Gecko Group Supports Local Lawyers

May 6, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Less than a year ago Todd Hill says he witnessed a robbery and stepped in to help.

A virtual robbery, that is. What Hill, CEO of The Gecko Group, said he saw was law firms being taken advantage of by the world of technology.

Hill saw that law offices had a need for technology but were being charged exorbitant amounts for technology services. In many cases he found that technology companies had one set of prices for their clients — and separate, higher prices for law firms.

Hill said he knew that it would only be a matter of time before lawyers and paralegals would be forced to adapt to changing technology, which was moving faster than they could keep up with. He saw some of the potential issues facing attorneys with rising costs and reduced return on their time investments in contingent cases. Hill said he also found that the technology people law firms were working with not only had little legal knowledge, but also offered only a narrow range of services.

“I just could not stand by and watch them get overcharged any more, and I was unaware of just how many attorneys were looking for these types of services,” he said.

The services of which Hill speaks deal with visual evidence, client development and legal technology — the sort of thing that The Gecko Group has recently been streamlined to provide. He said Gecko now serves as a technology consultant to law firms to help them find the products, hardware and software that fit their situations.

When Hill decided to help the legal community he initially created a firm that he named Lucky Gecko. Subsequently, however, he deciding to pursue only certain aspects of legal technology, changing the name to The Gecko Group to reflect a more professional image.

The Gecko Group is currently comprised of Hill and Valerie Kautzman, vice president and COO.

What Hill and Kautzman say they can offer a law firm is a mixture of experience and the ability to speak the same language, along with an unbiased opinion of software services and technology breakthroughs.

“We are not affiliated with any software programs, nor do we sell any software programs,” said Hill.

“That way we can serve as the sort of Consumer Reports for legal technology. We are able to offer unbiased advice and prevent firms from getting the runaround with programs that don’t work for what they need.”

He said The Gecko Group seeks to serve as a law firm’s general contractor for technology. Being a small firm, he said, The Gecko Group outsources some work, relying, say, on a projector supplier, a screen supplier, etc.

In the firm’s first few months, he said the idea was to serve smaller firms and work strictly in the Grand Rapids area.

In the nine months the company has existed, however, it has expanded from Kent County into the general Great Lakes region, and now is on the move towards Detroit.

“Our expansion has been driven by market requests, to this point, and this is no different,” said Kautzman, who has already begun planning moves to Kalamazoo, Lansing and Detroit a full two years ahead of schedule.

He said the company has also grown with a little technology of its own. The Gecko Group launched a new Web site this February, www.thegeckogroup.net, which offers information on its services as well as legal forms and information on why law firms need assistance of this sort.

“One thing that Valerie has been very good at is managing growth control,” said Hill.

“We would rather under-promise and over-perform than over-promise and under-perform.

“With our growth going at the pace it has, we feel we are now ready to move into other markets, begin serving the larger firms and possibly in the future bring on some of these people we have been outsourcing work to.”

Besides serving his legal clients, Hill said he also keeps up to date on new laws and regulations as well as daily changes in technology.

“I don’t think I could have chosen two faster-moving topics than law and technology,” said Hill.

“But I enjoy them both, I understand them both, and there is a definite need out there for someone to put them together and do it in a simple, cost-effective manner.”

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