Interview | Nicole Billett (Teddington Legal)
Nicole Billett is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Teddington Legal. It is Nicole’s desire to develop and lead a diverse network of talented lawyers to provide commercially sound, outcome-focused legal solutions to businesses and their owners. Nicole’s purpose is to create an environment where entrepreneurial lawyers can provide great value, pragmatic, commercial legal solutions to the small and medium-size enterprise sector.
Michael Bidwell (TLF) was very fortunate to ask Nicole some questions about her amazing career so far!
What do you think are some of the positives and negatives of running a virtual legal practice?
The positives are that the model services both the needs of lawyers and clients. We have found that lawyers, and particularly younger lawyers, want much more flexibility around how they drive their careers. They don’t want to be boxed in and be one dimensional, they are multi-faceted and want to be free enough to explore other sides of themselves and what it means to be a lawyer. I met a fascinating young lawyer who works 3 days a week for a major bank in compliance and then 2 days a week with a manufacturing business as an industrial designer. How wild is that? What excited me was because he has this whole other interest and skill set in industrial design, he comes at legal problems with a design thinking mentality. So rather than splitting his focus, I believe it actually improves his legal abilities and he gets variety and fulfilment in his professional life.
For clients, they are much more sophisticated and informed today and know what parts of the value chain can be automated, outsourced or done more cost effectively and don’t want to pay for highly educated humans to perform tasks they know don’t add value. By having a virtual practice with a network of lawyers working to their strengths and providing value-added client outcomes, means both sides benefit and personally I love the win win aspect of that.
Hmmmmm negatives…….well the legal industry is still quite conservative and sometimes the idea of utilising technology and pushing the envelope with the style of delivery for legal services, does not sit well with the more traditional members of the fraternity. And difference or change can be really confronting for some folk who fear and maybe question the future because they can’t see how they fit into the new environment. I see it as our responsibility to help them understand how they can be part of new law and delivery legal services in the currently business environment.
How did you get into your current position at Teddington Legal and what has really prompted you to stay for nearly six years so far?
I own Teddington with my husband Mark Gardiner who is the Legal Director. I’m not a lawyer, my career has been in strategy and marketing; together we come at solving legal problems from two different perspectives. Whilst we have different skills sets we have the same philosophy of being customer centric. When you put the customer in the centre of the solution you’re providing, you are half way to meeting your goal. So, you could say I got my position as CEO of who I knew…… but when we decided that we really wanted to grow the business, it seemed logical as I couldn’t give the legal advice, that I would take the CEO position. Seeing the business grow, developing the clear client proposition and brand and watching our network lawyers thrive, has kept me interested for the past 6 years.
I see on your website that clients can choose the level of involvement with their lawyer up to essentially having their own in-house legal counsel. How does this work from your end ensuring you have enough staff to advise clients who request lower involvement?
We’re very responsive to client needs, one of the benefits of the model. Another benefit of the model is that the network lawyers are not employed, we revenue share, so we can resource up in accordance with client needs. These clients would not be 100% of any lawyers’ client group so we can balance the workload that way.
You were a Non Executive Director of DV NSW from 2013-2015 advocating for improved responses to domestic and family violence. I want to firstly thank you for being part of a fantastic organisation and also ask what the most rewarding experience was for you?
Thank you. It was quite an honour sitting on the board of DVSM NSW. What I loved about it was that when the organisation was separating from the Peak Body and was going to focus purely on the service delivery, it went out and sourced corporate women to sit on the board to complement the existing team of professionals navigate a turbulent landscape of funding changes. This organisation has been run by tireless women committed to creating safe retreats for families suffering with domestic violence. So to be able to bring my area of experience that I had gained over my career, into a new environment in order to help them achieve their goals was very rewarding.
What is your ‘legal forecast’ for the rest of 2018? How will the practise of law continue to change?
Law will continue to evolve, more and more lawyers will make the choice to do things differently, less and less will see the only path to satisfaction is that of 100-hour work weeks and a myopic focus of partnership. I think the Partnership model will continue to come under stress with the requirement to trim costs, outsource repetitive non-value elements, and provide greater value to clients. Clients will continue to drive towards frictionless relationships with their lawyers.
What advice would you give to graduates and early career professionals?
My advice would be to really challenge why they want a career in law. If they think it’s for the glamour and see themselves as the next Harvey Spectre or Alicia Florrick, they may need to rethink it. But if they enjoy problem solving and looking for creative solutions that are actually going to help someone make better decisions then I would recommend they get experience and learn as much as they can about their potential client’s environments. In our case, we deal with businesses and their owners, so all of our lawyers need to have an interest in business, be interested in what the client is trying to achieve, understand the language and the landscape and be inspired to use their legal skills to add value to the client’s business.
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