September 14, 2021
UPDATE: Since writing this blog in 2021, Julie Alchin has been promoted from Senior Associate to Partner and runs one of our Commercial teams.
What would you say to other senior lawyers who are thinking about joining Law 365 but may have concerns about specialising?
I did have reservations about specialising, because I was working in general commercial and had a lot of variety… different things every day, different clients, the full spectrum…So I was concerned about working for just IT businesses – but of course it’s more specialist than that, it’s just Microsoft businesses!
But actually the minute you start you realise that you’re doing similar types of agreements but you’re just honing in your skills in a particular area. So instead of being “jack of all trades” you’re “master of one” – the IT sector and the Microsoft world.
I really like that there’s much more commercial emphasis because we’re more heavily involved in the businesses we work with. These are all great skills to learn or develop and you don’t really have that in private practice.
What’s it like working for Microsoft Partners?
If you’re used to working in a traditional law firm, with traditional clients, you will be more familiar with an “old school” (more formal) approach. IT clients are a different breed. They’re easier to talk to and to develop a relationship with.
A lot of my previous clients were very traditional. They often came from family-owned businesses and had been using the same law firm for generations. Their companies were hierarchical, their CEO was put up on a pedestal, and they often wanted their lawyers to mirror that structure.
It’s simply not like that in the IT world. Everyone is approachable. There may be some hierarchy in titles, but there’s no façade, no superiority, and no stuffiness. The CFO or the CEO will treat you as an equal. The structure is still there, but there’s a different attitude – you’re part of the team.
Working in IT the attitude is very much, “We all work together, we work as a team. We may all have our separate responsibilities but we all want the same thing and share the same goal.”
IT clients are more modern, more open to change. In fact, change is what they do! It’s their bread and butter. They’ve got to be responsive because IT and communications change on a daily basis. They have to adapt to survive.
It’s the way forward, I think. We saw what happened this year…more traditional businesses went into a panic in response to the COVID pandemic because they didn’t know how to adapt to survive.
Does the subscription pricing model improve your relationship with your clients?
I don’t think it’s just about the pricing, but it certainly helps.
In general, our business model reflects our Microsoft Partners’ businesses which starts the relationship off on the right foot. We already understand Microsoft and the work they do. We don’t expect to be put on a pedestal as their lawyers, instead our style is to pitch in and act as part of their team. We want to help them so they can thrive. We want to get to know their business and to be approachable.
That said, I think our clients are much more willing to reach out and contact us because of the subscription model because they don’t have to worry that the call is going to cost them X pounds, it’s simply part of the service.
My current role requires me to be more proactive. In a non-subscription relationship, you still have responsibility for your clients but ultimately the buck stops with the Partner.
At Law 365, we believe in being proactive, if clients aren’t using their credits Kim wants us to reach out with ideas for how they can get more from the subscription relationship and be prepared for what’s ahead. In a traditional law firm, you’re more reactive, often stepping in once things go wrong to deal with a problem, instead of preventing the problem from arising in the first place.
Is there a career path at Law 365?
Yes. I think the structure at Law 365 is very appealing to a certain type of person. i.e. Someone who wants a work / life balance. For me, my priority was to be happy, to feel fulfilled and energized at work. I think that having a title doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy and enjoying your work.
In the past I’ve worked in places where it was made clear that progression would be limited for those who worked part-time. That’s very much the old law firm approach. Firms do try to say the right things, but the reality is, as a working mum who isn’t committed full-time, your ability to be promoted and rise the ranks is restricted. Why? Because of the traditional attitudes, and unfortunately, sexist views…
Whereas at Law 365 we’re very flexible because the whole ethos is around work / life balance – here it’s celebrated rather than being seen as a hindrance… and we all support each other in making sure that we have that balance.
Do you think working with forward-thinking, progressive IT clients makes it easier to achieve work/life balance?
To be honest, in my experience it wasn’t ever really an issue for the clients. I was able to manage my clients’ expectations so they knew I wouldn’t be available on my non-working day, and they knew who to contact if they needed something. I think there is a traditional law firm mentality, you have such old attitudes because the majority of Partners and high ranking people are men, and there’s no reason to change a model that’s working for them.
At Law 365, we work much more as a team, supporting each other and also the clients if their point of contact isn’t available.
So, is working for a female-led law firm different?
Kim comes from the kind of traditional law firm environment that we all [at Law 365] want to change. She’s made it clear from the outset that she wants the firm to be a hospitable place for people who have other interests outside work – whether that’s kids or mountain biking or reading a novel. So we’re a diverse bunch and are all better off for the fact that we’re not living and breathing the law.
She sets the expectation with our clients that her lawyers are her top KPI and makes it clear to them where the boundaries lie i.e. We’re not available 24/7, the relationship must be respectful etc. In return, she demands really excellent client service from all her team and we aim to respond to client queries within 10 minutes, a response time that I suspect is unparalleled. The standards of the traditional law firm are there, and I would like to say are even higher, but we know she has our backs and we’re more than a source of income.
Do you have enough variety of work?
There are things I’m not doing now… but at the same time I’m learning other skills here, like the commercial realities of the business, negotiation, learning how to deal with people, things like creating the Playbooks. You learn different skills, don’t you? You adapt.
Why should Senior Lawyers consider Law 365?
Lawyers are often reluctant to give proper advice and are encouraged to sit on the fence, whereas at Law 365 we will say, “We suggest you do it this way…” We take ownership and responsibility for what we’re saying. We’re able to do that, because we have the specialist knowledge and expertise in the industry.
And finally, why is Law 365 the go-to firm for Microsoft Partners?
Oh my, there are so many reasons! Where do I start?
First of all, we’re a pleasure to deal with! Really. People are usually reluctant to contact solicitors, because they know it’s going to cost them a fortune…whereas, because of the model we’ve adopted, we’re not a distressed purchase. Lawyers are so often a distressed purchase! You’re only using them because you have to…
Instead, we’re heavily involved with the business and they can see the value we’re giving them. We’re their business advisors. We’re helping negotiate contracts. We help grow their business.
I think Law 365 is changing the perception of what a lawyer’s role is for our customers. We don’t charge by the minute, so nobody has to clock-watch and the client doesn’t have to worry about the cost if things take longer than expected.
We’re contactable and easy to work with because we’re using all the latest Microsoft technology, getting the most out of Teams, document sharing etc. And, when it comes to the Microsoft world, we’re absolutely more knowledgeable and experienced.
Does this sound interesting? We're hiring!!
Find out more, and submit your CV, here https://www.law365.co/team-law365/careers/senior-associate-commercial