Until recently, being a lawyer meant billable hourly rates, long working weeks and a race to make partner. But as traditional legal business models are transformed by technology and changing consumer demands, NewLaw approaches are redefining what it means to have a legal career.
The NewLaw landscape lets you build a competitive and innovative legal career that offers your clients better choice, more transparent pricing and easier access to your legal nous. And according to Mira Stammers, a lawyer, legal entrepreneur and lecturer at La Trobe Law School, it’s a profitable and people-focused alternative that can also help you achieve law-life balance.
In 2013 Mira founded Legally Yours, an online legal marketplace that connects clients to virtual, fixed-fee lawyers. We spoke with Mira about why she started Legally Yours, and what skills and qualities you need to succeed in the NewLaw order.
What inspired you to start Legally Yours?
After working for seven years as a banking lawyer in Melbourne and London, I knew something had to change, not only for me but for the profession. I’d seen problems in the profession for a long time.
One problem with the legal profession is the inability for people to work flexibly. If you can’t work 60+ hours a week or you have another priority in your life, you could be out of the game. Many talented women have ended up leaving law when they have children, because the profession hasn’t yet learnt to be flexible. Some of the brightest and most successful women I know couldn’t get a job once they needed part-time hours.
Price uncertainty is the biggest issue expressed by clients. When most people think of lawyers they think ‘expensive’, ‘hourly rates’ and ‘scary’. Instead, clients want value-based billing – they want to pay for outcomes, not hours worked.
I wanted to fix these problems. It didn’t make sense to stick with old models that no longer worked. So I decided to create Legally Yours, where clients could connect to virtual fixed-fee lawyers for free. Clients loved not having to pay hourly rates and lawyers loved the flexibility of being able to work the hours that suited them. Initially the panel was made up of mostly female sole practitioners, but it has now grown to have an even balance of men and women, from sole practitioners right through to Collins Street firms.
Does the new legal landscape change the way law students should prepare for their legal careers?
Yes, absolutely. Law students now have a lot more options than I did. They need to educate themselves about those options before they leave law school. La Trobe’s Contemporary Issues in the Legal Profession subject is a great way to get a clear understanding of the issues facing the profession and the opportunities that result. There are lots of opportunities for students to be innovative, both in the places they choose to work and in the way they do their work. Students these days can choose to do something other than the traditional ‘BigLaw’ job, and that’s really exciting.
Should law graduates feel threatened by automation or other technological disruptors?
Law graduates should embrace technology as much as they possibly can. If they’re familiar with the various types of legal technology, or technology in general, they’ll be a lot more marketable to law firms. Many law firms are stuck and unsure about how to use technology or innovate to create success. Their future rests, to a large extent, in investing in the minds and skill sets of the next generation of lawyers.
What are the top five qualities that will set law graduates up for success?
Commercially minded: You need to be multidisciplinary in the way you think about the world and the legal issues you come across. Being commercially astute will put you in good stead to be a great lawyer, whether or not you end up working in a commercial firm.
Motivated: Try to deeply understand the goals and strategy of your employer organisation so that you can align yourself with them. Then, be motivated and willing to pitch in wherever you can. Graduates who can demonstrate their passion and motivation for their work will always stand out.
Innovative: Always try to think outside the box and discover new and better ways of doing things. Never let anyone dampen your enthusiasm.
Understand your strengths and weaknesses: Everyone has weaknesses – and not just the ones we make up for interviews! If you know your strengths and your weaknesses well, then you can play to your strengths and surround yourself with people who can mentor you with your weaknesses.
Back yourself: Always believe in yourself. It sounds cheesy, but it’s my belief in myself that has enabled me to achieve things others thought I couldn’t. Most lawyers I spoke to when I launched Legally Yours thought it would be a huge flop. They were wrong. Never rely on other people for your own validation. You have a unique skill set. Back yourself.