Pearson Butler is not your typical large law firm – and that was intentional. In fact, its uniqueness is what sets it apart, and is also why many attorneys are flocking to join the firm, which has grown over 20 percent every year since it was founded in 2010.
Its growth could have been even more exponential, but as co-founding partners Carson Pearson and Jeff Butler explain, they are extremely selective in who they bring on to be part of the practice – yet another aspect that makes Pearson Butler exceptional.
Creating a Unique Law Firm
It is a story that is meant to be. In the late 1990s, Pearson and Butler both were pursuing their law degrees at Brigham Young University. After graduating, they went their separate ways. Butler headed to California, doing litigation work and working as an executive director for health care facilities, and Pearson practiced tax law in a multi-state firm, then started and developed several businesses, later selling off his interests.
When Butler was ready to head back to Utah, he reached out to Pearson with the idea of creating a practice together.
The practice would be unlike “traditional” firms.
“We’re unique in what we decided to build. When Jeff and I started this, we wanted to start a business that was a law firm, instead of a law firm that happened to be a business.
“We decided to set out to try to grow a law firm – not just have two attorneys opening up a shop,” explains Pearson.”
“So, we set out to make this a multifaceted practice where entrepreneurial lawyers could grow and develop inside of the umbrella of a larger firm’s resources.”
The firm would focus on consumer-oriented legal work, helping individuals, families and small business owners, and would foster a supportive, cooperative, mutually beneficial atmosphere with an emphasis on work-life balance.
A Full-Service, Consumer-Oriented Practice
Since opening its doors in 2010, Pearson Butler has grown to include 25 attorneys. The firm offers a wide array of practice areas, including family law, criminal law, employment law, intellectual property, bankruptcy, estate planning, small mergers and acquisitions, contract law, real estate services, personal injury, medical malpractice and IRS tax resolution.
Its growth has been calculated, explains Butler. “We’ve been very careful in who we’ve brought on, hiring lawyers with solid reputations in their respective industries. Our goal has been to have lawyers with effective reputations in different practice areas join their practice areas with our larger, consumer-focused law firm.”
“Typically, most consumer-focused law firms offer one or two practice areas,” says Ryan Gregerson, one of the principal partners. “But because we’re larger, we’re in a position to provide multiple legal services to individuals, families and small businesses.”
“In terms of serving clients, most of the areas that we practice are typically dominated by solo practitioners,” Pearson says. “There are very few large firms that offer these types of practice areas for the local community. At Pearson Butler, we have the resources all under one firm to collaborate on complex issues that may face an individual client – often it takes several attorneys with different areas of expertise to best advise a client. So, for example, if a client has an IRS tax issue, instead of going to a sole practitioner where all they do is IRS tax, we can now also collaborate with a bankruptcy attorney, or a consumer advocate attorney. If the tax situation is putting stress on a marriage and now there’s a divorce happening as well, we can also provide legal counsel for that. Or, if they have a small business, how will this work with their credit, their human resources, and their contracts? We have an attorney who can advise on that front, too. So, we have the resources of a large firm, but we’re delivering what has traditionally been solo practice areas.
“What identifies us is how we provide help and resources to the average person and small business owner,” Pearson continues. “We provide resources to them that are not readily available. From a geographical standpoint, we’re the largest firm in the south end of Salt Lake Valley, which means that people don’t have to travel downtown and can still get high-quality services with a full-service firm right in their backyard.”
The Driving Forces Behind the Rapid Growth
Pearson and Butler set out to create a multidisciplinary environment where attorneys could work together, supply cross-referrals, and where work-life balance was important, in a location that would benefit both those working there as well as the community they serve. They also offer an aggressive attorney compensation structure.
“We believe that one of our distinguishing qualities and why we have so many attorneys who want to join us, is that we offer a compensation structure that attracts and retains entrepreneurial attorneys, in addition to providing a work-life balance, and yet still be able to take care of our clients,” Pearson explains.
