On 1 February 2017, I started Legalite with one key mission in mind – to simplify legal services. I was frustrated with the ‘old’ way of doing things and was (and still am) passionate about making legal advice accessible, understandable and affordable.
Whilst ambitious, I had small goals compared to where Legalite is now. Doing things differently, it seemed, was a breath of fresh air for clients, and so the firm rapidly grew and flourished. Starting with a modest client base of 6, we now have well over 300 clients on our books and I’ve gone from a sole practitioner to a team of 4.
And so, on Legalite’s 4th birthday, I’ve been reflecting on my learnings during this time and thinking about where to from here.
The legal industry still has a way to go
Disrupting the traditional way of doing things has not always been easy. The legal industry can be quite archaic at times, and is highly regulated.
For example, even though Legalite operates on a completely fixed fee model, we don’t have the ability to accept payment upfront, for example, when providing automated contracts, without operating a trust account (which comes with its own set of strict regulations). These regulations need to catch up to allow modern law firms to operate without navigating all of the red tape.
The legal industry still remains male dominated. In 2019, I wrote about the common practice of receiving letters addressed as “Dear Sirs”. This outdated practice existed in a time when only men owned law firms, and yet legal precedents and some fellow lawyers alike still insist on addressing other lawyers, firms and companies in this way. When I wrote the article, people outside of the industry were gobsmacked that this even happened, whilst some within the industry continued to defend it.
Despite this, I remain hopeful that the industry is going through a period of change. I’m constantly inspired by other lawyers and law firm owners who are pushing the boundaries, continuously innovating, and speaking up against old-fashioned practices. This ‘new wave’ of lawyers will, I believe, bring the legal industry into the 21st century.
Agility is key
I have always believed that if something doesn’t work, you either fix it or scrap it. This mentality has given me the freedom to experiment with different ideas and ways of delivering legal services without necessarily being tied down to them, or at the very least, being able to improve upon them.
To enjoy this agility, it was essential that Legalite’s business model was set up as lean and flexible. These foundations meant that Legalite was able to get through COVID-19 without having to “pivot”, and continue to provide legal support to our clients without sacrificing quality.
Leading with empathy is essential
I firmly believe that you cannot have a great culture without empathetic leadership. You can lead without it, but you’ll end up with a disillusioned team and distrusting clients.
This was no more apparent than through the pandemic. Anecdotally, I heard of some law firms who took a ‘cut throat’ approach to getting through COVID-19, and lost team members and clients as a result.
I have found that leading with empathy has meant that relationships with my team and clients are strengthened. We are all human after all, and our work takes up a large component of our lives.
Always start with the client
Even though I’ve left this reflection until last, it is probably the one learning that has remained true from day one of Legalite.
Legalite was essentially built around the needs of our clients. Why bother doing things differently if no one really cares? Why bother offering fixed fees if clients weren’t fussed about certainty?
Since starting the firm, we’ve introduced other services in response to our clients’ changing needs (which we were able to do by being agile!). For example, Legalite Counsel, our outsourced in-house counsel service, was developed to offer clients a proactive solution to their legal needs, whilst feeling like part of their team. Legalite Counsel has been immensely successful and has evolved in direct response to client feedback.
By putting clients first, we enjoy truly trusted relationships with our clients and are fortunate to share in their joys and successes.
So where to from here? Reflecting on these last 4 years has made me realise that I didn’t have all the answers when I started Legalite, and I still don’t. But staying true to these learnings, being inspired by others and continuing to grow and adapt will put the firm in good stead, and I’m excited to see where these take us.