GOODBYE FIRM, HELLO OPPORTUNITY
18 April 2016, Written by Paris Faint
MANY lawyers relish the idea of going into bat for themselves to run their own practice and do business on their own terms.
Last month, veteran personal injury lawyer Kate Avery (pictured) made this dream a reality.
After leaving a senior associate position with Jensen McConaghy, Avery believes that the rewards from her new business far outweigh the risk she took when she decided to leave a stable job.
Avery was admitted in 1999 and has since worked in three different firms for both plaintiffs and defendants. She now acts solely for plaintiffs.
Brisbane Legal caught up with Avery to find out about the transition from firm life to flying solo, from the perks to the pains, and how she found the inspiration to make that initial leap into the uncertain.
What sparked the decision to go into business for yourself?
I have worked for some fabulous firms, and I really liked the firms I worked for, but I could see a real consolidation of plaintiff personal injury claims to three large players in the market. I knew about the background of how larger firms work with systems that can make the process very efficient, which is not necessarily a problem in itself, but it can remove the personal touch.
Overall I just felt the feedback I was getting indicated a space in the market to go back to the basics of having that personal approach of being able to ring up and speak to a solicitor, rather than going through the vetting process and having it outsourced to paralegals or junior solicitors, and then eventually overseen by a more experienced solicitor.
It's a bit of a conflict, because on the one hand personal injury litigation does lend itself to being process-driven, but at the end of the day it's also about people with injuries who are in a vulnerable situation, and they want to be able to talk to someone face to face.
What are the biggest pros and cons that come with flying solo?
From the perspective of disadvantages, so far I've found the trickiest thing to be managing without admin support when there's still a lot of big-picture things that I'm trying to figure out. With personal injuries there's such a big lead time for work in progress, because they are always taken on a speculative basis. So dealing with that has probably been the hardest, but on the flipside the benefit has been the flexibility.
I am working a lot more, but it's all on my terms. I have young children so I'm now able to pick them up from school and then work right up until after they have gone to sleep. That has been very good.
What has been the feedback so far from clients?
The feedback I'm getting is great, but it is difficult to hear sometimes because I really do understand it from both angles. There can be some level of distrust towards larger firms which doesn't come up a lot when you're able to see people face to face.
Are you looking to expand into a full firm?
I would like to expand. What I'm really looking at is getting other experienced solicitors on board rather than other paralegals and juniors, just to keep that personal touch.
Why did you choose personal injury law as a career?
The funny thing is I think it chose me. I'm from a state school in a little country town which was dominated by meatworks, and there is always a lot of personal injury claims that come out of the meatworks.
When I went for my first interview, I was really surprised that it wasn't dominated by the usual 'what school did you go to' or 'do you have any lawyers in the family,' instead it was 'do you know anybody who worked at the meatworks'.
At the time I thought that was really bizarre, but I understand why now. It's a cultural thing when you have come from that background. You understand that personal injuries do affect different demographics in different ways.
What's the biggest piece of advice for people wanting to branch out on their own?
Just do it. I think a lot of people think it's so incredibly risky, but there are ways of managing that risk. If people want to give it a go, I would say just go for it.
Author: Paris Faint