Laurie Lee talking to employee at her desk

AN INTERVIEW WITH LAURIE LEE

Owner at The Legal Department for Service Professionals, PA


How did you start The Legal Department?
I started this law firm in 2015 (at that time it was called Elevate Business Law) and it was the biggest risk I have ever taken.  Although I had been a business attorney for a long time by then, I quickly discovered that I had a lot to learn about being a business owner. I took classes, attended workshops, hired coaches, interviewed other business owners, read a lot of books, found mentors, joined networks of professionals, and generally surrounded myself with as many successful business owners as I could find. People had told me that owning a business was a journey in personal development.  That is very true.  I had to learn to overcome my fears, my internal doubts, and my assumptions to be able to take the actions I needed to take. I love being a business owner providing business law advice to our professional service clients – I’ll never go back to the “other” side!

What do you do at The Legal Department?
Before I made the leap to entrepreneurship, I worked at a large firm doing mergers and acquisitions, international law, intellectual property and general business law. I’ve always been a business attorney and have extensive experience handling business deals. Now, I do those things for our professional service firm clients. I create ways we can better serve our clients, while maintaining the high level of quality we provide in our legal work. It’s really about being willing to try new ways of practicing law that aren’t necessarily considered traditional. I consider myself an educator at heart and want our clients to come away from their interactions with us with the ability to make better business decisions.

What do you like most about what you do?
I love taking complicated legal concepts and explaining them in a creative way that makes them easier to understand and use. The law creates the framework for all business – it sets out the code of conduct we all have to follow in business. But the law is not always intuitive or simple. As professionals, our clients are highly educated and are experts in their field, so they have the ability to understand complex issues. However, when it comes to the law, most people tend to assume that it’s the “common sense” or “practical” answer. That’s usually not the case. The law has evolved to what it is today for a reason. Once it’s explained, business owners can make better decisions within the rules.

Who are your favorite clients to work with?
Business professionals who are trying to build a better business and want to continue growing no matter what stage of business they are in currently. These people understand the need to invest in the growth of their business and they realize that they can’t grow without a strong foundation. It’s so rewarding to help them put that infrastructure in place and then watch how they take off.

What is special or unique about helping professional service providers?
They help others. They are usually so passionate about what they do and wanting to do a good job for their clients, that they often neglect themselves in the process. They are the busy helping others and overlook what they need to be doing for their own businesses. So it is incredibly satisfying to come in and help them with what they need – and to protect them. They’re helping others and we get to help them.

What are two words your friends would use to describe you?
Optimistic. Detailed.

Honors Distinctions
SBA 2019 North Florida Woman Owned Business of the Year
AV Preeminent® Peer-Rated by Martindale-Hubbell® (highest possible rating)
Superb AVVO® Rating: 10 out of 10
Regional Volunteer of the Year Award, America’s Small Business Development Center (2018)
University of Florida, Levin College of Law, Florida Journal of International Law (2002-2003)

Bar Involvement
Member of the Jacksonville Bar Association
Vice-Chairman of the Jacksonville Bar Transactional Section (2016-2017)
Chairman of the Jacksonville Bar Corporate & Business Law Committee (2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2020-2021)
Member of the Jacksonville Bar Professionalism & Mentoring Committee
Member of Fourth Judicial Circuit Attorney Grievance Review Committee (2020 – 2023)
Member of the Florida Bar Business Law Section
Member of the Florida Bar Small and Solo Firm Section (CLE Committee 2019 – 2020)
Member of the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association

Business and Community Involvement
Small Business Resource Network, President (2019, 2020)
Small Business Resource Network, Program Chair (2016, 2017, 2018)
Small Business Resource Network, Steering Committee (2008, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Member of the Women Business Owners of North Florida (Board Member 2020)
Member of St. Johns Riverkeeper
Volunteer for Junior Achievement of North Florida
Member of the Jacksonville Historical Society
Graduate of JAXBridges, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Cohort February 2017
Graduate of Small Business Executive Program, Jim Moran Institute, Class II June 2017

Speaking Engagements

  • SBDC at UNF, Exit Stage Left Program Online Webinar, “Transferring the Operations of Your Business When You Sell”
  • SBDC at UNF, Exit Stage Left Program Online Webinar, “The Four Phases of Selling Your Business”
  • SBDC at UNF, Exit Stage Left Program Online Webinar, “Asset Sale vs. Stock Sale When Selling A Business”
  • Florida Bar Solo & Small Firm Section, “How to Handle the Legal Structure of Law Firm Ownership” – April 2020 CLE
  • Score Jacksonville, “Connection: The Secret Ingredient to Success” – February 2019 Keynote for Women’s Conference
  • Presenter for City of Jacksonville JSEB Program, “Building a Stronger Business” – September 2019
  • Guest Lecturer at UNF Coggin College of Business, Entrepreneurship Class – 2017, 2018, 2019
  • The Legal Department Workshop, “Legal Infrastructure” – September 2019
  • Small Business Resource Network, “ADA Website Compliance” – May 2018 Member Meeting
  • Vetreprenuer Summit, City of Jacksonville Military Affairs and Veterans Department, Expert Panel – September 2019
  • Buzz TV “Ask The Attorney” – February 2019
  • Score Jacksonville, “How to Select a Lawyer” – November 2018 Workshop
  • The Legal Department Workshop, “How to Use Contracts to Establish Good Business Relationships” – August 2018
  • Women Business Owners, “Taking Risks in Business” – September 2018 Annual Retreat
  • CPA Roundtable, “Better Service Agreements for CPA’s” – October 2018
  • Women in Financial Services, “Business Law Basics for Insurance Finance Professionals” – May 2018 Member Meeting
  • Score Jacksonville, “Business law Update” – February 2018 Annual Meeting
  • Entrepreneur’s Entourage, SBRN 20th Anniversary Conference Chair and Host – October 2017
  • One Spark, “Legal Life Jackets for Business Partners and Co-Founders” – April 2016 Conference
  • News 1045 WOKV Radio Show, “Current Legal Issues for Business Owners” – July 2015

Publications
“The Business of Law: You Aren’t a Cobbler. You’re a Saddler. Part 1 Internal Relationships” The Florida Law Practice Link, Journal of Solo and Small Firm Section of the Florida Bar, Fall 2019

“The Business of Law: You Aren’t a Cobbler. You’re a Saddler. Part 2 External Relationships” The Florida Law Practice Link,  Journal of Solo and Small Firm Section of the Florida Bar, Spring 2020

“Amid Revenue Struggles, Tenants, Landlords Can Find Common Ground” by Laurie Lee and Chris Hand published in the    Jax Daily Record on June 4, 2020