When I set up Azrights back in 2004/5 it was after a few years bringing up my daughters. I had no existing client base so I built it from the ground up.
Luckily, I discovered a love for entrepreneurship which saw me through the extremely steep learning curve to develop my marketing and business skills. The IP work I’d done before had been for big blue chip companies whose needs and focus are very different to that of SMEs. As SMEs were my target clients. I had to discover their needs, and learn how to communicate to them.
In due course my ambitions for the business soon had me renting a big office and recruiting a team to fill it. The only trouble was that the role of managing the office fell on me as the owner of the business. Yet I need flexibility and freedom, and found the need to supervise an office felt like having a job all over again.
I made the best of it for years although I increasingly felt like a slave to this monster I had created. I dreamt of growing the business quickly - to a size where it would be feasible to pay a highly experienced manager to run the office. In my mind’s eye it would be easy for someone else to step in to fill my shoes, leaving me free to work flexibly from home.
A couple of years ago, it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to reach my goals by staying on the path I’d embarked on. The lifestyle was not one I enjoyed or wanted. I needed to make some radical changes in the business.
Virtual Legal Life
So, when an opportunity presented itself to downsize the office, I took it because I didn’t want to be chained to an office anymore. I gave up our main office with the idea of becoming a virtual law firm.
The ensuing 18 months involved quite a transition. Initially it all felt great. I knew I would lose a few team members who wouldn’t want to work from home. But for those who were open to home working it struck me as a suitable way to operate. Azrights would provide all equipment, and as legal work doesn’t need team collaboration with much of the work being done in a solitary way, we would be fine. After all we’re connected online by email, Skype, phone etc. There was our meeting room too where we could meet physically.
However, in practice I’ve realised that while things work fine with the business the size it now is, to grow the firm will involve getting a team together in a physical workplace. Filling paralegal and more junior roles with virtual workers is not easy. They find it unappealing to work from home. Many of them want the social life that working in an office provides. So, for now I’ve chosen not to replace paralegals who left and instead restructured the way we work to reduce the role of the paralegal.
I found freelancers with specialised skills such as in operating Dynamics CRM, so that now tasks like file opening, filing, and many client related admin matters are dealt with by them instead of paralegals. Surprisingly, I realised there was only limited legal work left that paralegals had previously dealt with. I had been employing 3-4 paralegals, partly because I kept a larger team than I needed, just so we could grow quickly.
Working remotely has allowed me to attract a wider pool of quality talent from far and wide, some of whom work on occasional projects, while others are more regularly involved in the business and are making a big difference to its future success.
I use solicitor consultants with particular specialisms, so when their skills are needed by a client’s matter, they either support me in the background, or they work directly with the client depending on the project. One of the biggest upsides to this new way of working is the amount of my time it has freed up now I no longer need to go into an office every day.
At long last I’ve managed to finish a project I had been trying to get done for years. I’ve created the Legally Branded Academy Online course which my separate business Azrights International will be providing shortly.
Growing Azrights Solicitors
I’ve still got plenty of ambition. Let’s see if I can grow the Azrights Solicitors business in a different way to how I approached it in the past.
I still firmly believe you need the right team around you as that’s crucial to success. However, hopefully now that I have structured the business to suit remote working, and have created online courses so we can provide a more complete suite of products and services, Azrights Solicitors will be able to attract that rare entrepreneurial solicitor to help drive the business forward. They could ultimately recruit a team and get a physical office space too.
For me personally the changes in the business these past 18 months have been the best thing I could have done. The business hasn't suffered, although it hasn’t grown either. I’ve had time to develop an online course at Azrights International Ltd which had always been the missing link in our IP offerings.
Everything I've learnt about entrepreneurship tells me that the mindset and attitude of the business owner is crucial to success. So, now that I’ve taken care of my own needs, let’s see if the firm can attract that rare solicitor who will be able to help me grow the business and drive it forward. Of course, if you know anyone who might be interested in the challenge, or if you’re interested then email me at [email protected]
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