Tell us a little about Tempest Legal. How and when did it start? What's your niche?
I started Tempest Legal just over a month ago, so it's very new. Why did I start my firm? I studied law as a mature student and have previously run my own business, so I enjoy the autonomy and challenge of operating a business.
As the principal solicitor, I intend to practice law incorporating my workplace preferences, and this is much easier to do when I run the firm and define the culture and practices.
We focus on Criminal Law, Child Protection, Family Law and Domestic Violence. Many people who walk through that door with an issue relating to one of these areas often find they have problems relating to the other areas as well, so they are deeply intertwined.
Why did you decide to study law as an adult student?
My first degree is a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours majoring in philosophy. I wrote a thesis on "The rights of children who have not yet been conceived by way of assisted reproductive technology", and a small part of this work intertwined with the law. So, there was a little bit of law that crept into my philosophy thesis even though I didn't see it coming.
My wife is a lawyer, and she was a couple of years ahead of me, so I had a little bit of insight into what a law degree would entail. I was ready for the challenge.
What are some of the challenges you faced setting up your own business?
It's exciting and terrifying in equal measure. Making decisions is the biggest challenge, especially when you go it alone and you don't have someone to bounce ideas off. As lawyers, we have many additional obligations that other businesses don't have to deal with, such as the compliance relating to trust accounting. Thankfully mattero helps with this aspect.
The other thing relating to challenges is how Covid has impacted the legal profession. It has changed how people have had to practice some areas of law, particularly opening an actual physical office. Some thought I was crazy. But I live out in the countryside, so I needed a central office location, and this one is right next to court, which is very convenient. But in saying that, there is not as much guidance to opening a law firm post-Covid. For example, before Covid, people didn't have all the extra technology obligations when opening a law firm that they do now. Now, you must have your tech ready on day one!
Tell us how you found mattero and how is it helping?
Covid pushed everyone online for their social interaction, and I'm a member of a couple of Facebook groups for women who are lawyers, barristers, and legal students. There was much commentary about how the legal profession operated for sole practitioners who work from home. The discussion centred around what technology was helpful to them and what they could do if they were looking to run a paperless office. People fell into four key groups: one being the mattero subculture fan club. I needed a solution that works for a sole practitioner but will also work for a boutique to small size firm and wouldn't be price prohibitive as we grow.
The free trial offered by mattero was very appealing to me. Instead of having someone show me everything their system could do, mattero lets me try it out for myself. If I can work out how to use the software myself, that speaks highly of how readily I will train my staff in the future.
One of the things I loved during that trial period was finding everything in mattero so easily. Another great feature was that if you try mattero and don't like it, it is straightforward to download the information you have entered. The other thing I like is how customisable it is. I am pretty competent using a computer, so setting up my templates and adding all of the extra fields I want for each practice area is very helpful to me. Not many lawyers do Child Protection work, and legal software doesn't always cater for that type of matter, but mattero allows me to build a whole suite of customisable fields for this practice area.
Are you involved in any activities outside of practising law but related to the profession?
Well, I am extremely busy with the setup of my firm, but I do volunteer for the Women's Legal Service, providing legal advice to women in rural and remote areas via telephone. Before I started practising law, I was an academic for about five years, and I am still involved in some University programs. I mentor upcoming law students through the Griffith University Industry Mentoring Program, which I find incredibly fulfilling, and I highly recommend that more people do that. They are crying out for women, especially criminal lawyers, to participate in this mentoring program. I dedicate the remainder of my free time to our two little miniature Dachshunds, who play flyball on the weekend.
Do you have any words of advice for lawyers who would like to go out on their own and set up a practice?
The advice I would give is not to wait, hoping for the right time to start. Do your research, and then do it. Make as many friends in the legal community as you can. There is a wealth of knowledge out there, and so many people are ready to share it with you, including recommendations for legal tech. My networking pointed me in the direction of mattero, and it has really paid off.