Minimising risk and maximising reward

By Content Sponsor|26 February 2021

The age of coronavirus has lit a match of change in the legal profession. For many, this means having the capacity to stay up to date with current law, better manage practice risk, and enjoy one’s vocational pursuit.  

In 2007, Danni Larney and Guy Dawson drafted a suite of retainer instruction precedents for the 22 types of legal matters encountered in their practice. Examining the collection of precedents, the pair realised they’d compiled an impressive assortment of risk management tools.

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“We showed them to Law Cover, who were very supportive and we sold them on disk directly to other legal practitioners. The game-changer for us was showing them to LEAP Legal Software who liked them so much they bought a licence to provide them to LEAP customers,” Ms Larney recalled.  

By Lawyers, which provides subscribers with sequential matter plans, practical commentary, drafted precedents and searchable reference materials, as well as publications with necessary tools to accurately, efficiently and safely manage their clients’ matters from start to finish, was thus launched.

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The aforementioned retainer experience, Ms Larney noted, highlighted for herself and Mr Dawson – the COO and editor-in-chief of By Lawyers, respectively – “the need in the profession not only for risk management tools, but also for ready access to current and practical information on law and practice”.

Minimising risk and maximising reward
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Danni Larney
Guy Dawson

“It is hard to stay on top as the law changes. That’s the gap we fill”

— Danni Larney

“We make sure that if a firm is using a By Lawyers publication then they are reading about the latest in the law and practice, they have access to the latest forms, the precedents are all current, and they are managing risk in a best practice way.”

By Lawyers in 2021

Fourteen years on from the platform’s birth, Ms Larney said, By Lawyers has publications across a plethora of practices areas and in all Australian jurisdictions. Lawyers can subscribe online through the By Lawyers website or via its exclusive arrangement with LEAP.

The platform has seen “extraordinary growth” over the years, she noted, boasting over 13,000 subscribers in Australia today and another 4,500 subscribers in the UK.

“But no matter where we are or how big we grow, the hallmark of our publications will be that they are written and edited by local experienced practical lawyers, and they are kept up to date with the law and practice so our subscribers do not need to worry,” she said.

“Being a practical publisher means By Lawyers focuses primarily on keeping current with the law and practice. This provides enormous comfort to the subscriber.”

The breadth and depth of the publications, By Lawyers managing director Brad Watts detailed, mean the platform receives varied responses from its users.

“I know senior lawyers who love our complex precedents such as Shareholders or Partnership agreements, Trust deeds, or Wills establishing testamentary trusts. I also know junior lawyers and paralegals who rely on our To Do lists to ensure no step in a matter is missed. I get great feedback from all sorts of people in firms who use our unique resources, such as 1001 Conveyancing Answers, the Comparative table of business structures, our Commonwealth offences guide, or our various Libraries of clauses,” he listed.

“I know criminal lawyers who think our Initial letters, which set out the penalties for a variety of common offences, are a huge time saver. We publish hundreds of Costs agreements across Australia that are used extensively every day in conjunction with our 101 Costs Answer guide, which I often hear helps our users to comply with their costs disclosure obligations and make sure they get paid.

“Our subscribers all use and respond to our publications differently, but I am proud to say that overwhelmingly the response is positive.”

Pandemic-inspired need for changes to practice methodology

COVID-19 – together with the economic downturn and upheaval of traditional market practices it inspired – has been a “huge catalyst” for overdue change in the legal profession, Mr Watts mused.

It has meant, he said, movement away from BigLaw, away from offices in CBDs, and away from “scrums of lawyers crowding round the bar table at 9:30am every morning, just to do a mention”.

This is, he surmised, a distancing from inflexibility – and clients are onboard, he added.

Brad Watts

“Clients are working remotely with more flexibility, so they accept and expect that their lawyer will work remotely and provide more flexibility also”

— Brad Watts

In conjunction with this, By Lawyers serves to make remote working easier for legal professionals – particularly, he noted, for LEAP users.

“Because we provide a system, everything necessary for each member of the firm to conduct their matters is always available right there in the matter,” he said.

“There is end-to-end guidance on how to conduct any type of file, right there in the matter when it is needed, with the right precedents and detailed research materials just a click or two away. If a lawyer’s laptop has become their office, By Lawyers has put everything they need right in their lap!”

