One of the modern realities of consumerism is the requirement of arbitration clauses. The idea is that consumers and businesses can settle their disagreements without going to court, and instead have an arbitrator negotiate a settlement between the parties. For many of us, it is viewed as a part of doing business, and that the arbitration process is weighted heavily in favor of the corporations. Teel Lidow and his online tool, FairShake, is working to make filing an arbitration much easier for consumers and to actually show that many corporations are quite easy to approach when it comes to handling arbitration disputes. Time Magazine recently awarded FairShake with its award for The Best Inventions of 2020: 100 Innovations Changing How We Live, and we talk with Teel about his reasons behind creating FairShake.
The pandemic crisis is allowing law firm management to reevaluate staffing needs, and once again, positions that are tied to a physical space are on the chopping block. However, positions that are viewed as “Knowledge Workers” are fairing much better as we look to a post-pandemic work environment. The key is those staff who understand the business and can work with clients and attorneys and function under pressure are going to thrive.
Check out the excellent i.WILL workshop on Courage & Emotional Durability tonight (12/3/2020 at 5:30 PM ET). Dr. Carli Kody leads a workshop based on Dr. Brené Brown’s research and Rising Strong™ methodology.
No matter how hard you think the Bar Exam is, Brianna Hill’s taking the bar during a pandemic, while in labor, having the baby and coming back to finish the bar the next day, and then finding out this week that she passed the bar, is much, much harder. While Hill is superhuman, she’s not the only one who had to struggle this year to take bar exams.
Our friends at Legal Innovators are collaborating with Bechtel Corporation (PDF Press Release) to provide junior lawyers to assist with Bechtel’s internal legal departments. This seems like a win-win for both companies.
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Marlene Gebauer: Welcome to The Geek In Review, the podcasts focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.
Greg Lambert: And I’m Greg Lambert. Well, we hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving break. And they’re now in the holiday spirit. So Marlene, have you finished your gift shopping yet?
Marlene Gebauer: Of course I have.
Greg Lambert: Well, I’ve got my big gift out of the way for my wife. But now I’ve got to purchase all the other stuff for the kids and other family members. So wish me luck.
Marlene Gebauer: Yes, well, yeah, a good luck. And and you know, it’s definitely going to be one of those online experiences this year.
Greg Lambert: Yes, it is. Well, and speaking of that one of the side effects from some of these purchases includes things like contract agreements for cell phones, or wireless plans or other gifts which come with an arbitration clause in the contract. And well,
Marlene Gebauer: That is a great. It’s like a great segue. Yes, it is. It’s well done.
Greg Lambert: You know, for many of us, we just sign or we check the little box without really understanding what it means for us if we have problems with the companies living up to their end of the agreement. And while we may think that we can sue for breach of contract, these arbitration clauses actually create a completely different model of legal redress. And it’s one that most people don’t understand or feel like they can take advantage of. So we get today’s guest Teel Lidow of FairShake. And he comes on to talk with us about his online platform, which makes filing an arbitration claim simple. And that many companies are actually pretty easy to deal with when you have a dispute. So stick around for that conversation a little later in the show.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, I thought it was really interesting on how he’s he’s managed to streamline the process in a way that that, you know, even companies can see the benefit of,
Greg Lambert: Yeah, I learned a lot.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, me too. So now let’s get to this week’s information, inspirations.
Greg Lambert: You know, once again, Marlene crisis is a perfect time to take advantage of certain things. So and unfortunately, I think one of those is that law firm leadership is taking advantage of this crisis to restructure some staffing. And according to recent…
Marlene Gebauer: You don’t say…
Greg Lambert: Yeah, surprise! But, according to an American Lawyer, article, firms are doing just that with positions like paralegals and secretaries and more. You know, Marlene, I don’t know if you know this, but the unemployment rate for lawyers right now is below 1%.
Marlene Gebauer: I did not know that.
Greg Lambert: Yeah. And for paralegals and legal administrative assistants or secretaries, it’s closer to 7%. Yeah, there’s big, big range there. And according to Mark Santiago of SB2 consultants, the numbers of these staffs and others that could just get worse. Positions that are tied to physical spaces are prime targets right now. And there’s some firms out there like Husch Blackwell, which are creating more virtual spaces and paperless environments and and who calls the virtual office that they have “The Link.”
