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‘We aren’t McDonald's’: NewLaw franchise model pushes past prestige hang-up

‘We aren’t McDonald's’: NewLaw franchise model pushes past prestige hang-up

Growing interest in the franchise model for law firms suggests that the initial concerns about how appropriately the method works in law have faded.

When Meda Royall first launched her law firm franchisee model, she was clear about what her business offering is all about: franchising.

“Contrary to general advice we never wanted to make a secret out of the fact that we are a franchise, we’re not going to dress it up and pretend it’s something different,” Ms Royall said.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly about market interest in her company, one of the latest entrants on Australia’s NewLaw scene, she admits that there was initial resistance from the legal community to the notion of franchising, mostly for the association of the word with fast-food chains.

“For professional services, I think generally it is a little bit of a difficult concept to deal with. They don’t want to be seen as burger flippers at the end of the day,” Ms Royall said.

“What this has meant is educating lawyers to just say ‘we are not McDonald's, we are very different to that’.”

Ms Royall said that once lawyers understand and accept what franchising is all about, the financial appeal of operating under her model is an easy sell.

Despite early resistance from lawyers to any idea that included the words ‘law’ and ‘franchise’ in the same sentence, she said the days of having to get lawyers to warm to the concept are on their way out. The tables have turned and the rapid growth her business is testament to that.

In February, the Victorian-based lawyer took her NewLaw business, Your Law Firm, to market and within five months a legal practitioner had come on board. The most recent Your Law Firm franchisee signed up within three weeks of her first meeting with the NewLaw group.

Ms Royal said that by next year another six lawyers will have joined, bring the total number of franchisee lawyers to 13.

“It’s a very exciting time for us and we have had an incredible, very rapid growth,” Ms Royall said.

She likened the decision to becoming a franchisee with Your Law Firm as akin to becoming an equity partner in a traditional law firm, except without the shopfront, hierarchy or internal politics.

To date, the group’s lawyers comprise mostly of former top and mid-tier partners, including a few ex in-house lawyers.

Ms Royall said that while the motivation to consider working under her franchising model is different for each person, the benefits they enjoy are the same. It offers lawyers more autonomy and self-determination in their work and frees up more time for the other, equally important aspects of their lives, she suggested.

“Lawyers are starting to see the merit of the franchise model. They’re starting to accept the idea and actually embrace it,” Ms Royall said.

“Optometrists have done it, accountants have done it and financial advisers have done it – why not lawyers?”

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