Reflections on starting our business
When we decided to start a business with a mission to keep women working in the legal field, on a high level, and on their own terms, my friend Stacey and I had a laundry list of things we didn’t have going for us. For starters, though professionals with careers we took pride in, neither of us had endeavored to run a legal services business before. We were in two different parts of the country, in different time zones, complicating our daily work schedules and ability to work together in person. We didn’t have offices, and we both had taken time off to raise our young children. Doubts loomed. Did we have any business going into this business? Could we turn this idea into something successful? Would people embrace our mission? Would our friendship survive the transition into business partners?
In other words, what could possibly go right?
As it turns out, a lot. For one, we recognized that a few stars were aligned in our favor. With both of us carving out a home office, we had no major expenditures to get us off the ground. This meant that we could grow the business at an organic pace, easing the pressure on both of us. Thanks to Stacey’s legal background, we had enough contacts to make our initial networking possible. And, perhaps the key to it all, we had a strong belief in our mission. In fact, we were our mission— women who had left the conventional working life for other pulls, with a strong desire to have to a meaningful career, but with the imperative of having flexibility at this stage of the game.
Our model was simple. We knew that too many great lawyers leave law, often permanently, because of lack of flexibility. We wanted to remedy that. We already had a small group of people through Stacey’s contacts. We knew we could grow from there to create a network of stellar attorneys looking to do the kind of challenging, high-quality work that is usually only afforded to those working full time in law firms, and find them clients who would provide this work, and let them do it remotely. And to make it all come together, we needed to do two things successfully: find great lawyers and connect them with great clients. And we needed lawyers first.
But were they out there?
They were. And they were many. The abundance of lawyers who had bowed out of Big Law because of the constraints put on their autonomy, or for the choice they were forced to make between family and career, were indeed out there. And within a few months, we had a strong cadre of attorneys whose credentials, work ethic, and life stories impressed and inspired us. We knew then that we were on the right track, that our mission was resonating.
Now the tricky part: cultivating a client base. For this, we drew on our collective experience in law (Stacey) and in marketing, as well as some time spent navigating the life of a freelancer (me). This gave us a framework and a place to start. And while neither one of us gravitated toward self-promotion, we had a mission we believed in so much that pitching our lawyers and our company felt a lot like advocacy.
It was this sense of purpose and a lucky mix of mining contacts and casting a wide net of outreach that landed us our first few clients. And soon after that, we put our first lawyer to work. It is with unabashed pride that I can say that this client and lawyer are still happily working together. And those two are not alone. One thing we have learned over the last year is that we are pretty good at putting people together. We know our lawyers well. And we like them. We also endeavor to understand our clients and their needs. And because of our hands-on approach, and the community we try to foster, we have been able to create true partnerships between our network and the clients they serve. We like where it is all going.
But we recognize there is more work to be done.
The legal world is often slow to change and we understand that our business model challenges the norms of how legal practice looks through a traditional lens. We recognize that our mission is a cultural as well as a business one. And not everyone gets it, or appreciates it. It can be an uphill battle. And that’s okay too. We are heartened by the response we've gotten and the many firms and companies who are innovative and forward looking. Again, we like where it is all going.
Kristin Lim is the co-founder of The A.L.T. Group, an exclusive network of high-achieving attorneys.