How my time as a barrister and M&A lawyer has shaped how I run a company

Laura Keily, Founder of Immediation

As a barrister of the Victorian Bar and with a legal career that has spanned over two decades, I’ve always been passionate about law. While I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur, my background and experience in corporate litigation laid the issues out clearly in front of me. 

I found that it was nearly impossible for anyone to navigate the court system unless they were an ASX-listed company or had enormous resources. The current methods of dispute resolution were no longer sustainable for the industry and access to justice for clients – especially for smaller businesses or those from lower socio-economic backgrounds – was moving further out of reach.  

I came to the realisation that the system, as it stands, was broken. I knew there had to be a better way and that there was an opportunity to do something about it. I didn’t find a way to solve the problem, I knew that someone else surely would.   What was worse was the prospect that no-one would. I just couldn’t live with that, because access to justice is denied if it cannot be afforded. 

The road to improvement is never straightforward

When it comes to success in building a start-up, I strongly believe in surrounding yourself with the best people that you can. It’s crucial that you have a cohesive team who are equally passionate about your goals and are strong enough to join you on what some would call a “bumpy ride”. 

The team we’ve created to drive dispute resolution at Immediation is exceptional. Yes, they have over 150 years of combined experience in the legal industry, which helps them to understand firsthand the issues we are aiming to overcome, but more importantly, they’ve helped to foster a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration. Yes, they have experience in business, in tech development, and in change manangement. But ultimately it’s the discretionary effort they put in that unites them. 

Experts in their own fields, together we’ve created a space that is welcoming of new ideas and skills. In doing so, we’ve cultivated an environment that allows the team to think outside the box to find creative solutions to modern-day problems. 

Focus is the key

Throughout my career, I’ve negotiated high value and cross-border acquisitions, takeovers and various schemes of arrangement. I’ve learned analytical, people and persuasive skills, advocacy, agility and extreme diligence. The skills learned in the high-stakes situations I’ve faced as a barrister and M&A lawyer have helped me grow Immediation to the point it is today. From raising both capital and awareness of the issues to developing a technology platform and constantly pitching or selling the idea of your platform, the entrepreneurship journey is not always a pretty one. As such, I believe the road to success is perseverance, attention to detail, teamwork – and a lot of passion, energy and commitment.  

Developing a legal tech platform, we are acutely aware of the significant responsibility we carry in regards to the people and businesses that use our platform. It’s crucial that the reality of the platform meets – and exceeds – our users’ expectations of justice.  That obligation is much heavier in this context than in any normal piece of technology. In most technology, even legal technology, it is not such high stakes. Most legal technology to date helps an existing process go faster for one user. Immediation is different as we have designed an entirely new ecosystem for dispute resolution between more than one party.  Disputes are a profoundly human problem with vast and far-reaching consequences- and the fast, accessible resolution of them is a very complicated endeavour. Done well, it appears simple. The Immediation platform appears to the user to be an intuitive and easy solution to a complex problem. However, building such a solution that works for all users in such a scenario is far from simple.  

It’s a high-pressure experience I’m very familiar with, having learned to perform under pressure at Slaughter and May in London. It was here I first learned to really go the extra mile, and consistently deliver beyond expectations, even beyond the expectations of a regular top tier or magic circle firm.  This experience was solidified as a barrister on my feet in court. 

As a barrister I ran my first small business, setting my pathway as a Founder. In order to succeed I set rigorous KPIs and goals to help shape the road towards consistent growth. I outline my goals and the aims for the business from the outset and check back in on them regularly. It’s an important step in ensuring I meet my own expectations, as well as those of our users, investors and team.

It took me more than 20 years as both a lawyer and a barrister to realise that I was ready to lead a wave of change within the legal industry. In doing so, I’ve realised that the role we play in advocating for justice in law, extends beyond the walls of the court. We have the opportunity to solve a genuine challenge for the legal industry. It’s my experience within the industry that highlighted the issues in the dispute resolution process, and it’s the skills I’ve gained throughout my career, that will help our team to solve it.

You can read more about my entrepreneurial journey and approach to innovation and success in the start-up world in Anna Lozynski’s ‘New Age Lawyers’ E-book via the following link: https://bit.ly/2Kyqyqk.

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