As we celebrate International Women’s day this month, I wanted to reflect on the part of You Legal that was created to help support women advancing their careers in professions that have often been considered “traditional”- law being one of them. For those of you who haven’t been following the You Legal journey, our goal when we started was to reinvent the way clients engage legal services and the way people work for law firms.
Using an innovative online platform model, lean structure, virtual staff and modern, fun and approachable marketing methods we have been able to break the mould, we think, of what people think “law firms” are.
When I set up the business, I wanted to create a firm, which allowed lawyers to work at their optimum so that they could give better service to their clients and live a life they loved. As a mother, I am dedicated to being both an example to my children as well as an ever present friend and mentor. The traditional law firm model didn’t allow me to achieve both of these aspirations at the same time. Long hours and the expectations that come with the traditional model lead to burn out within the profession. While client demands can account for some of the equation, lawyers too can sometimes be their own worst enemy, in the pursuit of perfection and a “just” outcome.
Just like other industries that have been moving towards the “gig” economy where professionals source work in a more flexible way, aided by the technology revolution, we can all acknowledge we no longer need to be sitting in the same office space next to each other to achieve an outcome. The legal world too was capable of being pulled (…or pushed depending on how you look at it) into the “gig” economy also.
This gig economy is being driven by:
- qualified professionals looking to utilise their expertise outside the 9-5 model
- businesses seeking to connect with these experts on a more informal basis where they don’t need to “make an appointment” to see their lawyer
- increased specialisation
- professionals and businesses being more open to the concept of short term projects where deliverables are more important then security or “hours worked”
In setting up You Legal, we wanted to retain that same level of service to our clients but in an environment that didn’t lead to the same level of burnout. And also a place where, women in particular, who take career breaks to have children had a place to work, where they could utilise their incredible knowledge but could also flexibly manage their time. This was a concept unheard of in the legal profession and one which we think we have nailed – the massive untapped resource of female lawyers who no longer want to work in a traditional model. For some people working late at night on a matter suits them, it’s when they are their most creative – we wanted to remove that artificial construct of “the working day”.
As a founder and principle, I think it’s important that we accept it isn’t someone else’s responsibility to provide us with pathways to the life that we aspire to. I wanted to change the status quo for women who represent the best in our profession but who have until now been excluded from advancing their career by the inflexibility of the ‘old world’ model. Our goal and vision was to provide a work environment that was flexible and focused on deliverables instead of billables, and one which attracted the type of client who replicated our values.
Over the past five years we have proven that it is possible to provide business leaders with direct, on demand access to top-tier legal advice and talent whilst simultaneously releasing lawyers from the tyranny of the time-sheet by providing a flexible way to work. By removing the social, spatial, financial and operational barriers that separate Australia’s best lawyers from Australia’s most dynamic business leaders, we have become one of the fastest growing law firms in the country, and now that we have proven the model works, we anticipate our growth to continue to accelerate as the “early adopters” who are thrilled with our results.
Our next challenge sees us progress from a boutique firm to a business that can sustain continual growth as we continue to explore less than traditional ways of operating – such as lawyers based worldwide so that we work while you sleep, innovative marketing methods which are unheard of in the legal fraternity, fixed price costing as opposed to paying by the hour and using technology to deliver legal solutions.
When I set out to remove the glass ceiling for Australia’s best legal talent just 5 short years ago, I steeled myself for a long grind. In the shadow of the battles that so many have fought to bring equality to our “world”, which is an on-going battle. In Australia, we are somewhat removed from the plight which other women in the world who are seeking equality go through. Gender equality is one of the 17 Global Goals that makes up the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
Even if our example makes a small difference to other women then I think we have achieved something.
Two areas I focused on within my business.:
- Disciplined, in my language, my values, and in standing by the model and the rollout steps.
- And courageous in standing for the life that I knew was possible for myself and my peers.
There were many nights, especially early on, where I envisaged explosions and throwing myself over my team to protect them as huge shards of bullet proof glass rained down on us. And some days have been like that.
But I think now, and I hope, that we are past that.
Instead of rigging charges to the glass and then running for our lives, we have taken a more creative path, and now we find ourselves picnicking on top of the glass ceiling, making plans for a new lift that anyone can hop in to join us up here. It’s a hell of a view. But please, don’t take my word for it.