Marlene Gebauer: That sounds like a talk show, I’m sorry,
Greg Lambert: It does it does. But currently, they have 50 attorneys and 10 staff who work at The Link, and there’s no expectation of having any type of physical space there. Now, there are a few staffing positions which the article deemed as “pandemic proof.” And these are business development and client intake specialists, they’re competitive intelligence experts, and data analyst. And of course, IT professionals have become the big hot commodity for the simple reason that virtual office space requires constant monitoring and upkeep of the network, and the other highly valued positions at the moment, our diversity and inclusion professionals. And D&I is not just seen as a passing fad anymore, but actually a core part of the businesses for the firm’s business process going forward. And these are all what what they’re referred to as knowledge workers, according to Santiago, those who understand the business those who can work with clients and attorneys, and those who can function under pressure are going to thrive.
Marlene Gebauer: Okay, well, my first inspiration is basically a shout out to i.WILL and as you know, we had Andrew Markstrom on the program a few episodes back and on data broadcasting, so 12/3 at 5:30pm Eastern time. They are going to be having a presentation with Dr. Carly Braun Kody, four and it’s called rising strong. It’s it’s a Brene Brown event. And it’s focused on courage and emotional durability, which I think are very timely given COVID, given the holidays, given all the uncertainty that is surrounding us right now. And you know, the tagline is “It takes courage to show up and lead with resilience and perseverance.” And so I think this is going to be a great presentation. If you haven’t attended any of their presentations. They always have really, really good speakers. And all event fees are donated to nonprofit organizations supporting women and accelerating their careers. We’ll put the registration link up in the notes, and I hope to see you all there.
Greg Lambert: Good. Yeah. You know, Brene Brown’s a Houstonian too, so
Marlene Gebauer: yes, she is
Greg Lambert: And and I kind of borrowed from her on my recent blog post about Dolly Parton. So
Marlene Gebauer: That’s right. she interviewed her. I know. Yeah, that was a good interview.
Greg Lambert: Marlene, you may have heard back in October that Brianna Hill was taking the Illinois bar exam. When she went into labor on the first day.
Marlene Gebauer: I did hear about that. Crazy.
Greg Lambert: She was in labor, but she couldn’t leave the room. She couldn’t use the bathroom. And she had to make sure that she passed the facial recognition program tests during the exam, all while in labor. And I can only imagine the face that you know, she was probably making contractions, or
Marlene Gebauer: Can I just say, I just hate people right now, just after hearing that I just hate people?
Greg Lambert: Well, well, and you may remember, she finished the first day exam, she went immediately to the hospital, she delivered the baby. And then and according to her, she, she quote, cleaned herself up the next day, went back and took the exam and finished it. And it turned out she just found out this week she passed the exam.
Marlene Gebauer: Hey, good job. Good job, man. Women can do anything. I’m telling you.
Greg Lambert: You know, while I’m happy that she passed the the exam, I think many of us who thought that the structure of the bar exams this year were unnecessarily complex and cruel, believe that, that this is just an extreme example of that cruelty. And you know, and while Brianna Hill situation was was, you know, fairly obvious and caught national attention, there were scores of other people out there that they had physical and mental struggles, who had to confront barrier after barrier of issues of this bar exam and in through the pandemic, and the completely changing rules and dates as we went along. So, you know, I think all of the state bars as well as in the National Conference of Bar Examiners, they need to take a step back and reevaluate what they’ve done this year, and come up with a better plan for the February and July 2021 Bar Exam.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if they’re gonna be able to get their act together by by February. But you know, you would hope that some changes could be in place by July.
Greg Lambert: What I what I worry about is they think, Oh, well, we’ve got a vaccine coming. Right. You don’t have to we don’t need to change. Go back to normal. Yeah. Which is about right.
Marlene Gebauer: See in that, and that’s, that’s, that’s the thing, that whole that whole mindset, it’s like, oh, we’re just gonna go, you know, back to the way it was. It’s like, Well, here’s an opportunity not to have to do that. So why don’t we take a closer look at what our options are?
