Challenge to the Status Quo

In The News

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Feb 09, 2017

Like many women in the legal industry, Meda Royall was fed up with the seemingly impossible expectations of young solicitors and barriers to partnership at the top end of town.

While there had been much talk about increased flexibility and accessibility to partnership for women and those not prepared to chain themselves to a desk, an entrenched hierarchical guard and centuries-old work practices meant the reality was very different.

While the six-minute unit ruled and the arbiter of success was partnership, which in turn was based on how much you billed and who you schmoozed, working mums and those wanting more of a work-life balance would rarely reach the top.

While the partners in the megafirms were out to lunch with their old school chums as the innovation wave swept through the legal market in the US, the UK and Europe on its way to our shores, people like Royall were paying attention.

Taking advantage of the confusion and slow response time of the cumbersome big guns, she joined a growing movement in the industry offering online, remote and virtual law services.

Firms such as Hive Legal, Legal Vision, Nexus Law Group, Keypoint Law, and Marque Lawyers were upsetting the status quo offering clients fixed fees and freelance legal experts.

Royall’s firm, Your Firm, is offering all of those services plus the opportunity for lawyers to buy a franchise, which she believes is the first of its kind in the country.

The “Your Firm” model gives lawyers the chance to run their own practice from home, with their own clients but making use of the firm’s back office operations including secretary, paralegal support, marketing, professional development, planning, cash flows, business advice, corporate governance and compliance help.

“During my years working in traditional law firms, I witnessed the gravitation towards a colder, transactional practise of the law where relationships, counsel and compassion have all but disappeared,” she says.

Royall, a former corporate and commercial lawyer who worked in several top-tier firms, says the franchise model tapped into the growing number of disaffected lawyers looking for a workplace with a positive culture.

“I see so many promising lawyers, particularly female lawyers, burnt out or bullied out of the profession due to long work hours that prohibits family life, and sexism which unfortunately is rife in the industry,” she says.

Royall says her lawyers all have more than five years’ experience working in the industry and many are women with young families “tired of the traditional law firm politics and of battling to climb the ladder”.

Like many of the mega firms, she is using the highly educated workforce in India, where more than 85,000 lawyers graduate annually, to perform much of the high-volume paralegal work.

“Our practice is kept in the cloud, we are paperless and when we don’t go meet clients at their place of business, we do skype conferences,” she says. “Traditionally a vast majority of the client population still likes to have the lawyer holding their hand and the personal service. At least with the use of technology we can do away with the low-value, volume work and leave the lawyer to do the high-end work, to do what they do best.

“The paralegals in India all have law degrees and they have access to our practice management system through a log in.

“It’s like in a big firm – you never see the paralegal and using these lawyers in other jurisdictions keeps the costs down.”

The link to the original article by Katherine Towers of The Australian… Here

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