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To grow your business, ‘don’t think, just do’

For this firm owner, taking herself out of day-to-day operations has been instrumental in the growth and long-term success of her firm post-pandemic.

user iconLauren Croft 12 October 2023 SME Law
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Melissa Barlas is the director and founder of Conveyed, a conveyancing firm based down in Melbourne, and the most recent winner of the Sole Practitioner of the Year category at our Australian Law Awards.

Speaking on a recent episode of The Boutique Lawyer Show, Ms Barlas reflected on her journey as a sole practitioner and revealed how she’s been able to differentiate herself in the post-pandemic legal market.

Ms Barlas is the only lawyer in her direct family, and she went into property law after graduating from university before she realised she wanted to be her own boss.


“I was in private practice for close to 10 years, starting off as a paralegal and then transitioning to being a lawyer in various, whether it’s a conveyancing company or a generalist law firm that has a property law department,” she said.

“The last practice was a generalist one where I was a property lawyer there and then two years ago decided to transition to being my own boss, as I put it before, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been the best decision.”

Being the first in her family to study law, Ms Barlas said she faced a number of challenges around not having legal connections prior to graduating.

“I did not have that privilege where I had that extra helping hand along the way that gave me a bit more of that job security coming out of law school. So, I really had to show that I had some sort of point of difference compared to other students and other lawyers as well. And it’s still something that I always strive to do as a business owner, too. That doesn’t stop.

“I remember when I was in law school, I was the director of the competitions that we used to run at Monash University. And that was something I tried to do as something that I can put on my résumé when I was going out into the world of being a lawyer after graduating. And that really served me well. I was working at the Monash Oakley Legal Centre for a little bit at one point as well, just to, again, show that I’ve got that volunteering background that a lot of law firms like to see,” she added.

“And I even went and started calling people in my second year of law school, literally cold calling law firms that weren’t even looking for candidates to come in and take positions to see if I can actually create my own opportunities to come into the workforce. Because at that time, when I was graduating, there was such a large demand for law students to go into the profession and such a limited supply of job opportunities that I actually really had to try. I did that, and that approach landed me my first job as a paralegal. So, it’s just those extra differences and efforts that I’ve had to put in to get to effectively where I am today.”

These points of differences can also be seen in Conveyed, which is modern and has a specific brand image, both of which help to draw in clients.

“We try to modernise the way we run our practice and how I communicate with clients. And for me, I always like to connect with my greater community of other people, whether they’re conveyances, whether they are other lawyers as well. We certainly look after all of our referral partners. We try to do things that cater very specifically to our target market as well. Especially when I started putting my business plan together when I left private practice, I really had a very strong idea of who my target market was. And I base the way that I run my business around that effectively,” Ms Barlas explained.

“So, the sort of clients that we attract are very much your Gen Y couples, individuals, [and] families wanting to buy or sell property in Victoria. And you just have to take one look at our website, and you would get a very good understanding of what our brand image is. So, we really wanted to drive a very strong brand image to our target market.

“And I certainly also strive to develop a personal brand image as well. So, for example, I’m on social media every day. I’m usually putting up posts; I’m educating clients continuously. It’s just those little bits and pieces to help educate people that you’re not seeing in the property law and conveyancing industry in a way that appeals to my target market. So that’s just an example of how we’re doing things a little bit differently.”

In the current market, Ms Barlas has found that training herself to start operating as a “business owner” and “technician” as opposed to a lawyer is another point of difference.

“I still do a bit of client work now, but I’ve also got a team that does a lot of the day-to-day for me so that I can take myself out of the day-to-day to work on my business and help scale and grow it. And that does require a big mindset where I can’t be overanalysing every little thing in the way that I’ve been trained as a lawyer. As lawyers, we’re trained to overthink. We’re trained to overanalyse. But if you sit there overanalysing, nothing gets done,” she added.

“From a mindset point of view, I’ve had to step out of that. Don’t think, just do. To help grow your business, obviously, make calculated decisions. You can’t just do anything. But having that approach has allowed me to just keep moving forward with my business. And so that’s just something that I’m still training myself on today. A lot of lawyers, unfortunately, we don’t have those skill sets. I’ve had to train myself into adopting it, but that’s what it takes to really grow a business.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Melissa Barlas, click below:

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