Greg Lambert: Yeah. Well, I can see why you’re unhappy with people right now. All right. Well, that’s enough for this week’s
Marlene Gebauer: Wait, wait, wait. I have another one.
Greg Lambert: Oh, I thought you only had one. Oh, no, I
Marlene Gebauer: came up with another one.
Greg Lambert: All right. Let’s go.
Marlene Gebauer: I did. Okay.
Marlene Gebauer: So Greg, my second inspiration is an announcement. So legal innovators, who and we’ve had Bryan Parker and Jonathan Greenblatt on the show. They have a new collaboration with Bechtel Global Corporation. The the pilot that they’re running is going to further support D&E initiatives that are already being explored by Bechtel and working with Junior lawyers in their legal department to assist with legal work.
Greg Lambert: Alright, was that Was that it? Yes. All right. Well, then that wraps up this week’s information inspirations.
Marlene Gebauer: Our friend Ryan McClead says that innovation is the taking of a process and improving the experience for the end user. Today’s guest is innovating the consumer arbitration filing process. While most of us know what arbitration is, many of us avoid it because we simply don’t really understand it or think that the big companies have the upper hand in an arbitration process. Today’s guests explains that it may not be the big bad process that we think it is.
Greg Lambert: We’d like to welcome Teel Lidow to the podcast. Teel is the CEO of FairShake, which is an online resource which helps customers automate the process of filing an arbitration claim. FairShake recently received Time Magazine’s Award for Best Innovations of 2020 the 100 Innovations Changing How We Live. So congratulations on that very prestigious award. teal, and welcome to The Geek in Review.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, congratulations.
Teel Lidow: Thank you. Greg. Thanks, Marlene, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Greg Lambert: So Teel, in researching for this conversation, it looks to me like you had a general plan to launch some type of creative business once you graduated from Harvard Law School in 2012. And, you know, I was thinking going into law school in 2009, was like, that was the year everyone was telling everyone not to go to law school. So I’m glad you glad you had a plan for that. But I found a quote of yours. And I think you’re probably in your second or maybe your third year of law school where you said, there are a couple of decades where the most fantastic minds that came here. And I mentioned that was Harvard, that went into industries where they weren’t necessarily developing new ideas. There’s a sense among the people that I work with that that’s been a mistake, we need to harness the creative power of these people to come up with new ideas. So let me just ask, is that was that a 2L talking, or do you still feel like the the industry lacks creativity, and the ability to come up with new ideas?
Teel Lidow: I think it’s a little bit of both, you know, I’ve been around a little bit longer than that. And I’ve been out in the actual industry, and not just looking at it from the perspective of a law student who gets to do you know, creative stuff in class all day, I’ve got an enormous amount of respect for lawyers out there in in your average firm, who I think engage with the law and the entire system in really creative ways every single day. So I think a lot of stuff that might have looked, you know, a little bit more staid to me from afar back then, now, up close, and having had a bit more experience actually looks much more engaged and creative. But that said, You know, I was, like you said, I entered Law School in 2009. And it was just after the financial collapse, and my undergrad was at Princeton, and you know, 70% of my class went into finance and went and, you know, structure, the derivatives that brought down the economy. And those derivatives were actually an incredibly creative, you know, financial innovation. I think I, you know, I think it was coming out of environments, where I was watching a lot of people go into law and finance. And I wasn’t totally thinking of those as particularly innovative industries. And I don’t think I was alone in that. I mean, I think a lot of people in the academy feel that way. And I think a lot of students start out feeling that way, and, you know, begrudgingly go into those industries to pay off their student loans.
Greg Lambert: Yeah, I think creative and accounting was more tongue in cheek.
Teel Lidow: But I do have an enormous amount of respect for people in those industries now, and and the ways that they do creatively engaged to kind of make the system run. And I think I also have a bit more of a respect for the role of just creating a stable system and some of the more conservative aspects and the roles that lawyers playing that, especially kind of coming out of the recent, more tumultuous era in our in our politics and our judicial system. I definitely think that there’s certainly a constructive role to be played by lawyers. It has nothing to do with creativity as well.
