By Legal Futures Associate Quill
Our tips for new law firm start ups continue with this ‘Starting a law firm: Lessons to survive your first year’ webinar follow up with guest speaker, entrepreneur and mum-of-three, Amy Roberts at Trafalgar Fiduciary Services. Discover what Amy has to say about setting up her business, juggling life and work, surviving a global pandemic, the vital role of software and outsourced cashiering support, and more…
In conversation with Amy Roberts
Having spent the early part of her career working for big corporate legal practices, and battling the daily frustrations this type of environment entails, Amy was motivated to branch out on her own.
“Working in large law firms demands tasks being done in a certain way,” explains Amy. “Plus, there’s red tape tying everything up. It’s wearing. I also felt as if clients just weren’t receiving good value and I had absolutely no control over this situation. On top of this, with two children, I wanted more flexibility with my workload and saw starting my own practice as a solution that worked for me.”
With that goal in mind, Amy knew there were steps she needed to take and solutions she needed to explore to make sure her leap to a new start up was a successful one.
One unforeseen occurrence, however, was the arrival of Covid-19. With Trafalgar Fiduciary Services only two years old at this time, Amy’s business could have found itself in a precarious position, especially as the majority of clients preferred to meet face to face pre-Covid. As it turned out, the pandemic impacted her business in a positive way.
“A large proportion of our caseload comprises wills,” adds Amy. “Predictably, the uptake of wills increased. I knew we were in uncharted waters when I was suddenly offering drive-through will signing to remain Covid-compliant! Either way, it showed me that people are adaptable to change and, more importantly, reminded me why I’d chosen to start my own law firm.
“By that time, we had a third child in the mix too, and having to home school and care for the children in the midst of coronavirus was not easy, but it helped that I had the flexibility to make my own hours and work as and when I needed to. I was guilty of sending emails late at night after the kids had gone to sleep, but at least I wasn’t missing out on these precious moments with them. I think I’m better with juggling work and family life now that the worst of Covid is over. Ultimately, you have to acknowledge that there are only so many hours in the day and you can’t bill them all.”
It was around this busy period that Amy decided to take stock of what was working and wasn’t working at her fledgling business, and reassess whether she was using her valuable time wisely.
“In the beginning, I was using Excel spreadsheets to log everything from time records to feed into bills and financial transactions to control my client account,” shares Amy. “After so many years of bootstrapping it, it was time for a change. I was spending way too much of my precious time trying to make this admin-heavy process work when what I really needed was something more slick that would work for my law firm. Looking back, I wish I’d chosen a software solution from the get-go, but at the time I needed to know I would have the income stream to support it, and in any event, I needed the business to operate for a while to identify what system I really needed.”
“I wanted a supplier that had the legal expertise, that I knew offered quality software and was local,” describes Amy. “Not only did Quill tick all the right boxes, but the cloud-based system worked effortlessly with my existing IT systems.
“Trafalgar went live with Quill’s software in December 2021, a month earlier than scheduled, and we use the software to record time, set up matters, invoice clients and extract reporting insights. All the management information is available at the click of a button. There’s simply no comparison to Excel. All of Quill’s employees are friendly and I love that their head office in Manchester is just a stone’s throw from my Southport office.”
With Quill firmly in situ, Amy saw the most time savings and value add when it came down to her firm’s fiscal calendar.
“January was the original date planned for migration,” states Amy. “The Quill team went all out to achieve an earlier conversion by transferring Excel data, and giving ‘front-end’ training in December to myself and Amanda, my assistant. This helped us immensely when we were undertaking month-end and end-of-quarter account. I’m sure it will make year-end accounts incorporating VAT submission less of a headache too.
“From demonstration to negotiation to migration to training to go live, I’ve been really impressed with Quill’s hands-on approach. Our team is navigating the software well, easily creating matters and our relationship with Quill staff is as strong as ever.
“In fact, we have also signed on to have Quill manage our legal cashiering. It’s another area of my business that I wouldn’t trust just anybody with, so I’m glad I simply deepened an existing relationship instead of adding someone new to the mix. I like that my legal cashier is seeing everything I’m seeing in the same system – all within Quill – and it saves me hours of time each week.”
Top tips for budding start ups
When asked for her advice to other businesspeople at start-up phase, Amy’s recommendations are clear.
“Have courage and do it, but know your market, know your pricing and know what will work,” concludes Amy. “Otherwise, too much money will disappear down the drain. You’ll come to rely on your professional relationships and it’s worth building relationships with key suppliers in the market, so invest in these. I also find that coffee and wine help!”