Lakey Family Law
“Successful lawyers in family law are those that can combine empathy and kindness with strategic and practical advice – which is often not what a client wants to hear. Whilst some very aggressive lawyers make a lot of money, I do not think that this makes them successful lawyers.” Annette Lakey chose to challenge the traditional law firm model in order to achieve the best results for clients, and she has now established her own boutique law and divorce firm in Malvern.
After becoming frustrated with the pressure placed on lawyers with large budgets whilst working with people anxious about their financial future and struggling to cope with family breakdown, and seeing escalating legal costs pushing people into self-representation, I felt like I wanted to offer a more flexible service, with a focus on mediation and collaboration.
I am an Accredited Family Law Specialist and I recently established my own boutique family law and divorce firm in Malvern.
I have practiced in this extremely challenging and emotional area of law since 1995 in both Victoria and Queensland. Having been involved in litigation for so many years I also felt that a focus more on mediation and collaboration was, in my experience, normally the most effective way of assisting with the resolution of family law matters. Sadly, this approach does not fit well with the traditional law firm model where profit was often put before helping our clients to avoid going to court.
What would you say is the recipe for success in your sector?
Successful lawyers in family law are those that can combine empathy and kindness with strategic and practical advice – which is often not what a client wants to hear. Whilst some very aggressive lawyers make a lot of money, I do not think that this makes them successful lawyers. Being able to offer each client the individual attention and support they need through the often long journey of family law issues, and a client being okay on the other side, is what I aim to achieve for every one of my clients.
Often attending at a lawyer’s office is an intimidating and anxious experience for clients and I wanted to make the whole experience much easier to deal with on all levels. Working from a virtual office, I am able to meet my clients at any time that suits them, at a location that suits them.
What has been your proudest moment in business?
I was lucky enough that many of my clients from my previous firm followed me to my new practice, but receiving my first word of mouth referral from a client was definitely a very rewarding experience and made me think that just maybe this may work.
What mistake have you learned from?
My biggest mistake was not being more organised, and spending too much of my day on administrative tasks that would be best delegated to others, in the quest to reduce overheads to keep my prices reasonable. I used to always have secretarial support in my career, and losing that support and taking on the administrative tasks, apart from having a regular pay check, has been the most challenging area of being self-employed.
What has been your biggest sacrifice in the business?
Speaking of a regular pay check, my biggest sacrifice thus far has been to learn to give up a comfortable salary with security of tenure, for the risky proposition of being a self-employed lawyer. I do not have the financial support of another to assist me and it this risk of failure and financial ruin that not only terrifies me but pushes me to succeed in business.
Given what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Ideally I would have not started my business until I could afford some administrative assistance, but starting on a shoestring means sometimes having to take on tasks that would ideally be delegated. I am hoping that soon I will be in a position to delegate to give me more time achieve the work/life balance that I would like to achieve, and to also spend more time building up my mediation practice
What have you learned about yourself?
Since starting my own business, I have found that I am much more resourceful than I had thought I was, as is my determination to succeed and make things better for my clients.
Who would you most like to employ in your business?
I hope that in the future I will be able to employ a fantastic junior lawyer and legal assistant. I would also hope one day to be able to employ a marketing guru to assist with the marketing of my business.
Best piece of advice to other business owners?
My best piece of advice thus far is to take the leap. Self-doubt almost stopped me from following my dream. I figure that unless you try you will never succeed, and I want to give this my best shot as I know I am able to offer an excellent cost effective and flexible service to my clients, and build up the work/life balance that I have dreamed of achieving.