Marlene Gebauer: So before we dive in on FairShake, this was not your first dive into the entrepreneurial world. He left the big law world of Cravath in New York and went to the west coast to found a supply chain for the apparel industry. What motivated you to try something so different?
Teel Lidow: That’s a great question. I think, you know, the simplest answer was that I wanted to buy clothes that I knew, you know, whose sources I knew, and they weren’t on the market.
Marlene Gebauer: I totally understand that.
Greg Lambert: I was gonna say you’re talking Marlene’s… you’re talking her language right now.
Teel Lidow: Yeah. So I, you know, I went out to go fill a need that I immediately wanted. As Greg sort of mentioned, I had always wanted to engage with something very creatively and make something and kind of build something from the ground up from before I was even in big law. And in that was just something that called to me that said, this is an opportunity. It’s a gap in the market and and come do it.
Greg Lambert: So let’s get over to the start talking about FairShake. I think many of us have an extremely limited knowledge of consumer arbitration. And I’ll be the first to admit I wouldn’t know where to where to start on arbitration and I have a law degree. So, you know, many of us think of it as a way that, you know, businesses, especially large corporations have to get away from being sued by their customers. And, you know, it’s something that many of us just accept as a norm when we sign these user agreements, or, you know, we buy airline tickets or sign up for services these days. Can you just briefly explain how the American arbitration system works for customers and the businesses? And can you do that in 50 words or less?
Marlene Gebauer: Go!
Teel Lidow: Sure, I think I can, because I think it’s actually a relatively simple and straightforward system that most people don’t understand just because they don’t engage with it. The simplest way to state it is that it’s a non judicial private dispute resolution system in which consumers submit disputes to an attorney or retired judge. And that private adjudicator hears both sides of that dispute and decides who wins. And it’s usually administered by a private organization, a nonprofit, or in some cases, a for profit arbitration provider who does the scheduling and the appointments and sets out some, you know, rough rules and process. But otherwise, it’s a very sort of simple and informal proceeding that usually takes place for consumers over email or over the phone.
Marlene Gebauer: All right, how did you land on the idea of FairShake, now I have it on good authority that It began with a flight from Chile that took 72 hours and involve the drunk passenger. That sounds like a frustrating experience.
Teel Lidow: Yeah, a more extreme version of something that a lot of people have experienced, which is, you know, major flight delays, and, you know, airlines that don’t necessarily want to do anything about them. I was on a really, I had a really bad experience on a flight,
Marlene Gebauer: Sounds like it.
Teel Lidow: airline allowed someone who was visibly drunk to board the plane, and that person assaulted one of the crew members, and we had to make an emergency landing in in Ecuador.
Marlene Gebauer: Wow.
Teel Lidow: And the airline then sort of botched the operations and stranded us in Ecuador, and then Peru for, you know, a good, good, at least an overnight and each one of those places. And there were equipment issues and planes just weren’t brought to, you know, the right place at the right time. And and a whole planeload of people were kind of corralled in these hotels and these waiting areas for you know, full 72 hours.
Marlene Gebauer: Terrible.
Teel Lidow: At some point in that process. The airline group does all together and walked through this crowd handing out these pieces of paper that contained a release on them that said that we wouldn’t do anything about this issue. And in you know, in considered consideration for that was a $300 flight voucher. And, you know, people on this plane, there is there were newlyweds on this plane, who are missing their honeymoon. You know, there are probably 20 elderly people in wheelchairs who had to be moved around to all of these airport hotels and off to hotels and bused back and forth in the middle of the night. It was just, you know, it was just a disaster that was basically clearly caused by the airline’s actions. And then, you know, their inability to kind of fix what, what they had caused. And I looked at that paper, and I thought it was a joke. And when I got back home, I went through the actual, you know, consumer dispute process, it was laid out for me. And it was, it was sort of a revelation, because it was very easy to access, it was very easy to go through. And as soon as I accessed it, the company started treating me like a real human being and coming to the table and trying to understand the damage that I had experienced and trying to figure out how they could negotiate a kind of fair resolution to it. And yeah, that was the seed of FairShake. I actually didn’t go through that experience and say, I should turn this into a business. I went through that experience. And I started talking to people about it, because it was so mind blowing, that I could get an airline to take me seriously. I started talking, you know, just sort of informally to my friends and my family just saying, hey, this wild thing happened to me a giant company, you know, treated me like a human being, like called me up on the phone and everyone I talked to said, I want that experience. I have an issue that I haven’t been able to get resolved for six months with, you know, my bank, or my uncle has an issue with their telco that they haven’t, you know, been able to get resolved for you And, and they just feel steamrolled by it. So there’s clearly a lot of appetite. And I think just, you know, hearing everyone I mentioned this to say, I want that kind of tickled that entrepreneurial nerve in me. And I started to realize there’s a real market and a real hunger for this.
