Making lawyers more accessible to clients

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“I want all lawyers in Australia to understand the benefits of practicing fixed-fee and being more accessible to the community, as well as being client-focused in their approach,” says Karen Finch, Legally Yours CEO.

The co-founder of the legal marketplace wants to grow Legally Yours to become Australia’s largest platform that matches clients to fixed-fee lawyers in all areas of the law. The goal, however, does not stop with Australia.

In fact, Legally Yours is already working on expanding its reach beyond the country’s borders. It recently partnered with a legal network in Asia, called Asia Law Network (ALN), which gives the company access to the region’s largest legal network of lawyers based in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. The company has also automated its online platform this year.

All of this is in service to making lawyers more accessible to clients.

“By building our legal network, and the speed and ease of new technology platform, access to fixed-fee legal services will be faster, easier and more transparent for the whole community to access,” Finch says.

From small beginnings

“Initially, the motivation behind founding Legally Yours was based on trying to match the way the UK were starting to deliver legal services, which was in a fixed and transparent way,” Finch says. “There was also a strong desire to find a way to keep lawyers practicing law even when they wanted to start families, as well as assist in helping them to maintain a healthy work/life balance.”

The chief executive is a non-practicing solicitor, with a background in legal recruitment both in Australia and the UK. She took a career break in 2007 and now has four children aged 10 to seven, with her youngest being identical twin girls.

“When I started looking at my return to the professional world, I came across Legally Yours. I loved the idea of shaking up the way lawyers interact with their clients, and the fixed-fee philosophy that underpinned the foundations of this business,” she says.

By 2016, she became an equity partner. Last year, she was picked as CEO. The weighty responsibility highlights why she chose the legal profession in the first place.

“For me, I likened being a lawyer as to having a vocation in helping people. I have always felt very privileged that I was able to study law and was able to use my legal knowledge to assist people, often when they were going through their most vulnerable times in their lives and really needing legal support,” she says.

And from the looks of it, she’s helping both users of the platform while also helping lawyers who are part of the network.

Warm market reception

“Since 2014, clients have loved Legally Yours. We have an extremely high repeat rate of clients, and the feedback we receive has been overwhelming positive, predominantly because of the transparency and certainty provided by our fixed-fee model,” Finch says.

She says that since the platform has been around for years, it knows what clients want from lawyers.

“Just with any other service industry, they want an easy, centralised platform where they can connect to lawyers quickly and in a transparent way. Clients hate not knowing what they are going to pay for legal services, and Legally Yours’ commitment to ensuring all services delivered on our platform are transparent and fixed, means that clients are guaranteed no surprise invoices,” she says.

Clients also benefit from the efficient and transparent online platform that allows them to be in control of the lawyer they select and their costs, which are determined by agreeing on fixed-fee quotes.

“We also have a Quick Match feature, which enables clients to request a quick 15 minute phone call from a lawyer for a flat fee of $49. This is for the client that perhaps isn’t ready to engage a lawyer for a specific service, but needs some quick advice over the phone. They can then go on to request a quote from that lawyer when they are ready to go ahead with the legal service,” she says.

A fundamental change

Lawyers either embrace the concept or struggle with it, Finch says, mainly because practicing in fixed-fee arrangements is still a pioneering concept in Australia. That’s a state of affairs Finch thinks may not last long.

“You only need to look to the UK to see the extreme benefits of fixed-fee invoicing. There has been a significant shift over the last two years in regards to lawyers understanding the benefit of the fixed-fee model, and we are receiving more inquiries to join our marketplace from the mid- to large-tier law firms in Melbourne,” she says.

By automating the platform and partnering with ALN, the legal marketplace is growing its membership base, she says. Apart from showing how the fixed-fee model can generate income and increase work/life balance, the platform also helps lawyers gain an international profile.

“We enable our lawyers to have an instant international profile with one click of a button, enabling them to receive referrals from anywhere in Asia where a client is seeking Australian legal advice. They can also cross-refer matters to other Legally Yours and ALN members in the network,” she says.

As an example of efforts to broaden the profile of its lawyers, Legally Yours recently partnered with General Assembly in Melbourne to stream a live event discussing scaling start-ups. This event was streamed live through our ALN networks as well as through e27, which is South East Asia’s largest tech news provider.

“Because of our partnership in Asia, we can offer Australia-based lawyers instant exposure to an Asian marketplace through our live events as well,” she says.

All Legally Yours lawyer members receive reciprocal listing rights on ALN and all articles and blogs republished or co-authored with Legally Yours are promoted across both Asian and Australian social media channels, she says.

In addition to all of these, the whole point of the network is to fundamentally change a key aspect to the way lawyers approach working and networking.

“By spending less hours calculating their billable hours and concentrating more on delivering output of legal work, lawyers can increase their productivity levels, take on more matters and significantly increase their client satisfaction levels. They can also plan and budget easier as they know exactly what revenue they are generating over the month, rather than wasting time at the end of the month trying to reach billable hour budgets,” Finch says.

Karen Finch

 

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