to see what living in a large city was like. He graduated in 1991 and returned home the same year, initially working as defense lawyer for police misconduct cases. He switched to plaintiffs work in 1995 as a sole practitioner.
Today, Palace Law employs 11 lawyers and 27 legal professionals. Most everyone in the practice, including himself, works offsite, and he estimates that approximately 80% of the firm’s new business starts through online contacts.
“We use technology to keep lawyers and staff working at the top of their skill set and give as much of the lower-end work as possible to technology to complete, preferably without human intervention,” he adds.
The tech tools include a “Patbot,” a chatbot that uses consumers’ information to analyze their cases, create forms and write letters. The website also has a case value calculator, which is free.
“There’s plenty of money to be made in the law. I don’t have to monetize everything, and it shouldn’t be my purpose to make money off of everyone who calls me,” says Palace, 57. He sees himself as an experimenter rather than a builder and often consults Twitter when shopping for law firm technology.
“I don’t always take the company that’s producing the tool as the best source, but I often listen to those who are using it, and sometimes those who invested in it,” adds Palace, who shifted from litigation work to law firm management and strategy four years ago.
His personal life has changed too. A former student of mixed martial arts, Palace now practices yoga. He also enjoys hiking and fishing, and he has a winery, Sunken Cellars, which ages its products underwater in Puget Sound.
“I’ve gotten a little closer to my roots,” Palace says. “That helps when I’m out on the road and speaking about mindfulness, work-life balance and how to be successful by scaling or changing firm culture, so long as the culture is strong and positive.”