Interview | Janelle, Sarah and Dayna (Helix Legal)
Helix Legal describes itself as ‘not just another law firm peddling the old ways of doing things’. The Courier Mail says Helix Legal has ‘obviously done a good job of disrupting the traditional [law firm] business model since launching…’ Helix picked up the Queensland Law Society's Innovation Award, and was described by Law Society President Christine Smyth as 'a ‘newlaw’ firm, not quite a tech company but not quite a stock standard law firm'.Recently Milan Gandhi (TLF) caught up with co-founders Janelle, Sarah and Dayna to get to know them better and find out more.What is something the three of you believe that other people think is insane?A lot of people think we have completely lost our minds so there are many, many things we believe that other people think are insane, but here is a snap shot:
- Law firms don’t need time sheets
- You can be friends with the people you work with
- you can come to work and have fun
- everyone in the business has the same capacity to contribute
- the best outcome for clients involves more than just the legal answer
Do any or all of you have a quote you live your lives by or think of often?Janelle: I have artwork in my house that I got years ago at a Women's Legal Service fundraiser and it says "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul". I love that one and really feel like I am now living this!Sarah: When I made senior associate back in the day Janelle brought me a painting from the same artist which says “Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory”Dayna: I have been on a massive journey to a happy and healthy life so my inspo quote is “Building a better life one step at a time”.Janelle, Sarah and Dayna, please tell us a bit about yourselves and how you each came to the point that you decided “we need to start a law firm… and not your average one…”? It really started small, we decided to break some old habits - Janelle gave up TV, Sarah gave up facebook, we all signed up for a Tri and things spiralled from there. Once we started to do things differently there was no going back!Janelle, we understand you were a Partner at a pretty well-known law firm. What can you do now, at Helix Legal, that you couldn’t do before? Is there anything you miss about your old life?The major advantage is being able to be incredibly quick to market with ideas. LawLancer was a concept we cooked up in September and we are running the pilot program with Bond in May. From idea to implementation has been intense but we have been agile and bold in our approach and it is paying off.I made some wonderful friends in my old life and I miss seeing them every day. I don’t miss the time sheets!Janelle, Sarah and Dayna, Helix Legal describes itself as ‘not just another law firm peddling the old ways of doing things’. What are the ‘old way of doing things’? What is the traditional law firm business model (and why is it no good)?We don’t think it is no good. We just want something different and so do our clients.How did you design your offering as a law firm to ensure that your clients would perceive your services as valuable and not just necessary?By building a legal business, specifically designed to deliver value. Everything we have established is constructed around the needs of our clients, not our needs as a business.We have taken a good hard look at what quality is and remeasured it from the client’s perspective. We have come to appreciate that a legal product is not “quality” because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money. At Helix we want clients to pay only for what is useful to them and gives them value. To us, that is real quality.We’ve read that you’ve gotten ‘rid of extensive internal hoops, and out dated billing processes’ – can you unpack this for us? What have been the consequences for your clients?Our clients have price certainty, no shocks when they receive their invoices. We do not wait until end of month to do our billing. Every job has a project plan and a price guaranteed and invoiced once a milestone is reached within the plan.What is the Queensland Law Society’s ‘Innovation in Law award’, why do you think you won it (we assume it has something to do with your answers to the above) and what has it meant to Helix Legal?There are a lot of firms who have changed just one or two things that they do, they are virtual or they offer alternative fee arrangements. In starting Helix, we went right back to the start and designed a business which reflected the way that we wanted to live our lives and they way that we wanted to do business. There is not a single thing that we do at Helix that is not by design. We have not had the challenge of turning a moving ship but have built an entirely new watercraft exactly how we wanted it to work.We thought it was awesome that you came to the Disrupting Law event last year that was hosted by The Legal Forecast and QUT Starters – what role do you think youth play in driving change in the legal sector?This is a really exciting time for people new to law and those still studying. The “new law” movement is opening up a whole range of new opportunities for people who are interested in law and have a background or experience or skill set outside of law. We think that the best change comes when people from all different backgrounds and generations come together to collaborate and solve problems.Are you looking for law students or graduates? If so, how do people apply!? Yes - All of our recruitment is undertaken through LawLancer - go to lawlancer.legal for more information.We are going through a period of major growth and will be taking on more people as we forge ahead. We don’t have a regimented intake program and we are looking for actual humans with bright ideas to work with us to build Helix Legal.What advice would you give your law student selves with the benefits of hindsight?“Keep going you little worker-ant it will pay off”.