Interview | Marianne Marchesi (Legalite)
Sophie (TLF) recently caught up with Marianne Marchesi, Founder and Principal of Legalite. Legalite was founded in early 2017 to disrupt the traditional way of delivering legal services. Their focus is on providing value based solutions at a fixed fee - allowing you to get back to business.Tell us about Legalite and your vision for your organisation.I founded Legalite in 2017 with one key goal in mind – to simplify the provision of legal services. Many people find dealing with lawyers to be intimidating, confusing and often expensive. I want clients to feel that legal assistance is accessible and to feel comfortable dealing with their lawyer from the start of a matter until finish.Legalite adopts a fixed fee pricing model which provides certainty and transparency for our clients. Unlike most law firms, we do not and never will have hourly rates (which, in my view, reward inefficiency and do not enable clients to have trust in the relationship).In the first 5 months of trade, Legalite has already experienced rapid growth, which confirms my belief that clients are looking for something ‘more’ from their lawyers and are becoming less willing to accept the old way of doing things. My focus is on ensuring that Legalite’s offering provides a clear alternative to that offered by traditional law firms. Ultimately, with continued growth, I hope to expand the firm into other areas of specialty.What makes the legal experience different for start-ups and how do you engage with this group of clients?New entrepreneurs are often (and understandably) quite time and cash poor, so it’s important to be able to engage with them in a way that fits seamlessly into their busy lives.Legalite offers a fixed fee monthly retainer which includes unlimited legal advice and support and a business health check to point startups and other business owners in the right direction. This retainer works well for startups or those who prefer to “DIY” some of the more commercial aspects of their contracts, but also want the comfort of knowing that they’re on the right track and are protected from a legal perspective.With the vast majority of startup owners being Millennials/Gen Y’s, there is a widespread expectation that legal advice be available at their fingertips or at the click of a button, so being flexible and adaptable is important. I am often Skyping, video conferencing or texting with my clients and also enjoy interacting with them on social media.Legalite offers fixed-priced legal services and is a virtual law firm- do you think these methods of doing business will increase across the legal industry and how have they changed your experience as a lawyer?I have no doubt that the use of these methods will continue to increase as law firms begin to realise that they will need to adapt in order to compete. I am a strong advocate for fixed or value based pricing as an alternative to the traditional hourly rates model. In my view, hourly rates and broad costs estimates are inefficient and foster distrust and resentment from clients towards the legal profession so I would be happy to see these go!Practising law in a NewLaw firm, as opposed to a traditional one, is different in many ways. The relationships I have with my clients are based on trust, in no small part because my clients know they will not experience the dreaded bill shock, which is all too common when costs are not pre-agreed. Another by-product of the fixed pricing model is that I no longer have to waste countless hours on billing and red tape. As a result, I have more time to develop an intimate understanding of each client’s business, which allows me to add additional value, both from a legal and a commercial perspectiveWhat role do you think NewLaw is playing in driving the conversation and action regarding diversity?The rapid success of NewLaw is forcing traditional law firms to re-evaluate the way they do things and to start considering alternative models. In my view, traditional law firms will need to adapt and provide a more dynamic, agile and client-friendly offering.I believe the NewLaw model fosters a high degree of professional satisfaction for lawyers, which in turn benefits the client, as they are dealing with a lawyer who is truly engaged. With this comes an increased drive by lawyers to constantly innovate and improve their service offering.The NewLaw model also promotes diversity, by offering flexible work practices and a horizontal (non-hierarchical), rather than vertical, business model. These elements are often especially attractive to parents returning to work, or those who simply want a more flexible working life.How is the use of social media changing law firm and personal branding?It is widely accepted that a very high proportion of customers (in the range of 70-80%) look at a business’ online reviews (on their smart phone) before making a purchase or deciding to engage with that business. Social media is an excellent way for law firms to promote themselves and engage with their clients.In terms of branding, social media allows law firms to provide others with an insight into the firm’s culture and the personalities of its team members in a way that other, more traditional forms of advertising cannot. If you check out Legalite’s Instagram for example (@legalite_au), you’ll see a very distinct brand through the imagery, captions and our interaction with clients.What advice would you give to new legal graduates regarding their future legal career?I would encourage graduates to begin their careers with an open mind. Gone are the days when it was seen by many as essential to commence your career at a top-tier or large law firm. There are undeniable synergies between people of the typical graduate age and the way in which NewLaw firms operate. In particular, having a good understanding of technology and the ability to think laterally and innovatively are becoming increasingly important qualities for a lawyer to possess. These are certainly qualities that are valued within NewLaw firms and more broadly by clients. There are many excellent traditional law firms and securing a graduate position within one is something to be proud of. However, it is important to remember that NewLaw firms represent for graduates a genuine and exciting alternative to traditional law firms.With this in mind, my advice to legal graduates is not to be afraid of speaking up and suggesting new and improved ways of doing things, even (or especially) if you are working in a traditional law firm.
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