Liam helps general counsel and law firm leaders improve effectiveness and efficiency. In 2011, he launched Elevate as the law company to provide consulting, technology, and services to law departments and law firms. Elevate has won numerous awards and honors, recently receiving top ranking by Chambers & Partners in their global legal services providers category, being acknowledged by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) as the most-used law company in their 2017 State of the Industry Survey, and making the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies list for the past two years in a row, including #53 in 2016. Liam was previously the founder, president and CEO of Integreon, Inc., a global LPO, which he led from startup in 2001 to annual sales of $150 million by 2011, before he sold his stake to private equity investors. Prior to Integreon, he was the founder, president and COO of a pioneering Web 1.0 virtual data room legal tech company, which he sold in 2001 (now Merrill DataSite). Liam is a frequent speaker at legal conferences and regularly publishes articles about trends in the legal sector. He is also an active investor in emerging legal technologies and an executive coach for founders of startups.
How did the concept for Elevate come about?
As a CEO, I was tired of paying law firms by the hour and being surprised by whale-sized bills over budget!
How was the first year in business?
I was lucky. Elevate is my third startup in the legal industry so customers that I had previously worked with trusted us with their business, and many of my old colleagues and peers joined Elevate, excited to start a new company with me where they would also get an equity stake.
What was your marketing strategy?
We picked a fast-growing sector trend. In our case, general counsel were increasingly running law departments with business discipline. We identified the key influencers who were these new legal operations professionals that didn’t exist just a few years before, listened to the problems they were grappling with, developed capabilities to solve those problems, then serviced the heck out of them so that this small group of legal ops professionals would tell each other how good of an experience they had with Elevate.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
This company has grown faster than any of my previous businesses. We were at $5 million in sales within three years. Now I expect we will do $80 million of sales in 2019, which is seven years after we started trading.
How do you define success?
That personal feeling of contentment that comes from setting a realistic, but really hard to achieve goal, and then knowing that I left it all out on the field trying to achieve it…even if I fall short.
What is the key to success?
Stickability – a made-up word, but it speaks for itself.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
1) Someone gave all of us a helping hand. Pay it forward. Make a difference in someone else’s life every day.
2) That my wife really loves me irrespective of whether or not I am a successful or important business person. Make sure that love is respected, reciprocated, and nurtured. If I’m lucky, she will still be my wife when my career is over.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“There are no shortcuts.” That might be one of mine, but I say it a lot!
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Being fired from my role as CEO of my last company, Integreon. Being fired wasn’t the issue as much as being restricted by the investors from saying goodbye and thank you to the thousands of colleagues and customers who I had worked with.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Lots of things do – but in the case of starting Elevate after being fired by Integreon, it was that I wanted to show my kids (who were 9 and 5 at the time) that failure only happens when we stop trying. I wanted them to see their father get right back up, dust himself off, and try again.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Don’t try to do it all yourself. I’ve been very lucky to have started businesses with very talented partners. We support each other, fill in for each other, give each other energy, and bring overlapping strengths to cover for each of our weaknesses.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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