Greg Lambert: Interesting. So the just a follow up on that. I’m assuming that you were able to go through this process, because you didn’t sign that paper they were coming through with and you didn’t take the $300 voucher. But I think a lot of us, you know, they we just see that is, you know, oh, that’s what we got to take that we don’t really have an option.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s the cost of doing business. Right? Yeah. You know, it’s like, okay, it happens. And so we just do it.
Teel Lidow: Totally. And, you know, and what’s going on in your head is your thinking, I could do something else about this, but it’s gonna be so complex, time consuming, costly, it’s not even worth it. So you know, what, you win. And this is all I got, and everyone in that crowd, except for us, I’m that piece of paper, you know, and everyone made that same calculation, you know, I could try to fight this, but it’s going to be too hard. And, you know, I think that that’s where back in the 2000s, in the 90s, the class action systems sort of played a role because they allowed consumers to really efficiently grouped together and pursue these things, as you know, as a class in a way that brought those administrative costs, you know, down very low on an individual basis, to nothing. Basically, the class actions really just relied on a single lawyer and a single plaintiff doing all the work and everyone else would have free rode on that, and, you know, maybe got a check for, you know, 10 bucks in the mail or something. And the arbitration system really killed that. So, you know, I think what most people don’t realize is that the origin of consumer arbitration was really to make class action waivers enforceable. And in 2011, there was a very important Supreme Court case, that said that state attempts and state court attempts to hold that class action waivers were unenforcible, were themselves preempted by federal law. And what that did was it just blessed arbitration clauses and class action waivers. And after that point, almost every single transaction that you enter into comes along with this arbitration clause and class action waiver, they make you go through the system individually. And now everyone’s going through it individually, again, you go through that same calculation where you just say, I have to fight this alone. And it’s just gonna be too hard. I’m not even gonna try. And so customer service or whoever tells you the buzz off when you bring your dispute to them. And you as an American consumer, assume all right, it stops here. And I have to, I have to accept that there’s nowhere else I can efficiently go with it.
Greg Lambert: Yeah, it sounds like the the experience, typically people see arbitration as a bad experience. And that really kind of brings me to this next thought, which is, a friend of ours defines innovation is taking a process and improving the experience for the end user. So how are you innovating the arbitration filing process with FairShake?
Teel Lidow: Yeah, so we’re just making it easier and simpler. I mean, we’re taking that calculation that you do, where you say, this is going to be too complex, too costly, too time consuming, and we’re removing that complexity, we’re removing that cost. And we’re just making it really, really easy for you to access this system. So the innovation isn’t really bringing anything groundbreaking to the table, it’s really actually just removing the sort of stodgy or, you know, more complex parts to accessing the system in the first place. And what that means, is taking downloadable PDF forms that you have to go and, you know, track down online, and, you know, instead putting them behind a really user friendly web form that, you know, you find on our side, it’s taking the mailing and the filing processes, which are just burdensome. You know, who even knows how to mail a certified letter anymore? I mean, you know, when was the last time you went to a post office and put the little like green strap around a letter
Greg Lambert: when my health club when my health club demanded that I do that in order to cancel my membership
Marlene Gebauer: at the post office today, and they do it for you now.
Teel Lidow: Oh, that’s nice. Well, it’s like a COVID thing?
Marlene Gebauer: Yes, it’s a COVID thing.
