Dan Baldwin 2012-12-12 01:19:09
Advocacy with a Conscience “We’re extremely flexible about offering potential clients the ability to choose a flat fee, payment plan, or limited scope appearance, for example. We don’t need to be greedy. We believe we can have whatever we want as long as we help enough people get what they want,” says Liz Harris-Wylde, a partner at Wylde Summers PLLC. This upstart firm is dedicated to four areas of legal practice and to one overriding principle: to offer excellent legal services at surprisingly affordable rates. Wylde focuses primarily on criminal defense and personal injury. Summers focuses her practice on family law, juvenile law, and the preparation of wills and trusts. At the end of the day, both partners are in the business of protecting people. Not Another “Stuffy” Law Firm Both women take pride in the fact that they are not a “stuffy law firm.” Jennifer Summers, the other partner at the firm, says, “Another thing that sets us apart is our youth and the way that we approach things. It’s not that we don’t understand that cases are serious, but we’re normal people, too, and we’ll talk to our clients like normal people. We’re not hired suits and we don’t portray ourselves as that.” An up-and-coming firm, they bring youth and ambition to every case they get. “We’re both pretty young, and we’re pretty aggressive when it comes to what we’re willing to give our clients for what we’re being paid,” says Summers. Wylde adds, “We tend to emulate non-violent revolutionaries. We want to do things differently and we want to offer services in different ways. If you’re indigent, you get a public defender. If you’re wealthy, you get an attorney. If you’re in the middle class, you get left out. We want to change the way lawyers behave. There’s no reason that legal services should be cost prohibitive for most people. This legal system was made by the people and for the people, but the fact is most people don’t have access to it because they don’t have unlimited amounts of money. That’s not right and we’re changing it.” Dynamic Legal Service at an Affordable Cost Neither partner is shy about pointing out their willingness to tailor the firm’s compensation to the needs of individual clients. They even offer price matching akin to that pioneered by Wal- Mart. Summers says, “If somebody comes to us with a competitive offer from another lawyer or another firm, we will beat it by ten percent. It’s our Better Fee Guarantee™.” She explains that “We’re very aggressive in offering clients very affordable rates. We’re cheaper than many of the paralegals out there. It’s not that we want to get the most clients possible; it’s that we want to make quality legal services affordable to more people than they really are. My partner and I are still new enough to this business to be embarrassed by how much money attorneys make. We’re trying to be a bit more reasonable…a bit more humble. It still shocks me that people will pay me $150.00 an hour to work for them. To do something that I love. We don’t have the egos to match the hourly rate.” Sometimes You Get More Than What You Pay For Wylde Summers prides itself on the quality of the firm’s work, despite the low rates. Both partners practice “good, old-fashioned customer service.” Many lawyers assume they’re exempt from the classic customer service rules that other businesses live by, but that assumption is not held by Wylde Summers. “I mean, you’re paying us at least 20 times more than your waitress at dinner, so shouldn’t we be bending over backwards for you?” Summers says. She adds, “We don’t nickel and dime our clients just because others do. For example, we don’t charge for every stamp we use or every copy we make on your case. I’m not going to charge a client ten cents for a copy of a one-page letter. Why would anyone want to send that kind of message to a client?“ Education and Experience Wylde graduated cum laude from Arizona State University with a degree in anthropology and a minor in philosophy. She graduated from law school at Arizona State in 2010. While in law school, she earned numerous top distinctions including: highest pro bono distinction; Order of the Barristers, awarded in recognition of outstanding trial advocacy; Law, Science, and Technology Center Scholar; Specialized Certificate in bioscience: dissertation on Physicians’ Liability for Failure to Warn for Breast Cancer Mutations; Arizona State Law Journal, article on the constitutionality of Arizona’s medical malpractice statute. She volunteered extensively for the Arizona Justice Project, working to free persons wrongly convicted of a crime in Arizona. She was also a Rule 38 certified, student-prosecuting attorney at the City of Phoenix, where she gained courtroom experience prosecuting criminal cases ranging from domestic violence assaults to DUIs. Summers earned a bachelor’s degree in political science magna cum laude from Arizona State University. She also graduated from the Barrett Honors College at ASU before taking off a year to develop the business management skills that are now coming in handy. She returned to school to complete her Juris Doctor at Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. While in law school, she earned a certification in law, science, and technology, with a specialization in intellectual property. The partners at Wylde Summers met in law school and hit it off quickly. Summers accepted a job as a law clerk with a firm in the East Valley in 2008 and worked there for four years. Eventually, Summers was ready to leave and she and the newly licensed Wylde decided to take the leap together. “We knew we needed someone else, though. Someone to help us with the business aspect of the firm and managing the day to day activities so we could dedicate more of our time to helping our clients with their legal needs.” Summers immediately thought of her good friend, Tiffany Crudup. While not an attorney, Crudup brings a unique and valuable background to the practice. Crudup was educated in business at ASU and has years of experience in the legal industry. Her education and experience make her invaluable as the firm’s director of client services. Summers, Wylde, and Crudup form a great trifecta because they each approach the management of the firm from their own unique angle. Wylde says, “I think being young is an advantage because we’re bold enough and brash enough to try approaches that most lawyers won’t try. We want to make legal services dynamic, accessible and affordable to everyone. We want our success to come because we did the right thing, not because we did what we could get away with. We think ‘how can I help this individual person?’ because when these people come to us, their lives are usually falling apart. We take that very, very seriously. We take our clients’ cases personally.”
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