Interview | Fiona McLay (Rankin Business Lawyers)

Fiona McLay was interviewed by our very own Michael Bidwell recently! Fiona is a Special Counsel at Rankin Business Lawyers.

1) Why do you love being a lawyer?

It gives me the privilege of being able to see up close an enormous spectrum of human endeavour and the personalities involved.   I find it interesting that, once a dispute has arisen,  I get to learn how all sorts of things work and to unravel what went wrong.  I get to help people who have been treated unfairly work out what their options are and help them navigate the best way to resolve it.  

2) We understand our good friend Clarissa Rayward’s Happy Lawyer Happy Life program has assisted you.  Please share more about this experience.

I came to the Happy Lawyer Happy Life club after finding the podcast.  On the podcast senior lawyers shared their diverse career paths and how they had managed long successful careers.  I had found that many of my friends and colleagues were a bit worn down and disillusioned by the challenges of legal practice and the tyranny of the billable hour.  It was really refreshing that the Club members were talking about positive changes they were using to manage the challenges. They were looking at businesses outside the legal industry and copying what worked there.  They were setting goals, working hard and hitting their targets.  It was fantastic to see all these different people running profitable legal practices in a sustainable way without being self centred or miserable.

3) What has pushed you to undertake further study in a Masters of Legal Business?

I believe that today, and in the future, successful lawyers must be more customer-centric and able to work collaboratively.  Other professional services have undergone enormous change as a result of digitalisation. I want to be a part of improving the way lawyers operate in a digital enabled world. I did some short courses with the Centre of Legal Innovation and was impressed by how practical the content was. It was really useful to meet people who were innovating legal practice.  Some of those people are involved with the MLB.  So I jumped at the chance to do a longer course with a similar practical approach.

4) As a lawyer who works remotely, what are some of the benefits and challenges?

The main benefit is definitely cutting out the daily peak hour commute - that instantly made me happier.  I can use that time to swim laps or have a morning walk.  I enjoy working paperless - it cuts out a lot of wasted admin.  I am able to meet my clients where ever it suits them without asking them to come into the city and pay for expensive parking.  I've been able to enjoy a change of scene while working including travelling interstate for a long weekend.

The challenge is to make the time to get to know the team member - it involves more conscious effort to reach out and have the casual conversations that are part of getting to know and trust your colleagues.  You need to make sure you get out of the house and talk to people.   You also have to be organised about logistics because you cannot just stick your head out of your office door to find help to meet a last minute deadline.  I haven't found any of those challenges a problem and I am really enjoying working remotely.

5) We are delighted to hear that this year you will marry Veronica after 11 years of being together.  What advice would you give to couples who are just starting out?

Make time to have the difficult conversations - otherwise bottled up disappointment or resentment can explode at some terrible time - when you are stuck in horrendous traffic on a stinking hot day or over dinner with friends - and it will be a thousand times harder to have a constructive discussion about what you need and expect from each other.

6) What is your legal forecast?  Where will the legal industry be in 5 years?

Lawyers will increasingly get more flexibility to chose how and where they work.  I think legal project management will be an integral part of lawyers delivering the level of service the client wants, on time and on budget.  I think we will see vastly improved online DIY legal products (targeted to a specific niche).  I think that lawyers will be able to extract valuable insights from BigData to improve the advice they provide to their clients.  

 7) What advice would you give to law students and junior professionals?

I think that younger lawyers have got a much better handle on presenting information visually, building a personal profile online, working collaboratively and being open to adopting new technology or ways of working - all of that will be very useful as law undergoes digital transformation.

Understand your own strengths and look for opportunities to use them.  That is going to involve risking failure and rejection. Repeatedly. Having a good support squad is invaluable and groups like the Legal Forecast are a great place to start looking for your squad.  There is an offshoot of the Happy Lawyer Club for "Newbies to Law Land" which is wonderful .  By all means use social media to find like minded souls but really try to meet up IRL to help build lasting and meaningful connections.  We don't need to have lots of friends but we do need to have good friends. 

If you would like to be interviewed or offer your thoughts on a recent event, book or article, please contact our Editor In Chief, Michael Bidwell.