Mary Turke’s new firm looks to bring gig economy to legal industry

The prominent Madison lawyer Mary Turke isn’t launching the typical law firm. It doesn’t have a big office building, and its lawyers are independent contractors, not employees.

Turke is now among those bringing the so-called gig economy to the legal industry, much like Uber has done with drivers or Toptal has done with freelance coders. Turke’s new law firm, Turke & Strauss LLP, is using experienced lawyers who left “Big Law” but are still “free agents,” looking to take on individual projects as their schedules allow.

“We wanted to provide an alternative, and we also wanted to tap into the talent that I feel was leaving the traditional law firm,” Turke said.

Turke, the former managing partner at Michael Best and Friedrich’s Madison office, officially launched the new firm yesterday with Seattle-based lawyer Samuel Strauss. And the work’s already been rolling in, Turke said, including with some of their previous clients.

The two are joining other firms in the growing field of “New Law” that’s challenging the usual model of law firms. Turke said their firm will work with businesses that don’t already have legal staff, unlike many of those “New Law” firms hired to help companies’ legal counsel.

The firm’s also looking to bring a different model to charging clients, one that Turke said will give customers the transparency they would get in any other industry.

Turke said she knows of too many clients who hesitate calling their lawyer, fearing that as soon as the lawyer picks up, “the meter is running.” Their firm won’t charge clients to describe what their legal issue is, she said. It will instead listen to the problem, figure out the amount of legal work involved and come up with the budget for the client.

“Clients are demanding a more efficient model and more transparency in pricing,” Turke said.

The prices will also be cut down significantly because the team of contractors works remotely, Turke said. That means the firm doesn’t need a large office building to house its operations, cutting down one of the biggest parts of clients’ billable hours.

“There’s a lot that goes into being a big law firm. A lot of it is overhead,” Turke said. “We’re definitely a lot leaner.”

Still, those big offices and legacy names imply credibility for some clients. But Turke said she hopes her and Strauss’ experience, along with their contractors and pricing structure, will convince those clients to consider a different path.

“We want to be innovative, and I’m hopeful clients will see the value proposition and understand [we have] great legal expertise,” she said.

— By Polo Rocha,