Robert Heston, Jr.

A personal approach to the legal process has taken Legal Access Companies from a five-lawyer office to a network of 17,000 attorneys helping nearly 14 million clients nationwide

Robert Heston Jr.

Today, there is a paradox in America: Legal problems can affect everyone; million-dollar verdicts happen daily, yet most people think a lawsuit won’t happen to them—until they need a lawyer. Everything we do in our business focuses on three concerns: helping middle America prepare for a potentially devastating lawsuit, offering an affordable way to pay for legal services in case they are needed, and taking the stress out of dealing with the legal system and lawyers.

Legal Access Companies offers employees affordable insurance plans that pay for legal advice and representation if a lawsuit strikes. Our clients are middle Americans—employees that don’t have a lawyer on retainer or thousands of dollars saved for legal fees. We offer our voluntary legal insurance plans to employees—employees of some of the largest employers in the United States, including Fortune 500 and 1000 companies.

While my law school studies focused on corporate law, and though upon graduation I worked for a corporate law firm in Los Angeles, my desire to build a business landed me at a tiny company, one with only five lawyers in a rudimentary network and a few hundred covered members. We built that into Legal Access Companies, the industry-leading legal services group. During my thirty-two-year tenure, Legal Access Companies has grown in phases. During the 1980s, our focus was on building a unique lawyer network that would later be the cornerstone of our service-centric reputation.

The 1990s saw substantial growth in the employee assistance field, where EAPs [employee assistance programs] focused on providing near-perfect service in handling employee mental and emotional health issues. Employee assistance programs expanded coverage to include legal problems since they created emotional problems for employees, and utilized Legal Access Companies’ legal services expertise.

Operating in the EAP field required a “super service” focus where we had to have quick turnaround times, immediate connections for legal services, and customer-service-oriented lawyers. During this time, we developed a high-touch system of matching employees to the right attorneys based on their expressed preferences. We built a proprietary technology system that uses metrics and algorithms to match clients with attorneys based on a sophisticated intake question set combined with our highly trained matching specialists. We added our personal advocacy process that gives each member a personal counselor for all questions throughout the life of their problem—not to answer legal questions, but as a liaison between the employee and the attorney.

Today, this high-touch service, coupled with my hands-on approach to management, has propelled our company to be a leader in the legal insurance industry. Many people are astounded to learn that as CEO, I am part of the sales team and that I attend most major client presentations to discuss our philosophy and focus. We have a developed a culture of personal attention and education that keeps me traveling weekly, and we will not compromise.

When my children were younger, that required a lot of red-eye flights to be home for family time, but I believe this personal attention and availability for all human resources and benefits managers, CFOs, and others is beneficial. I have been at this thirty-two years and it still feels like my first year.