The flexibility offered by such a platform means that lawyers will be better placed to “holistically service” their clients, Mr Watts continued.

“By Lawyers empowers subscribers to take on new work in unfamiliar areas, never having to turn away clients, having the tools at hand to service all the needs of their existing clients. That’s going to really satisfy a lot of clients and really help build a practice – it is very important these days,” he said.

Foye Legal chief executive and chief lawyer Diana Foye runs an all-service boutique firm but, given its size, noted that it has a limited budget for resources. Utilising By Lawyers, she noted, “has allowed our team the flexibility to handle a wider range of legal matters and to save time on tasks that would otherwise take an exorbitant amount of time to research and create precedent documents”.

Diana Foye

“By Lawyers has proved to be beneficial to the team and allows a great base for document creation”

— Diana Foye

It is also hugely important, Maksisi Lawyers principal director Youssef Maksisi said in support, in keeping abreast of case law and legislative amendments.

Youssef Maksisi

“It has helped our firm successfully navigate a range of complex legal matters in a variety of legal areas. It is very useful because it provides a step-by-step, easy to follow guide to a range of practice areas,” recounted Mr Maksisi, who reflected on his LEAP journey here.

— Youssef Maksisi

“One of the many effects of the pandemic has been the implementation of new legislation. By Lawyers, and particularly By Lawyers Obiter News and Updates, will be critical for all firms to remain across all recent case law in a wide range of practice areas.”

Equipping one’s firm for the ‘new normal’

One outcome of the pandemic that is all but inescapable is that, in the “new normal”, workforces will be more scattered and legal teams will have to adapt to more modern ways of working. In response to such an environment, firms will require systems that not only address evolving challenges, but complement them.

“By Lawyers is a system: Matter plans, Commentaries, Precedents and Reference materials. For users, this means that if the members of the firm are scattered to various remote workplaces, everyone is still on the same page – they can use By Lawyers to ensure consistency and uniformity,” Mr Watts outlined.

“They can access the same retainer instructions, they can all send the same initial letters, they can all refer to the same commentaries to check what to do in a particular situation, they can all search the same reference materials to research a point of law.”

From a supervisory and practice management point of view, he reflected, it becomes very easy to supervise and train junior staff or new starters.

“Practice owners have told us that subscribing to By Lawyers is like having a silent partner to whom junior lawyers and support staff can go for reliable information and guidance on the law and their client matters when the practice owners themselves are unavailable. With people working remotely, that becomes ever more important and valuable,” he posited.

Staying on top of current law, he said, remains one of the biggest challenges at this juncture: “As experienced legal practitioners ourselves, we at By Lawyers know how difficult it can be sifting through all the incoming information about changes to the law and practice. We do the that triage for our subscribers and we update our publications constantly to ensure they are current.”

This, he said, speaks to professional collegiality.

“Not only do we support the profession by keeping our subscribers up to date and letting them know when things change, but we’re always listening to the profession. What do they want? What do they need? How can we improve our publications to make them better? Feedback is essential to us,” he advised.

“We often receive requests asking for a new precedent, or a change to an existing one, or a new guide for an area of law not currently dealt with. That sort of feedback is important to us and it’s actually at the core of how our publications evolve.”

It will be critical, however, for firms to ensure they are making the most of the platform, Mr Maksisi stressed. “The publications are updated regularly, that way you know that the information provided is most relevant. It is also very worthwhile to have a look at the 101 Answers series because it can help address any unusual or complex questions that you might have about a particular practice area,” he said.

“By Lawyers has allowed a number of people at our firm, whether they are familiar with a practice area or not, to update themselves about that practice area and assist other staff members and/or lawyers with queries about that practice area. The way that LEAP has integrated with By Lawyers is fantastic. It allows us to use one program that is integrated and fully adaptable.”

Those who do leverage the offering for all it is worth, Mr Watts advised, will always be able to glean benefit from its ongoing technological innovations.

“By Lawyers are totally committed to continuing to update, enhance and expand our publications. As we grow our focus on doing that, it will only become more intense. There is not much that’s more important for law firms than staying up to date and having great matter management resources,” he concluded.

“Hopefully, our engagement with our subscribers and with the profession generally will continue to be a two-way street as we go forward together.”


Learn more about how you can work with confidence and expand your practice area using By Lawyers. Click here