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Max Morlocke of Lexria: “Lexria is focused on helping people eliminate their student loan debt through bankruptcy”

Lexria is focused on helping people eliminate their student loan debt through bankruptcy. There’s a confluence of events and propaganda that has led people to believe that bankruptcy is an immoral thing to do, and that you cannot discharge student loans in bankruptcy. Both are untrue. My team and I are working hard to help […]

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Lexria is focused on helping people eliminate their student loan debt through bankruptcy. There’s a confluence of events and propaganda that has led people to believe that bankruptcy is an immoral thing to do, and that you cannot discharge student loans in bankruptcy. Both are untrue. My team and I are working hard to help people understand when bankruptcy is the right choice financially and to make sure that they’re represented by an exceptionally qualified lawyer that can help them.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Max Morlocke.

Max Morlocke is an accomplished software team leader with more than a dozen years of product development leadership. As Chief Technology Officer, Max leads the product development team in building Lexria’s platform for legal technology services.

Prior to co-founding Lexria, Max was employee #2 at MineralSoft, a YCombinator-backed startup that was acquired by DrillingInfo in 2019. Before that, he served as interim CTO and Director of Engineering at AllClear ID, helping the technology team modernize and respond to data breaches for companies such as Anthem, Home Depot, and Michaels.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was a grad student in Mathematics when I took an internship at a large tech firm. I loved number theory and combinatorics — both areas can effectively be simplified to ‘interesting problem solving using math’. When I started building software, I realized that I had the same opportunity to solve interesting problems that were a fair bit more practical. I ended up in a leadership role fairly quickly and have been in hands on leadership roles since in a variety of industries — finance, telecommunications, security, and energy. Switching sectors allows me to encounter new problems and learn new things, keeping software development and people leadership fresh and interesting.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Lexria is focused on helping people eliminate their student loan debt through bankruptcy. There’s a confluence of events and propaganda that has led people to believe that bankruptcy is an immoral thing to do, and that you cannot discharge student loans in bankruptcy. Both are untrue. My team and I are working hard to help people understand when bankruptcy is the right choice financially and to make sure that they’re represented by an exceptionally qualified lawyer that can help them.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was once on a rather large conference call for planning a project that I had rather minimal involvement in, but a member of my team had to be present for ‘reasons’. A colleague dropped by during this call and wanted to ask about an opening my team had. I thought I muted myself, I did not. We proceeded to have a ten minute chit chat about the position, my team, the differences between our managers, and so forth. Both of our managers were on the call. I came back to my desk a bit later to see three dozen or more messages reminding me to go on mute, as well as a few jokes from colleagues. I also had a rightfully unpleasant discussion with my manager shortly after.

In terms of what I learned, first, I bought a headset with a hard mute switch. Second, that experience helped me make better decisions about how to deal with synchronous interruptions — people who attempt to take your attention in realtime for non-critical things. In this case, it wasn’t really disruptive of maker time, but this and other events have helped me become a lot more graceful at better managing communications around disruptive communications. Being able to manage that well helps a lot when you’re working remotely and you get a lot of non-critical slack messages.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’ve been blessed with having fantastic mentors in every place I’ve worked. I think it’s important in every job to spend the time to think about who’s going to help challenge you to grow, as well as help shape you along the way. I think the folks that have had the most lasting impact on me though are Scott Pelley, Harry Max, and Alan Perry. They all helped me challenge a lot of my assumptions about trust — I do a much better job of assuming positive intent and putting my biases to the side thanks to their support.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

One of the few constants of the universe is that things will change. Ideally, a system or structure stands the test of time because it is resilient and capable of continuing to create positive value both economically and socially. Being disrupted however can disturb our sense of stability in the world and challenges a lot of our base assumptions, it’s not a fun experience to be on the receiving end of a disruptor blowing up your business model or of an encumbent exerting pressure to prevent disruption.

Walmart and Amazon are fantastic examples of disruption that brings positive and negative changes. Both companies have fantastically broad product catalogs, mastery of logistics, and the ability to be massively profitable on razor thin margins. This has lowered the price of goods for consumers and brought many types of new products to areas. On the flipside, both companies have driven a large number of businesses out. Their size and scale allows them to squeeze suppliers in unhealthy, unsustainable ways. Their relationships with labor are acrimonious and both rely heavily on government subsidies in the form of public assistance granted to their employees, keeping their costs artificially lower.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Assume positive intent: Most people you interact with are trying their best to do the right thing, even if they’re screwing up. Assume that people are trying to do the right thing, and work from there. Assuming positive intent allows you to avoid embarrassing and potentially damaging conversations. It enables you to engage in a productive way, helping all involved from getting defensive. Fundamentally, as a mentor pointed out to me, the person who I kept having negative interactions with and felt like was constantly screwing up wasn’t a bad person or bad developer, they were under a great deal of pressure to deliver things and were explicitly told to compromise on quality. My team was directly impacted by that, and the right way to solve the feeling of having manure dropped on your head daily was not to assume that the individual in question was a bad developer. Instead, it was to work to unpack the causes for the problems we were encountering, help the stakeholders understand the consequences of the awful compromises being made, and work together to establish shared values. Turns out, the person in question was one of the better developers I’ve worked with.

Take the right risks: Facebook is famous for the saying ‘move fast and break things’. I think it’s very important for every organization to establish what they’re willing to put at risk and what they aren’t. At MineralSoft, we believed strongly in ‘move fast, don’t break data’. We clearly established what we felt needed strong review and care, as well as where we could take disruptive risks. This allowed us a lot of freedom, while also making sure we all had shared values around where we needed to make sure quality was the first priority. We were able to innovate and grow fast thanks to that.

Make your family your first priority. Work will always be there, you will always have an ever growing pile of things on your desk the next day. Always make time to spend with the people you love most. Be creative in how you work to get ahead.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

I spend a lot more time on the technology side and less on direct marketing and sales, but I am always going to talk about what Lexria does and why it’s a valuable service to society. I’ve talked about what we do in the grocery store, library, and at family reunions. We’ve had leads come in from someone who overhead my ridiculously loud voice from outside a conference room and wanted to know more.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Medical bills in the US are extremely problematic. They’re difficult for a layperson to understand, let alone identify if there are any problems. A number of firms work to help prevent issues on the billing side, but there are no technology companies I am aware of trying to leverage technology to help patient health advocates scale. I suspect if we haven’t moved to single payer that this will be what I work on next after Lexria.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

The Checklist Manifesto. I don’t really have a passion for checklists, but the book itself had me challenge a lot of my assumptions about what simple things I could be doing to be more reliable and efficient. If a simple checklist can save lives at scale in multiple industries, what other incredibly simple innovations exist to help us do better?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Roy T. Bennett: Do not fear failure but rather fear not trying.

As someone who suffers from social anxiety, I’ve feared failure on a number of dimensions. I have to work constantly to overcome that, and overcoming the fear of failure by taking a risk and doing something on one axis helps prepare you to do it again elsewhere.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Shimizu Corp. in Japan proposed a way to power the planet with clean, near limitless energy by effectively building an extremely large belt of solar panels across the moon and transmitting the power back to earth. In a time when launches are becoming cheaper and we are going to have the ability to experiment with in situ resource utilization within the lunar environment, I’d love to be involved in helping with that.

How can our readers follow you online?

I don’t maintain much of an online presence, but if you’re in the Columbus area, feel free to join me at the Central Ohio Python User Group.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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