Teel Lidow: I think a lot of people have younger generations now. Like that. Not even a thing you ever did. And those small administrative hurdles to accessing the system the fact that you need to mail letter that needs to be accounted for and tracked the fact that you need to figure out what a filing system is, which is like a piece of legalese sort of, like pseudo legalese, because it’s not even, you know, attached in the public judicial system. You know, those things dissuade a lot of people, but, but we stick them behind, you know, friendly dashboards, friendly web forums, and a lot of, you know, a lot of helpful content as much as we can put up without sort of crossing UPL (unauthorized practice of law) guidelines. So really, you know, really, it’s just about simplicity. And I think, you know, at risk of using something that a lot of startups, you know, use to describe themselves, like, think about TurboTax. And you could go and file your taxes, you could fill out the 1040, you can download it, fill it out, you could find which attachments you need to attach to it, the schedules and fill those schedules out, you could figure out how to get that to the IRS. I don’t know how you do that nowadays, you probably can still mail it, I’m sure. But you know, you’ll you’re having to pay TurboTax 30 bucks to walk you through that with a handful of simple questions, and then allow you to file it at the click of a button. And we do a similar thing with just knocking down the administrative hurdles and the cost accessing the system.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, I totally understand what you’re saying about sort of a process that is foreign to people and basically, making it such that instead of them having to go and seek out how it’s done. It’s basically put in front of them, and moves, you know, as they move through the system. And my kids are still trying to figure out the stamps, just just just just for the just for the record.
Teel Lidow: There’s another aspect of this too, which is that you guys are lawyers, and you know, legal systems, and you probably even know that there’s a thing called arbitration and maybe even where to look in a contract to find the instructions on how to access this thing. But the vast majority of Americans don’t even know that they’re bound to an arbitration clause. I mean, there are surveys around on this, and people don’t even know what it is they don’t even, you know, they don’t even have the vocabulary to know that the system exists. So the other thing that we’re doing that’s a non innovative innovation is just spreading the word and educating.
Marlene Gebauer: Educating. Yeah. Yeah, say making people more aware of what their rights and obligations are under contract.
Teel Lidow: Yeah, exactly.
Marlene Gebauer: That’s a good thing. So I mean, I imagine individuals are loving the service that you’re providing, you know, how are the companies reacting to what FairShake is doing? any challenges that you’re facing and providing the service?
Teel Lidow: Yeah, so we process claims against over 80 companies now. A lot of big name consumer brands out there. And there is a huge diversity and how those companies engage with the claimants coming through the system engage with us, as someone who’s facilitating these disputes. And some companies sort of take the high ground where, you know, they say, we designed the system, you know, we designed it because we thought it was preferable to the class action system. And we made the arguments in the Supreme Court and in the lower courts into the state legislators that this would actually be a usable, consumer friendly way to resolve disputes. And I think that there are lots of large companies that do a fantastic job of trying to live up to that. I think that even those companies were not used to the sort of dispute volume that is generated by our particular channel. And even those companies have operational issues kind of rising to the new volume in this system, which is over the last couple of years, it’s an order of magnitude higher. And then you’ve got other companies that are going to take every opportunity that they have to try to avoid liability altogether. Even liability that that comes from, you know, very understandable and meaningful disputes that are clearly you know, caused by the company’s actions, and maybe that they could even resolve in very cost effective and efficient and simple ways. You know, I think arbitration is sort of a wild west. And there are plenty of ways new novel experimental ways to shut down claims in the system, because there are very few rules around it. And I think we’ve we’ve seen a lot of, you know, creative engagement with the arbitration system over the last couple of years as companies, some companies attempt to use it to just shut down the whole universe of consumer claims altogether. And then other other companies really try and turn it into what they marketed it as it’s supposed to be, which is a fair and efficient way to resolve these disputes. So So yeah, a diversity.
Marlene Gebauer: All right. Are there any industries in particular that you find, you know, easier to, or harder to approach?
