Posted: February 2nd, 2017 | By: Caitlin Herlihy
Winston-Salem-based business attorney Jeffrey Wolfe (JD ‘08) is uprooting tradition and setting trends for legal professionals and their clients.
His law firm — Forrest Firm based in Durham, North Carolina — is reclaiming customer service and employee work-life balance through the use of flexible workspace and client care.
Wolfe works two days each week out of Flywheel, a coworking space located in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. To keep overhead low and establish a work-from-anywhere model with attorneys, Forrest Firm decided to minimize real estate budget by renting office space without a long-term lease.
Wolfe’s atypical firm is a model for a new wave of entrepreneurial attorneys, in part, because it was founded on the idea of customer service.
“What we’re trying to do is fill a hole in the market where clients are frustrated with the responsiveness and cost of traditional law firms and attorneys aren’t happy in those environments but still want to practice law,” Wolfe said.
“Having young kids, I initially worked from home when I joined the Forrest Firm. While we have a dedicated office space for attorneys to work and meet with clients, we keep our overhead low by not having individual offices for each attorney and maintaining minimal support staff. That allows a collaborative environment where attorneys work in the same room at different workstations. If all of our attorneys came into the office on the same day, we wouldn’t have enough space, but it all works out since attorneys are regularly meeting with clients and working from alternative locations.”
As the firm’s client base grew, Wolfe and the founder of the firm, James Forrest, recognized the need to attract more attorneys.
“Attracting attorney talent can be hard, so we knew we needed a platform where our attorneys are happy and fulfilled in their work,” Wolfe said. “The work-from-anywhere policy fits that desire, and attorneys enjoy flexibility as they come and go in a healthy, sustainable work environment. Several of our attorneys are involved with other entrepreneurial endeavors that they may work on part of the day.”
As Forrest Firm pioneers the work-from-anywhere model, Wolfe believes it is important to maintain diversity in the types and sizes of firms for balance within the legal community to meet the needs of a diverse client base.
“We believe we fill a statewide gap,” Wolfe said. “Clients have myriad issues that need to be handled, and our firm is able to provide corporate legal services in a manner that consistently exceeds client expectations. In my case, I have a broad practice that helps clients through the entire lifecycle of their business and it is my job to connect our clients with attorney with more specific practice areas when needed, such as human resources, litigation and tax matters.”
After working with a large law firm in Raleigh for almost six years, Wolfe decided the long hours were not worth sacrificing time with his newborn son. Forrest inspired him to work for a smaller firm where flexibility and autonomy were encouraged that also had a mission to affect positive change in the local and global community. The Forrest Firm is a certified B Corporation, which is an affirmation of the firm’s commitment to clients, employees and the community.
Wolfe joined Forrest Firm in April 2014 as the firm’s second full-time attorney. Since then, Forrest Firm has grown to include 17 attorneys and 19 total professionals. The firm’s rapid growth led them to consider geographic expansion across North Carolina with offices in Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem and Wilmington.
“Part of the idea for coming to Winston-Salem was to expand statewide,” Wolfe said. “I volunteered to move to Winston-Salem and start an office. My wife is from the area, I spent three years here at the law school, and the move coincided with our church in the Triangle opening a church here.”
Wolfe, and his wife Brittaney, are currently involved in growing the Two Cities Church, 630 N. Patterson Ave., in downtown Winston-Salem.
“The church has been a great opportunity to quickly build a close community in Winston-Salem,” Wolfe said. “About 30 people from our old church moved to Winston-Salem with the hope of finding a job here. Because I’m with a firm that’s flexible and looking to expand, things really came together for me and my family.”
Since moving to Winston-Salem in April, Wolfe has been impressed with Wake Forest University’s expansion into downtown.
In addition to using Flywheel a few days each week, the Forrest Firm also has dedicated office space in Albert Hall, which is located in the Innovation Quarter as well. “When I visited Winston-Salem a few months before moving with a colleague, I thought he had driven to the wrong city when we parked at the Innovation Quarter. My initial reaction was, ‘We’re in Winston-Salem?’ I don’t remember what this part of town looked like before, but it’s certainly beautiful now,” Wolfe said.
“Since graduating, it’s been exciting for me to see the law school increase its commitment to the community, as well as the practical training of students. Part of the draw of the Innovation Quarter is accessibility: the med school is here to be accessible, the law school’s Community Law and Business Clinic is here to be accessible, and our firm is here to be accessible.”