Chris Wise, ’16, ’18: Innovation to give law clients more of what they want

Chris Wise, ’16, ’18: Innovation to give law clients more of what they want

More than a century ago, Louis D. Brandeis authored the “Brandeis Brief,” a precedent-setting document that broadened the way in which cases could be argued before the Supreme Court. And today, graduates of the University of Louisville law school named in his honor show that same pioneering innovation in the practice of law.

One such lawyer is Christopher Wise, Brandeis Law School Class of 2018 and owner/president of the Louisville firm of Wise & Associates. Specializing in family law, Wise has developed a distinctive approach that emphasizes transparency and collaboration with clients. His is the first firm known to utilize a staged-fee structure that Wise developed. And, he has created what is believed to be the first-ever family law artificial intelligence bot.

“I saw firsthand the challenges individuals face during family law disputes and realized that traditional law firm practices were no longer equipped to handle the evolving needs of their clients,” said Wise, who earned his undergraduate degree from UofL in 2016. “The legal profession hasn’t really changed much in 100 years. The idea of staged fees and proactive communication came from listening to people discuss what they hated most about law firms. Through that process, I realized that lawyers are really in the hospitality industry, and this belief drives everything we do.”

His staged fee structure simplifies how clients pay for legal services. Wise & Associates charges flat rates that cover most cases without the need for additional fees or a complex schedule of charges. Cases that require mediation, court appearances, or trial have additional fees than those that don’t which is why the fee structure is termed staged.

The firm’s AI bot has no fee associated with it; it is offered free of charge to anyone who signs up on the firm’s website. Called the “Pocket Lawyer,” the bot provides general guidance on family law in the states served by Wise & Associates: Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee.

“The Pocket Lawyer can never take the place of a human lawyer of course,” Wise said. “However, it is available 24/7 for family law questions and helps our clients obtain clarity and guidance on their situations.”

Wise developed his innovative spirit while at Brandeis. He finished on an accelerated schedule of his own making in 2018 after two years, taking summer classes in addition to fall and spring semester work. He cites three professors who made a difference in his education.

“I did a lot of work with Laura McNeal,” he said. “She was a huge influence on me. We talked a lot about the law and how the industry works. My conversations with Laura are the reason why I now bill differently than other law firms.”

He also cites two other professors – now Emeritus H. Edward Harter Chair of Commercial Law Manning G. Warren III and current Visiting Assistant Professor of Law Jeffrey Metzmeier – as important motivating factors also.

“My Civil Procedure class was my favorite,” he said, “and I had lots of conversations about the legal industry with Professor Warren and in my internship with Jeff Metzmeier. He wasn’t on the faculty then but I learned so much working with him.”

For the future, Wise believes that clients will want more interactions with their attorney without the threat of being charged for every minute they spend in consultation. “Even though AI is changing the world, simply providing answers to common questions is not enough. People want and deserve to work with other people but they shouldn’t have to pay more for doing so.

“The law profession needs to become more personable with our clients. For example, we need to provide insight into how a judge reached a decision versus simply stating what the law that applies to that decision says. I think AI will actually force attorneys to focus on the overall outcome of each case rather than the strategy and case law used to get there. And our clients deserve to have us fully engaged and participating in communicating with them. That’s my mission: to revolutionize the legal profession so clients receive the best possible representation.”