When Louise Bedsor and Sarah Brady set out to start their own legal practice, they did so with an ambitious mission: to create a firm designed to make clients feel like family, particularly as they worked through their most personal issues. Based in their home town of Gympie, L S Lawyers is an all-female law firm which allows clients to contact its lawyers after hours via Facebook Messenger, make appointments online, and in so doing, resolve matters faster. Insights spoke to Sarah and Louise about what motivated them to start L S Lawyers, and how they overcame the challenges of establishing a firm from scratch.
A firm that answers you via Facebook messenger – after hours
“We wanted to offer a different approach to the provision of legal services in Gympie,” said Sarah. “We saw an opportunity to take a modern and digitally focused approach, particularly in the Gympie legal services market.”
To do so, they invested heavily in their online presence and social media. This allowed L S Lawyers to be accessible to clients after hours and on weekends.
“We appreciate that nights or weekends may be the first chance someone may have to sit down and search for a lawyer. Our clients can contact us through Facebook messenger after hours; we respond as quickly as possible. We also allow clients to make an online booking through our website at any time.”
For both women, the timing was right to start their own firm. Both had established strong reputations as lawyers in Gympie, and Sarah, who was returning to work from maternity leave, wanted more flexibility to suit her young family.
“One of the main ways L S Lawyers is unique is that we are the faces of the business,” said Sarah. “We like to show who we are as people, rather than just rely on the business branding. We see ourselves as the business. We want people to get to know us even before they come to see us, so they can get a feel for whether we are the right lawyers for them.
“Our office is also a point of difference as it has a very modern, earthy feel so that our clients feel comfortable and at ease, which is quite different to the traditional law office.”
Role models for a male-dominated profession
Both lawyers described the Gympie legal profession as being ‘traditionally male-dominated’, though this is changing.
“We’ve been pleased to see an increase in the representation of female practitioners in Gympie over the past 10 years,” said Louise. “We see the fact that we are an all-female law firm as a point of difference, and it has been a focus of our marketing strategy.”
As an all-female firm, they hope to be role models for other women in regional areas.
“We want to show, through hard work and persistence, that it is possible to create your own opportunities. It’s immensely satisfying to resolve legal issues for clients to help them move on, or to assist clients with important life events such as buying their first home. It’s what we’re most passionate about.”
A law firm built by family
“Starting a firm from the ground up is most definitely challenging,” said Louise. “One of the toughest aspects was the fit out. We did a lot of the physical work– like paint jobs - personally, or with the help of family members. This kept our start-up costs much lower that we had originally anticipated.”
Sarah and Louise also sought advice from experienced business people on almost every aspect of their business – even on seemingly minor issues, such as where to source a photocopier. This not only kept costs low but saved time.
Planning for success
Sarah completed the College of Law’s Practice Management course prior to founding the firm.
“The College of Law’s course was a great help during the early planning phase, and as an ongoing point of reference. Preparing the business plan helped us focus on what was critical to the establishment and ongoing viability of the practice. We focused on structure, marketing, financial management and risk management. We still revisit our business plan to make sure we are not losing focus on those critical issues and add to it as new ideas and plans evolve.”