Teel Lidow: You know, it’s really, it’s really about companies. So we are in, you know, eight or nine major industries, the largest of which are probably telcos, wireless, ISP, cable, satellite TV type companies, and personal finance, you know, banking, credit cards, stuff like that. And within those, you know, we’ve probably got 30 companies just within those two industries, and you have the entire spectrum within each industry, you’ve got companies, that will go to lengths to make it as uncomfortable and hard a process on their customers as possible. And then you’ve got companies that are really putting a lot of effort into making this as efficient away as possible to, you know, identify their customers who’ve had a really bad time, and get them some sort of efficient resolution that turns them from, you know, brand detractors into into brand promoters. You know, I could say the same with almost every other industry, we’ve got major sort of like gig economy, ride share, and, you know, vacation rental companies, that some of whom are spectacular, and they quickly, you know, come to the table with claimants, and they’ll enter into good faith negotiations. And a lot of if a claim is has no legs under it, it settles for nothing at all, or, you know, a tiny, tiny bit. And the claim into something legitimately bad has happened to them. And it’s traceable to the company’s actions, they get their problem solved in a way that’s much cheaper than any sort of litigation.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah. I mean, I was gonna bring that up. I mean, there’s, there’s got to be a benefit on both sides in terms of the streamlining process, because, you know, you kind of get to the point a lot quicker in terms of Okay, you know, where’s where’s the nugget here in terms of, you know, the facts and, and just, you know, getting there quicker? It’s, I mean, it’s got to be beneficial to the the companies as well, rather than, like spending all the time on, you know, long arbitration?
Teel Lidow: Yeah, I think that there’s a clear if you just think in terms of like, I guess, I would say rationality, there’s like a clear right answer on how the system should be used. And it is a system that I think can really efficiently resolve disputes and lead to much lower cost, resolving real liability out there, then the former class action system, or then, like the small claims court system, or just the general court system. Like the system is designed in a way that it can be really, really efficient. I think there are companies that view this as a long term game, and have made a strategic decision to invest significant amounts of resources into trying to dissuade people from using the system. And, you know, definitely trying to dissuade us as a company from helping people use the system. And that’s a bet that they’re making, you know, they’re they’re willing to pay 10 $15,000 to fight $150 claim, repeatedly, thousands of times. And, you know, I think that there are a lot of companies that seem to just decide that that’s a, that’s a the right thing to do. You know, I think that they’re generally not understanding that they’re not faced with a plainness firm, that they can kind of fight once and show that they can stand out to it and then won’t happen. Again, they’re faced with an individual consumer, who’s not a repeat player. And if they put that individual consumer through hell, the next individual consumers not probably not going to know about it. And and so all that cost doesn’t signal. Right. And and I think that they also don’t necessarily, you know, understand that they’re just one company amongst hundreds or thousands of companies in the system, and that their actions aren’t going to stop consumers from using the system. And that as long as consumers as a whole understand that the system is there and usable, their customers are going to be using it. So I think the companies that are putting up these, like very expensive fights to try and make it as hard as possible. You know, I think eventually they’ll come around and realize that it’s not really having the intended sort of signaling effect. And they’re really they’re really just torturing some customers who already have had a bad experience with them. And that’s not a good way to deal with it.
Greg Lambert: Now, I noticed that in the instructions, the the overview of of fairshake, that you say if it gets to a certain point, you can refer them out to an attorney that that will help them. Does it get to that point very often.
Teel Lidow: So we actually don’t, we don’t refer claims out to attorneys. What we do is, much like your insurance company will hire an attorney to represent you if you’re going to a car accident. If we think that and we have We have a stake in each one of these claims. And that’s our business model, if we think that our stake is going to be more valuable, if we go out and pay for an attorney to represent you, we’ll do that. And that’s, that’s something that we do with, with most claims on a very limited scope and an extremely limited scope. So almost every claim that comes through our doors, is receiving some sort of extremely limited scope, legal service, it’s not something that we guarantee in any way, or that we would guaranteed it every claim coming in the door. But you know, we find it that small amounts of incredibly efficiently delivered legal services really do smooth out the process and make it a much more effective and efficient process.