In order to create a family-oriented firm culture, everyone – from the receptionist to the managing partner– gathers for an in-office, catered lunch once a month. “We don’t have the lines or formal hierarchy that discourages association with those outside of your job title,” Butler explains. That atmosphere has allowed friendships to develop that go beyond just working relationships. “We’re very careful in who we bring on to work here,” Butler continues. “We try not to bring on people who are divisive in nature. And people can tell that when they come here, both as a client or as someone who is going to work here.”
Those friendships also lead to a trust and respect for one another, which makes it easy for attorneys to lean on each other or refer each other when they’re presented a case that’s outside of their individual practice area. “We’re comfortable to bring it to someone in our firm that we know and trust, because we know they will do a great job with our clients,” says Gregerson, “because that’s who we brought on. We brought on attorneys who do an excellent job with their clients, who know the law, and who represent their clients with experience and expertise.”
That ability to lean on each other has also played into the growth of the company, with all the attorneys working together to bring in business. “Many law firms want to keep everything for themselves or the senior partners and don’t want their attorneys to be building their own book of business, and have clients who are referring to anyone but them, but we want that,” Gregerson explains. “We want all of our attorneys to build their own client base, to create that for themselves, and we all benefit from it. The more business the better. We want all of our attorneys to bring in clients in all different practice areas because we all rise together.”
Additionally, Gregerson points to the training – how to market better, how to bring in clients and provide superior customer service – that the attorneys receive as a draw for the firm. “The management here, the partners, the cases they have, the dedication to marketing, the training they gave me … when you give people the right environment, when you treat them right, when you give them opportunities and the necessary training, you can grow and amazing things can happen. And that’s what I’ve personally seen in my own life, my own practice area, and this firm as a whole,” Gregerson says.
“I started here as an associate, and the fourth attorney with the firm. At that time, we didn’t practice family law at all. The firm provided me the resources and mentoring to grow the family law department from nothing to the single largest department in the firm with five attorneys and five paralegals. This growth was made possible by the environment the firm created.”
Location, Location, Location
In addition to fostering a unique working environment, Pearson Butler was created to offer a firm that has the resources of multiple attorneys and multiple disciplines, right in the south end of the Salt Lake Valley. Of course, not only is that convenient for clients who prefer not to make the trek downtown and instead save time in their commute, but for the attorneys also.
In late October, the firm moved its South Jordan location into a new building on South Jordan Parkway, which, along with its offices in Bountiful and Richfield, helps with its future plans of growth. Pearson says he expects the firm to grow to approximately 35-40 attorneys in South Jordan, and at that time will then look at strategic growth in other locations.
Pearson Butler is a firm committed to giving back, and each year gives to various causes. In 2016, it raised funds to build two schools with Pencils of Promise and the Where Much is Given Foundation. One school was built in Guatemala and one in Ghana, Africa.
Every partner in the firm also sponsors a college scholarship to a high school senior at a high school of their choice. Rather than a merit-based scholarship, it’s an essay-based scholarship, and the winners are those who have demonstrated how they have overcome challenges in their life. Adding to that, three times a year everyone in the firm heads out as a group to do litter control along the highways through the Adopt-a-Highway program.
And of course, many attorneys in the firm provide pro bono services. Among other things, many hours a month are dedicated to volunteering on the Pro Se Court’s calendar and at the Tuesday Night Bar, representing individuals who don’t have the means to hire an attorney.
Whether fostering a supportive firm atmosphere, creating positive outcomes for its clients, or ensuring that its attorneys enjoy a work-life balance, Pearson Butler is meeting the goals that it was created for. “It’s our ability to walk people through trials.
We help people face their fears and accomplish their passions. They hire highly skilled and trained professionals and, most of all, friends to walk with them in difficult and exciting times – that’s what we do. We are strategists, problem solvers, critical thinkers, counselors, listeners, and healers – that’s who we are. We understand.
“We see ourselves and our responsibility as attorneys much broader than just performing the legal aspect of something for a client. We tend to advocate for them on all fronts that are going on in their lives,” says Pearson.