Interview | Mira Stammers (Legally Yours)

Daniel (TLF) recently chatted to Mira Stammers, the innovative lawyer, entrepreneur, academic, consultant, author, public speaker and mum who created Legally Yours.  Legally Yours connects and matches consumers with high quality lawyers using a fixed-fee system rather than the traditional billable units.image1Mira, what is your background? I studied psychology and law at La Trobe University, and practised in Melbourne and London as a banking lawyer for many years.  On returning to Melbourne in 2013, I noticed that the profession was, on the whole, not meeting client expectations on many levels, from pricing to accessibility.  I also noticed that lawyers were generally unsatisfied with the inflexible nature of the profession. I wanted to change that.Could you describe exactly what the term “NewLaw” means? There are many definitions and interpretations of NewLaw. I would describe NewLaw as a way of providing legal services through a significantly different business model than those that underpin BigLaw.  NewLaw business models are often more focused on the client experience and delivering a unique and less conventional value proposition to the market.Legally Yours was one of the first companies to offer a “legal marketplace” with fixed-fee pricing. Why were you ahead of the trend on NewLaw?In some ways yes, I feel I was ahead of the trend.  I come from a place of compassion for the consumer, and I have a drive to increase access to justice and transparency in the market.  I completed a lot of user research, which informed my business model design and my strategy before launch.  That information was critical.  Law firms often forget about how crucial UX research and design is.I remember trying to recruit lawyers for the marketplace (which was initially a live pitching platform), and about 60% of the lawyers I spoke with told me it would never work, that it couldn’t be done.  However, I launched in five states with 66 lawyers/firms on board, and it can, and is, being done.  It just took a while for people to catch up.CEO’s are sometimes described as the “fire-fighter” of a company who’s chief responsibility is resolving the big problems. As CEO of Legally Yours, does this analogy strike a familiar chord for you?Yes probably! Although I would probably describe my role as mostly strategic, there can certainly be fires that need some attention at times.Please tell us how you came across Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and why in your opinion it is significant for the legal industry? I’m teaching ‘Contemporary Issues in the Legal Profession’ at La Trobe University’. La Trobe law school is quite innovative and wants to engage its students in discussions around business theory and NewLaw. I have included disruption theory in my lectures as a way to describe what is happening with NewLaw.  Clay’s work is a significant part of disruption theory.I believe that business theory is always relevant to the legal profession.  The issue is that most lawyers aren’t trained in business, yet they assume management roles.Do you think we have reached a point where it is not only market pressure that promotes innovation, but almost that we have created a wild west market for gun-slinging innovators who actively search for service inefficiencies to challenge? I think entrepreneurial people will always search for solutions to market problems.Does your experience with Legally Yours suggest that fixed-fee lawyers are producing work of the same quality as a traditional firm? Yes.  The pricing methodology the lawyer employs is in no way linked to quality.  It also doesn’t mean that the lawyers that are fixed-fee are cheaper.  This is a common misconception about pricing. Fixed-fee and value based pricing both aim to provide the client with price certainty, whilst putting the lawyer and the client on the same page rather than being in conflict from the outset (i.e., the less efficient the lawyer is, the more they get paid).What is your approach to flexible working arrangements? I think you lose great talent from the legal profession if you’re inflexible.  As long as you can make it work for the client then there is no reason why you shouldn’t be flexible.What does the expansion of legal marketplace mean for traditional law firms? It depends on what you mean by expansion.  If you mean new markets or disruption, then traditional law firms need to keep abreast of their competition as the market is changing.Do you find that once a successful lawyer-client pairing has been established that a client will remain loyal to that lawyer or is it the case that every matter is treated as separate and unique? I think it depends on the client and the type of legal work.  The more routine/simple the work, the more the market will push for the commoditisation of that work.We read an article you published in Lawyers Weekly that explained traditional law firms are ignoring disruptive innovators because they are only attacking the lower end of the market. Do you think that there will always be a place for the brand recognition of top-tier firms for lending credibility to a project or will this too become obsolete?I think no-one should consider themselves safe from disruption (think Kodak, Yahoo and Blockbuster).  Sure, the top end of the market services a certain type of client that may be reluctant to move firms for a number of reasons, but these clients are savvy and they no doubt also have internal pressures on their legal budget.  However firms achieve it, these clients will also need to feel that they are receiving value.In your view what should young lawyers be doing to prepare for the changes in the legal industry: should they be working for traditional firms and making innovation a side-project, or should they look for disruptive companies for employment? I think young lawyers should follow what interests them.  It also can’t hurt to read a few business books and understand the market well.Do you have a quote you live by or think of often? Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right – Henry FordWhen you think of the word “successful”, who is the first person who comes to mind? Why? My mother. She has always been an inspiration to me.What is the best or most worthwhile investment you’ve made? The investment could be one of money, time, energy or any other resource. Creating Legally Yours. I believed I could create it, so I did.What is the worst advice you see or hear that keeps being dispensed in the legal industry? That it’s only the low end of the market that will be affected by disruption, so let’s ignore it; it won’t touch our firm.Fixed-fee and value based pricing is less profitable, don’t do it.Is Legally Yours hiring? If so, how can students and lawyers apply? We are always looking for talent, but we operate on a lean virtual model and we are not a law firm, so most of the talent we look for are people who are outstanding in tech and online marketing. 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, at mbidwell@mccullough.com.au

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