Helen Kay had been thinking about launching her own law firm for some time. Then, fate intervened and gave her the perfect opportunity.
By her own admission, Ms Kay had become increasingly disheartened with traditional law firm models that utilise the billable hour. There is too much focus on billing, rather than the client, she told Lawyers Weekly, and it was an environment she wanted out of by way of opening her own shop.
Earlier this year, the decision to leave to start her own firm was taken out of her hands, she said, by way of redundancy. This, she noted, “was the push I needed and turned out to be an incredibly positive move for me”.
On 20 April 2020 – whilst Australia was in the midst of its state and territory-imposed lockdowns due to COVID-19 – Ms Kay unveiled her new firm, Rise Legal: a commercial boutique for businesses and business owners across Queensland and Northern NSW.
With so many law firms suffering fiscal and professional impacts in the wake of the pandemic, some might have questioned the logic of launching a new practice during times of such uncertainty. This didn’t faze Ms Kay, she said, “as I could see the opportunities that the COVID-19 crisis presented and quickly positioned myself in exactly the right place to be able to help businesses through this”.
“The beauty was that, being self-employed, I had the freedom to decide how I did this,” she noted.
Her operation is in a “perfect position” to help clients at this juncture, she posited.
“My overheads are low, and I am agile. I know who I am best placed to help, I understand the difficulties that owners of small and medium-sized businesses face and can move swiftly to present effective solutions to their problems,” she explained.
“Cash flow has been the immediate concern of my clients, so with that in mind, I prepared a number of support packages to help them negotiate rent relief with their landlords and tighten up their contracts to ensure cash kept coming in for business continuity.”
It has been a challenge, she ceded, not being able to meet clients face-to-face during this period – particularly as a self-described “serial networker”. However, there are ways around this.
“I attend as many networking events as I can to meet potential clients and referrers and build relationships. I had to take this all online; arranging and attending Zoom group meetings, using social media more than ever before to make connections, and doing a number of targeted podcasts, all of which [have] been hugely successful,” she said.
What other lawyers should learn from her experience, Ms Kay submitted, is that the legal professional cannot continue to do things the way they have always been done.
“Remote working, online marketing and better use of technology to stay connected are all things I was advocating before this happened and, with the freedom of my own firm, I have been able to implement them quickly and effectively,” she said.
“COVID-19 has forced many of us to change our practices, for the better, I think.”
Moving forward, Ms Kay is thrilled to report that the firm is performing “amazingly well”, and certainly better than she had anticipated at this early stage.
“I have already hired people to assist me and am surrounded by good clients and a fantastic support network. A great deal of my success is attributable to the amazing tribe I have around me, in particular, colleagues and friends in [Facebook community] The Club,” she concluded.
“But, also, because my whole business is modelled around my clients and helping them solve their problems in the most efficient way possible. I have invested in some great technology and operate on fixed fees which are transparent and based on the value I can add to my clients, rather than on the time I spend on a matter.”