Tell us a little about By George Legal. How and when did it start? What's your niche?
We're Intellectual Property specialists and, in particular, we do brand protection and copyright work for market leading privately owned clients across a broad range of industries.
I primarily help people to protect their brand portfolios and use their brands without infringing on someone else's rights. We also get involved in contractual work and disputes and litigation when it comes up.
By George Legal was started by my business partner Georgina O'Farrell as a sole practice firm about five years ago, hence the firm's name. George and I were articled clerks together in a national firm years ago, and we both ended up in its IP department as junior lawyers. Over those years, we became good friends, and when George asked me to join her about two years ago, I decided to make the jump.
Since then, the firm has expanded, and we now have a team of eight, including ourselves, plus two senior associate lawyers, a trade marks attorney, two paralegals and our Office Manager. We also have exciting announcements in the wings about our ninth and tenth people. This growth has required us to move offices and upgrade our systems, which is where mattero came in. The last 24 months have been exciting for the firm.
What do you think is driving this growth?
Our client base is mostly made up of market-leading privately held businesses. However, in saying that, we do work for clients at either end of the scale, from start-ups right through to publicly listed companies. We support all industries, from retail to screen writers to restaurants to beauty. We work with everyone. It's also essential to cultivate a network of international lawyers to serve our clients effectively, and that has the added bonus of generating work that comes in the other way.
What do you love most about working in IP Law?
I like this type of law because you get to see a variety of industries, which is stimulating. I find the technical legal aspects of our work interesting and the dispute litigation can be really colourful. I enjoy helping people protect their life's work. IP is a form of commercial law and I sometimes ask myself about my contribution to the 'access to justice' side of being a lawyer, but I believe we deliver this when protecting a business that someone has dedicated their whole working life to building. If something goes wrong for that person or company, they find that stressful and they need our help.
What are some of the challenges you face?
One of the primary challenges is just keeping everything organised. Typically, our practice consists of a high volume of small files, each with multiple deadlines. Keeping on top of those, the information that comes in and working out where it needs to go, plus keeping track of costs . So we end up with an extensive to-do list that needs to be processed efficiently by different people at once.
How has mattero helped in the management of these files and tasks?
Prior to using mattero, we kept everything in shared file tree folders, which worked fine when just two or three of us were in the firm. But as the team grew, it became obvious that we needed a custom-made tool for lawyers. It wasn't possible to efficiently share our information using the fairly manual tools we had in the past. We also needed to consolidate our billing practices and document management into one system. To do this in an intuitive and easy to use practice management software service like mattero has been a vast improvement. I think it stacks up with everything I’ve ever used before and because it’s a single system, it’s actually better than some of the groaning old dinosaur things that are rusted in to some established firms. I’ve been really impressed with it.
Tell us how you found mattero and how does it help By George?
A more established small firm practitioner referred LawMaster to me, as he used it, and he swore by it. However, after speaking to your team, they suggested that mattero might be a better fit for our firm.
We were a digital firm with no paper files before we moved to mattero, but I've noticed that there has been a material improvement since we have started using mattero. It's far easier for one of our paralegals to identify the right file when a document comes in, and they can action it straight away. Everything is far more accessible and more efficient for us as a firm.
Are you involved in any activities outside of practising law but related to the profession?
By George keeps me pretty busy, but I am a Director of a Non-Profit organisation that runs community-based camps and programs here in Victoria. I spend most of my spare time involved in family activities and weekend sport. I also had a social life once and I haven’t completely given up on that!
Do you have any words of advice for lawyers who are setting up their own law firm or recently established law firms?
It's different for everyone, but when I decided to make the move, I ran the numbers to ensure that I could make a living in a firm where I had a voice in the decision-making process. I also wanted to work with someone I could trust and whose aspirations were similar to mine. The business George had started fitted the bill perfectly for me and that’s the key – you have to work out what’s right for you and then have the modest amount of courage that it takes to do whatever that is.
So I would recommend to anyone working in a larger firm that so long as they think they can make the living they need, the blessing about working in your own small firm and having control over your own business is that you start to feel like you’re winning at life. It can also be quite liberating to drop your hourly rate for clients because you have fewer overheads. When you have access to software like mattero that helps run a business without being prohibitively expensive, things start to come together very quickly. By George Legal is the best step I have ever made in my professional life.