Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on motherhood in the legal profession, in partnership with our friends at MothersEsquire. Welcome Leah Del Percio to our pages. Click here if you’d like to donate to MothersEsquire.
Time is the most precious commodity on earth. However, it is something we frequently throw away. For working parents who practice law, throwing away time feels particularly acute, even though “hours spent” is the metric that most of us use to earn a living. A few years ago, I found myself juggling the needs of my young child with the demands of my practice, both of which required my immediate attention and time. During this difficult moment, the vision for Trustate, a platform that helps trusts and estates professionals more effectively represent their clients, came to me.
As a working mother and experienced estate lawyer, I am passionate about using my skills to help families navigate the often-complex process of estate administration and planning. One day, my paralegal unexpectedly fell ill, and I was tasked with taking over their responsibilities on an estate administration matter, which included transferring a retirement account at a large bank. Despite my years of experience, the process proved to be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming, as I found myself navigating a maze of different departments and personnel, each with different sets of rules and procedures.
As I sat on the phone for what felt like an eternity, I received a call from daycare, informing me that my 6-month-old son had a fever and flu symptoms. I was faced with a difficult decision: stay on the phone and try to resolve the matter, or hang up and lose the prior 3.5 hours of work to go take care of my child? In the end, I chose to prioritize my child’s health (it turns out he had the flu). This experience left me feeling deeply frustrated and disillusioned with (1) the fact that it was a decision I had to think twice about, and (2) the way the legal industry handled estate administration.
I love the practice of law, particularly trusts and estates work. However, I have always been deeply uncomfortable with the fact that as attorneys, unless we use alternative fee structures, our time is our trade. To me, time is THE most valuable and fleeting asset, and there is no hourly rate high enough to justify the time that you can never get back. This discomfort is particularly apparent for lawyer-moms. We need to be there for those important moments when our families need us, and no nanny, au pair, relative, or daycare center will suffice.
As I waited for my son’s Tamiflu prescription at the pharmacy, I received an email with my annual employee review. My scores were down. The one aspect that stuck out to me the most was a significant decrease in my score in the “career commitment” category. To me, whether true or not, it seemed as though the time tradeoff of caring for my infant came at the expense of my standing within the firm.
Working women are expected to shrug off bias daily to the point where we don’t even realize it is happening half of the time. It is everything from being mistaken for a legal assistant on the phone, to having your older male client be mistaken for the lawyer when you are representing them in court, to having clients not disclose a material fact about their case or situation because they don’t want to “offend the lady,” to being referred to as the “girl” by a client. So what do we do? The brave ones own it. The others, the ones like me, shape the way we hold ourselves out professionally into something inauthentic in order to survive. We learn to remove our heart from our sleeve and tough it out by staying late at night when we have family obligations, feeling awful the entire way home for being the first to drop off and the last to pick up. Oddly enough, after coming back from maternity leave, I had never felt more committed to my career, yet my law firm did not view my commitment the same way. The yearning to provide a better life for my family was never more pressing, as well as the desire to show my children how their mom could be present in their lives and also be an accomplished professional.
As I cared for my sick 6-month-old, the idea of Trustate was born. The hard truth was that the lack of time-efficient processes to get work done was seemingly incompatible with my ability to advance professionally. However, I knew I wasn’t alone — thousands of other lawyers and support staff were dealing with the same problem. I realized there had to be a better way for lawyers and their staff to assist executors and grieving families with the tedious and overwhelming tasks that come with estate administration.
With Trustate, I’m proud to say that we have created a better way. Our amazing team designed and created an innovative platform that streamlines the process of estate administration, trust administration, and estate planning, making it easier for busy lawyers, such as working mothers, to provide effective counsel to their clients. For many, they can now achieve independence as they start to grow and scale their own practices and handle more sophisticated client matters. Our platform is designed to help firms realize more revenue by minimizing unbillable time and increasing staff bandwidth. We also offer a range of services that the law firm can use to complete the work correctly, and with far less written-off time, including data discovery, account transfers, and other administrative tasks. Additionally, by providing a range of legal support services, Trustate helps lawyers minimize the risk of errors and oversights, which can lead to malpractice claims.
In short, Trustate was born out of my own experience as a working mother and my desire to make the estate administration process as easy and stress-free as possible. I believe that our platform is a game-changer for the legal industry, and I am proud to be part of a company that is making a real difference in the lives of our clients.
Leah Del Percio is the co-founder and CEO of Trustate, one of the world’s fastest-growing estate administration platforms. Since Trustate’s founding in 2020, Ms. Del Percio has been involved in all aspects of the firm’s development and growth since its inception. Trustate provides estate administration, trust administration, and estate planning operational tools for law firms, wealth managers, banks, and accountants, amongst others. Today, the firm is an industry leader in the LegalTech/WealthTech space and is regularly featured as one of the top startups to watch.
She is regularly asked to lecture at various universities and law schools, as well as teach CLE classes. Prior to founding Trustate, Ms. Del Percio was a senior associate at a large global firm where she focused on helping individuals, families, and institutions with crisis and succession planning, wealth preservation, asset protection, and complex tax strategies. Ms. Del Percio lives in Tampa, FL with her husband, Michael, and two sons.
Ms. Del Percio holds a B.A. from the University of Miami, a J.D. from the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, and an LL.M. in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center.