Ines Brcic, principal of Melbourne Law Studio, knew at nine years old she wanted to be a lawyer. Since striking out with her own firm, she has been fired up to do well, and help her clients achieve their goals. Insights spoke to Ines about what sets her firm apart, being recognised as a Client Choice Awards finalist, and the love/hate relationship many lawyers have with the law.
Finding the courage to ask what clients really think
Ines credits her success with finding the courage to ask clients what they really thought of her firm’s services.
“Finding the courage to publicly ask clients what they thought of us, through FirmChecker, resulted in an overwhelmingly positive and supportive response,” said Ines. “We honestly could not have imagined that our efforts were not only recognised, but appreciated so much. It is true that you get out what you put in and we are absolutely relentless when it comes to improving the client experience, our ways of working and generally achieving happiness and satisfaction across the board.”
This comes down to taking a holistic approach to delivering legal services, one that revolves less around the firm setting the rules of engagement.
“We give clients direct access to real people they can talk to with skills that go beyond just academic knowledge,” explained Ines. “We have also embraced the fixed fee model; it's difficult to go back once you understand the real benefit of it. Our recipe for success is quite simple: be open about costs and do your job.”
Building trust and genuine working relationships with clients can be more complex.
“It requires self-awareness, constant reflection and the setting of goals based on what your clientele think is good service, not the firm’s view of what the client should be happy with,” observed Ines.
Career in law a rewarding ‘love/hate relationship’
While many lawyers enter the law aspiring to help people, Ines acknowledges its rewards often extend more broadly.
“Being a lawyer is rewarding in a way that is difficult to explain beyond the general ‘we love helping people’ platitude,” observed Ines. “As lawyers we have a love/hate relationship with the job. Perhaps we are not alone in this, but we are a particular type of person who, for one reason or another, thrives in the environment this industry has created for us and even when we think we have had enough – we cannot imagine leaving it.”
Moving from working for others to founding and running her own firm has brought a new dimension to her work.
“I found out what it actually means to be inspired when I started Melbourne Law Studio,” said Ines. “Before, I worked as a lawyer and I went through the motions. Now, I have a fire in me to do well, be well and help others achieve their goals too. I am dedicated to improving not just my own experience and life in law, but the experiences of others. I am proud to see how far we have come as an industry and I look forward to being a part of the movement which is changing the way we work and think of legal services.”
“For me, the challenges brought on by each new day are what keep me interested and what give me genuine enjoyment professionally. I have always been career focused and I have ‘met my match’ in law. One of the wonderful things is that, because I enjoy it, I am happy to take the worry and stress away from clients and let them focus on what is important to them whilst I do what is important to me – it’s a good deal, I think!”
Mastering the difference between being a lawyer and business owner
Establishing her own firm has driven home the importance of understanding - and mastering - the differences between being a good lawyer and good business owner.
“There is a difference between striving to make partner within your firm and going out on your own,” observed Ines. “Irrespective of which you are pursuing, one thing is for certain – it’s not for everyone. For many lawyers, partnership is the validation of all their hard work, but being a lawyer and being a business owner are two very different things. Essentially, there are three separate areas of the business to manage - the clients, the finances and of course, the job of being a lawyer.”
For lawyers looking to rise up or break out, Ines said it’s important to start by asking others for honest feedback about your strengths and weaknesses.
“I don’t think that we are always honest with ourselves and we may have a difficult time admitting the things we need to work on,” said Ines. “Getting a business coach would be a great way to kick off the planning process and I’m a big believer in networking and seeking out support and guidance. There is nothing to be ashamed of when you are working towards your goals. People are much kinder than we give them credit for so just ask for help.”
Equally important is understanding that clients should lie at the centre of all our business models.
“It all begins and ends with the client,” said Ines. “By giving clients the chance to speak and provide feedback, we are saying that what they have to say matters. At the end of the day, clients will have their say. It may not happen overnight but one way or another, each business faces the consequences of their practice. So, we can either engage in conversations about how to improve, or alternatively, continue to suffer the consequences as a profession. I think this is what all the Client Choice Awards finalists understand.”
“At Melbourne Law Studio, we always start with the client’s perspective. We work to understand them, their matter and the result they seek. We also appreciate that conversations about money may seem taboo in an industry that is quite opaque when it comes to its billing practices,” added Ines. “Of course clients should know what the price of the work is. Every other industry is clear on this. It doesn’t matter if it is an individual or a company; businesses are just as cost conscious. We should accept that transparency is not a word to be thrown around but a principle to be embraced and practiced daily.”
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