Greg Lambert: What about, you know, this is 2020. So we can’t have an interview without talking about the pandemic. So has has this year created any additional challenges for you? And for fair shake? You know, there’s there’s just been a number, obviously, a number of shut downs. You know, people are working from home, including lawyers and arbitrators. So are you able to help consumers with the arbitration issues through the panda? Oh, yeah,
Teel Lidow: I mean, this, the arbitration system, I think, is an essential tool for the pandemic. And it’s actually been something that we as a company have seen a significant boost from the consumer issues that come out of the crazy stuff that’s happening to our economy. And the glorious thing about consumer arbitration is that it is really a remote process, there’s no clerk’s office, you need to go to there’s no courtroom, you need to show up, and you don’t need a judge in chambers, the vast majority of this stuff takes place over email in the phone. And actually, the vast, vast majority of it never even touches an arbitrator, the system is set up in a way that really is meant to promote more plain language, direct negotiations between the parties and sort of fast fare settlements. And that’s, that tends to be how it plays out. And this is a completely remote system that’s designed to be simple, that’s designed to be nationwide and uniform and easily accessible through online interfaces. And that is exactly what we need in a time where everyone’s stuck at home.
Marlene Gebauer: So what’s the next big thing for fair shake, and for you, personally,
Teel Lidow: we’ve got we’ve got a lot of growth, to go through. But you know, I think that the next big step, we we’re a fairly new company. And we’ve helped 10s of thousands of people through this process now, but we’re still just a tiny, you know, tiny little blip on on everyone’s screen. A lot of the companies that we process claims against, you know, these are fortune 100 companies that don’t pay attention to you until you’re you’re much larger than than we are. And I think that we’re really out to make the whole arbitration system live up to its what it was marketed as this fair and efficient system. And that requires a lot of these companies to also decide that that’s what they’re going to do to the day value the system that they want it to persist, that it’s better than the old system. And they know they need to engage in good faith with it. And as we grow, our big challenge is to really bring those companies to the table and get them to realize that the arbitration system is not a nuisance, it’s not your enemy. It’s your creation. And that you you need to kind of engage with it in a constructive way. And having those conversations bringing companies around to realize that getting the companies that are you know, throwing piles of money into the fire or just trying to dissuade people from using this system to to change their minds. I mean, that that’s our that’s our next task. And as we as we get larger as we become a bigger line item on these on these companies budgets, we we have a bigger voice there. And really, it’s about constructively using that voice to bring everyone to the table and make sure that this thing can be what it’s supposed to be.
Marlene Gebauer: Well, thank you Teel Lidow for taking the time to join us and congratulations again on the Time magazine award for one of the hundred best innovations of 2020
Teel Lidow: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Greg Lambert: Marlene, it’s nice to have someone on the show who’s won a Time Magazine award. Can you believe somebody? Like,
Marlene Gebauer: I was like, wow, I’m feeling like we’re much more important than we really are.
Greg Lambert: It makes makes me feel like we’ve probably made it as a podcast. So I wanted also thank Owen Byrd from Lex Machina for helping me get to on the show today. So thanks. Oh, and
Marlene Gebauer: thank you, Owen.
Greg Lambert: Well, I will be the first to admit that I’ve always thought that these arbitration clauses and Consumer Contracts were just the big barriers that were way too complicated for me to actually use so right, but after this, both researching for this interview and hearing from teal about the reasoning and the process of consumer arbitration, you know, I’m kind of a convert on it. So now I’m going to go, you know, pull one of these companies into arbitration.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, I’m just gonna do it. Well, I mean, just just his experience. Him sharing his experience and how that was the impetus for for this, he basically did what no one else did, because they all thought it was gonna be too hard. And he was quite successful. And he’s made it even, you know, more easy than it was before.
Greg Lambert: Yeah. Well, once again, thanks to Teek Ledow for taking some time to talk with us on today’s show. And you can learn more about teal and fairshake by going to FairShake.com
Marlene Gebauer: thanks again Teel. Before we go, we want to remind listeners to take the time to subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, read and review us as well. If you have comments about today’s show, or suggestions for a future show, you can reach us on Twitter at @gebauerm or at @glambert. Or you can call the Geek in Review Hotline at 713-487-7270 or email us at geek review. firstname.lastname@example.org And as always, the music here is from Jerry David DeCicca. Thank you, Jerry.
Greg Lambert: Yeah, thanks, Jerry. All right, Marlene, I will talk with you later.
Marlene Gebauer: Okay, Happy Shopping.