Equal Access, Equal Adaptability: LegalShield’s Moral Imperative to Grow

by Beth Douglass Silcox

Click here to order the March 2015 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


Company Profile

Founded: 1972
Headquarters: Ada, Oklahoma with Executive Offices in Dallas, Texas
Executives: Jeff Bell, CEO; Kathy Pinson, COO; Steve Williamson, CFO; Alan Fearnley, President of Consumer Marketing and Brand and Chief Commercial Officer; James Rosseau, President of LegalShield Business Solutions; and Darnell Self, Executive Vice President of Network and Business Development.
Product Categories: Legal and Identity Theft Services for individuals, families, and businesses



CEO Jeff Bell’s goal, as he sees it, is to make LegalShield a household name, much like direct selling giants Mary Kay, Avon and Tupperware did for their product categories. Admittedly, skincare, cosmetics and food storage are more easily understood concepts than the disruptive business model that powers LegalShield’s mission of equal access to equal justice for all, but Bell and his team aim to change that. In fact, he says, “I believe our growth is not just a business imperative, it’s also a moral imperative.”When LegalShield brought on a new CEO with consumer marketing and corporate leadership credentials the likes of Microsoft, Chrysler, Ford and NBCUniversal last summer, they once again affirmed the company’s adaptable nature. This pioneering, service-focused direct selling company has a long history in meeting the changing needs of the consumer marketplace with innovations like 24/7 legal counsel and identity theft protection, as well as rising to broader corporate and industry challenges.

Today, the 43-year-old company offers individual and family pre-paid legal and identity theft plans, as well as products for home businesses, small businesses up to 100 employees, and larger companies that elect to provide a LegalShield option within employee benefits packages. LegalShield’s memberships number 1.4 million covering 3.7 million lives, and its call center fielded 2 million member calls for legal assistance in 2014.

One Car Accident Away

LegalShield, originally incorporated as Pre-Paid Legal, arose from the rolling hills of Ada, Oklahoma, following Founder Harland Stonecipher’s head-on automobile collision in 1969. Despite insurance coverage for life, auto, and health, life insurance agent Stonecipher realized his family’s vulnerability to unexpected legal fees after being sued for an accident that was not his fault.

As he recovered, Stonecipher mulled over the fate of his family and the hundreds of thousands of other families who could fall into this gap at a moment’s notice. Surely something existed to provide assurance to everyday people needing legal counsel, but research proved otherwise.

So in 1972, he forged ahead on his own from a one-room office in a local mini-mall. Within seven years, the company offered connectivity to legal services in six states, and by 1982 had become the conduit between a membership network of people who needed access to legal help and an attorney provider base that could deliver it. COO Kathy Pinson, who has spent 35 years with the company, says, “The provider attorney system is our key competitive advantage today.”


“I believe our growth is not just a business imperative, it’s also a moral imperative.”

—Jeff Bell, CEO


Competitive Advantage

LegalShield’s provider attorney system hinges on extensive vetting and long-term contracting with a single, large and established law firm within each U.S. state and Canadian province in which they do business. Average length of service for a LegalShield firm is 14 years with attorney experience levels averaging 20 years.

Because that firm represents all LegalShield members in that state or province, LegalShield’s business can comprise a big part of the firm’s overall business. According to Alan Fearnley, President of Consumer Marketing and Brand, this creates a scenario whereby attorneys become “almost evangelical” in their support of the business model, which in turn generates fantastic customer support for members, assures LegalShield members receive legal guidance from experienced professionals, and establishes vital connectivity between law firms and the field, which makes LegalShield’s various services easier to sell.


“The provider attorney system is our key competitive advantage today.”

—Kathy Pinson, Chief Operating Officer


“The very way that we’re set up allows us to have additional quality measures over those attorneys that no one else has,” Pinson says.

LegalShield quantifies member experiences with attorney providers, effectively putting a number to their “bedside manner” and holds lawyers accountable for the service they render. LegalShield has experienced a considerable rise in their Net Promoter Score® (NPS), a customer loyalty scale used to measure overall satisfaction with a brand or product. The scale ranges from -100 (everyone is a detractor of the company or product) to +100 (everyone is a supporter of the brand or product). Attained by survey, any score above zero is somewhat positive; a score of 50+ is excellent. Fearnley happily reports that Legalshield’s score, which ranged in the mid-40s a few years ago, now stand at 57. He says, “By allowing attorneys to see that score and by training around it, our service levels are really terrific and that’s helped the quality of the business.”

From the view of LegalShield’s associate field, where Darnell Self, Executive Vice President of Network and Business Development, spent 15 years, the attorney provider network is something competitors just don’t have. Decades in the making, the time and resources necessary to put the right law firms and communications in place, Self says, makes it unlikely to be duplicated. That’s a highly sought after attribute for those seeking direct selling opportunities.

LegalSheild

A Mission for All

“We deliver products that promote peace of mind,” Bell says. “We believe that our mission applies both to our members and our sales associates. We want to improve their lives by teaching them life-transforming skills, giving them peace of mind and confidence in a world oftentimes uncaring and selfish.”

In fact, Harland and Shirley Stonecipher’s founding mission centered on … Read the full story at Direct Selling News.

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About Direct Selling News
Direct Selling News Magazine has been serving direct selling and network marketing executives since 2004. Each issue of Direct Selling News offers content on topics that shape the dynamics of our industry.

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