“Let it go” at Hive

Have you ever wondered why the song ‘Let it go’ from the Disney film Frozen resonates with many women? Is the idea of releasing our power appealing (even when there are serious consequences – as in the film)? Is it because some of the lyrics remind us of our own experiences? As lawyers, do we relate to feeling confined and controlled – oppressed by old fashioned expectations of the perfect (girl) lawyer? [Be the good girl you always have to be].

Lawyers are knowledge workers, but the inflexibility of traditional law firms with their narrow range of acceptable work practices can stifle our creativity and prevent us from performing at our best [Conceal don’t feel]. At Hive Legal we want our lawyers to regain their love of practising law and our clients to receive the benefits of that.

We believe that empowering and enabling the intellectual and emotional capital of knowledge workers through our contemporary model will lead to better quality outcomes for clients and a more natural and sustainable work environment for our team [Can’t hold it back anymore].

What we have done is started with a clean slate and designed a firm for today and the future that does not shackle lawyers to desks and timesheets [The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all]. We believe in working anytime anywhere NOT working all the time everywhere.

I have been asked to write about how Hive Legal is different to other law firms. I think the main source of difference is that we have challenged ourselves to rethink some of the practices and beliefs that can seem embedded in traditional firm culture [It’s time to see what I can do – to test the limits and break through]. Below we have set out some of the points of contrast.

Traditional – Flexible working is sub optimal
Hive Legal: Flexible working is both optimised and optimal. Happy people do better work. Our secure workspace and home office set up have been specifically designed to facilitate remote working, so that people have many choices of workplace. We value results not hours. We do not require time recording. At Hive skilled performance as an agile worker will be career enhancing not career limiting.

Traditional – Time recording drives productivity
Hive Legal: Time recording and hourly billing reward inefficiency. Knowledge work is not defined by quantity, but by quality – not by its costs but by its results. Its value cannot be measured in 6 minute units.

Traditional – Matters must be resourced from within the firm to the greatest extent possible
Hive Legal: We match skills and capacity to each matter from a wide pool of qualified and trusted resources. Because we do not have a large inflexible workforce to support at a high fixed cost to us, we can provide more tailored solutions and better value to clients who can choose the shape of their legal service.

Traditional – Command and control is the best way to manage lawyers
Hive Legal: Knowledge workers need gardeners not engineers. We aim to create the environment in which people have the right tools and know enough and care enough do their best work, without micromanagement.

Traditional – Law firms cannot properly serve their clients without adversely impacting the wellbeing of their employees
Hive Legal: Our model can provide better outcomes for both clients and employees, instead of favouring one over the other.

Traditional – Sustainable working practices are incompatible with client requirements
Hive Legal: Clients care about results and value, not the internal workings of law firms. It is perfectly possible to run matters with teams working flexibly without compromising on client outcomes. Yes people will need to work very hard at times but with proper resourcing this can be the exception, rather than the rule.

Traditional – Ownership is limited to partners
Hive Legal: As we are an incorporated legal practice employees can be owners.

Imagine if you were free to advise your clients in the best way you can without the pressure to leverage a high fixed cost base and manage conflicting expectations internally. Hive is a place where clients can access the kind of service they actually want at genuine value pricing and our team can use their professional skills and do the work they love.

[Rise like the break of dawn].

Traditional firms are captives of their history – at Hive we have no baggage, no legacy and nothing to defend. We are free to look after our clients and our team – to ‘let it go’.

Let it go [at Hive].

Mitzi Gilligan is Principal and Founder at Hive Legal

After 25 years working in traditional law firms, Mitzi was looking for a more meaningful way to work: for clients and for lawyers. She spent over thirteen years as a partner managing complex projects with teams in diverse locations, many of whom were on flexible work arrangements. Mitzi was inspired to become one of the founders of Hive Legal by the opportunity to use that experience in a different model. Mitzi wants to match the needs of clients with top quality legal advice from highly skilled and experienced lawyers, without the constraints of large law firm history and infrastructure. Email: mitzi.gilligan@hivelegal.com.au

*Acknowledgement: the ideas on which Hive is founded build on the work of many others. Particular influences for the content of this blog come from the published works of Mitch Kowalski, Alison Maitland and Ron Baker.