LegalShield Adds Two to Board of Directors

LegalShield on Tuesday announced two new board appointments, including company CEO Jeff Bell and Pete Jarvis, Vice President of technology solutions firm TidalScale.

The new additions to the board will replace outgoing directors Gil Anderson, CEO of Allant, and Frank Sowinski of LegalShield investor MidOcean Partners.

Prior to joining the legal services provider in 2014, Bell was a partner at venture capital firm NCT Ventures. He also has extensive experience in marketing and corporate leadership, having served—and earned numerous accolades—as Vice President of Global Marketing at Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business (maker of Xbox) and Vice President of…

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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.

In Memoriam: A Tribute to Harland Stonecipher

by Barbara Seale

The direct selling industry lost an icon on Nov. 10 with the death of Harland Stonecipher, who founded one of the industry’s most unique companies, LegalShield. Stonecipher was 76 years old.

The concept for Stonecipher’s business brainchild was inspired by difficult circumstances. In 1969 he was involved in a head-on auto collision. Though the accident was not his fault, he was sued. The experience cost him thousands of dollars in legal fees and shook his idealistic beliefs about justice. But it caused the teacher-turned-life-insurance-salesman to begin thinking about how others could be protected from the nightmare he endured.

By 1972 he had created LegalShield’s predecessor company, which incorporated as Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc. in 1976. Six years later Stonecipher’s old friend John Hail introduced him to the concept of marketing his legal services memberships through network marketing. Stonecipher served as CEO from the company’s inception until 2010, when he relinquished that title, but he continued to be active as Chairman of the Board and Founder. In 2011 MidOcean Partners, a private equity firm, acquired Pre-Paid Legal for $650 million and renamed the company LegalShield.

Today the company provides legal services to some 1.4 million families covering 3.7 million people across North America, and more than 34,000 companies offer the LegalShield plan to their employees as a voluntary benefit. The company has dedicated law firms in 49 states and four provinces in Canada.

LegalShield CEO Jeff Bell, who joined the company in mid-2014, reached out to Stonecipher soon after joining the company. He found that Stonecipher was kind, professional, and generous with his time and advice.

“One of my principles is that you need to find the truth within every business, and that truth resides in its people. I couldn’t imagine speaking to anyone who knew more about this business than Harland Stonecipher and his wife, Shirley,” Bell says. “I wanted to show my respect because he was the company’s founder, but meeting them was a surprise and delight. I only got to spend four months with him, but I treasured the time. He spoke to me like a father would. I valued his counsel about our team in Ada [Oklahoma] as well as our field leadership. He talked about the challenges, what to avoid, and how to motivate a volunteer army. He still spoke with such conviction and passion about free enterprise and access to the justice system. It will stay with me forever.”

Stonecipher’s passion for his business and his conviction that it could change lives may have been at least part of the reason he was so highly regarded. Few people called him by his first name. To most, he was Mr. Stonecipher—it was a term of respect.

John Long, LegalShield’s Vice President of Marketing Operations and spokesperson for the Stonecipher family, knew the company founder for decades. He first encountered Stonecipher in 1987 at their shared alma mater, East Central University in Oklahoma. Long was in the ’87 graduating class, and Stonecipher was being named the University’s Distinguished Alumnus and commencement speaker. Long then worked at Pre-Paid Legal for a short time, left to return to school, and then rejoined Pre-Paid Legal in 1999, working directly for Stonecipher.


“Very few people called him Harland. He was Mr. Stonecipher. I never heard him instruct anyone to call him mister. He just drew that respect everywhere, even from his peer CEOs at other companies.”
—John Long, Vice President of Marketing Operations, LegalShield


“I had a glossy title, but the more heartfelt title would have been Harland’s Assistant,” Long recalls. “I did the things he didn’t have time to do so that he could be in front of the salesforce, traveling and motivating and speaking to them all over North America.” Long confesses, though, that he still feels a little uncomfortable using the first name. “Very few people called him Harland. He was Mr. Stonecipher. I never heard him instruct anyone to call him mister. He just drew that respect everywhere, even from his peer CEOs at other companies.”

He adds, “One of the first things Jeff did was ask to meet with Mr. Stonecipher and Shirley. That resonated with people around the country. I knew it would help Jeff, but I also knew it would help Harland and Shirley. In the last few weeks of his life he had gone back to referencing this company and himself as ‘we’—not that he was ever excluded. I know how important it was to him.”

Stonecipher was passionate about his business for 40 years, and in 2002 he was recognized by Ernst & Young as their Southwest Master Entrepreneur of the Year. He also became a sought-after speaker and addressed a variety of businesses and organizations, including several attorney general associations. He was just as passionate about his community. He and his wife used their wealth and influence to improve the community in numerous ways. His alma mater, ECU, recognized him as Distinguished Alumnus in 1987. He and Shirley later bestowed a gift to the university, which led to the naming of the Harland C. Stonecipher School of Business. An avid hunter and outdoorsman, Stonecipher was appointed to three consecutive terms as a Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Two other projects were especially dear to him. Both show his inclination to find ways to help others after tragedy strikes, as he did when he founded Pre-Paid Legal. The first was in 1999 when … Click here to read the full story at Direct Selling News.