It’s been ten years in business for Halebury and over the next few weeks are celebrating a decade in NewLaw. We interviewed our Chairwoman and Co-founder Janvi Patel about taking the leap to become a female founder: highlights, milestones, lessons learned and advice for anyone else considering setting up their own entrepreneurial business.
What was the most valuable advice you got when starting-up?
Just start. Starting a disruptive business model within a heavily regulated, saturated, competitive market with limited funding, seemed like a mammoth task and very daunting. You just have to put one step in front of the other.
How did you make the transition from a concept, to a working model? What steps did you have to go through?
We just took it step by step by drawing out and mapping what we wanted from the client and the lawyer side and then looking at how each side would like to work with the other and then how to attract them. The most important starting point was attracting entrepreneurial lawyers to service our clients. So we created an entrepreneurial model and a career management plan to support and engage them. After ten years in business, we are proud to have retained many of our original team and continue to recruit new senior in-house lawyers who want to work in a more entrepreneurial way.
What would you do differently now if setting up Halebury? Any lessons learned?
I believe that mistakes are part of the journey. We have made mistakes along the way, but these have made us more robust both operationally and also mentally. In a small growing business that is built on talent, recruitment has always been a challenge, and in the early stages we recruited too quickly so we could expand quickly which was not the right approach for the long term. We are now less focussed on the quantity of our lawyer team, but on the quality and fit for the model. We have recruitment targets but are much more focussed around recruiting the right team for the long term.
How do you continue to evolve the business and ramp up?
After 10 years in NewLaw, the resourcing arm of the business is well established, we have a fantastic team of senior in-house lawyers and a healthy pipeline of lawyers. We recently featured in the Legal 500 as a leading firm for TMT which is great industry recognition. This is all down to our team, both our team of senior in-house lawyers for the service they deliver to our clients, and to our operational team in the office. It is a real skill to manage resourcing for the lawyers and our clients.
We now plan on taking our service proposition to the next level with the launch of Halebury LPM. The Halebury LPM team are ex heads of legal and GCs who work with in-house teams to create operational efficiencies. It is really rewarding as we see the results kicking in.
Looking back, highlights from the past ten years. What are you proudest of?
- My business partner: First highlight was Denise joining me as my business partner. I could not have asked for a more inspiring, supportive, amazing business partner.
- Our client supporters: The backing and instructions by our early clients: from Sky, Nortel, PwC to BT and beyond to our individuals who were are helped us along the way, Dan Fitz, Jeremy Willis, Hema Ghantiwala and Funke Abimbola to name a few.
- Our early joiners: Delphine Power (our current GC), Polly Jeanerret, Ed Rea, Sarah Batterbury to name a few. These are all “Halebury Originals” who took a leap of faith to join us and are still with us.
- Recognition for our team: being listed in the Legal 500 for the first time alongside some influential traditional law firms was defining moment: a time when our amazing team were recognised by their peers and clients for their expertise.
- Our office team: I cannot sing their praises enough. The market is hard, our budgets are tight, our model unique and their dedication is incredible.
- Being a champion for working families, the future of work, part-timers, diversity, female founders – that is a long list, but I love that we are recognised for all of the above, because each heading is very much part of the core of Halebury.
- Industry leader – being not only a pioneer within the alternative legal service market but a leader within it, as detailed in a recent report by SAID business school and George Town Law School.
What have the most challenging aspects been and how have you dealt with them?
We were also only 8 year PQE lawyers, straight from in-house and therefore without a following and we had no law firm to back us. Plus, just to add more barriers, we launched during the financial crisis, which meant no banks were willing to fund us. We thought we could get funding based on a well-thought out model but that did not happen. It was a hard few years, but we made it through.
What are your top tips for fellow entrepreneurs?
Obtaining access to key stakeholders in the legal market and even the PR market was hard. Getting the industry to speak to us in the early days was hard work especially as we were not backed by a well – established law firm or brand. Luckily we had a great Head of Marketing/BD who helped us drive our social media strategy and PR strategy to increase our market awareness, but it has been harder than I could have imagined.
- In the politest way possible, not to take no for an answer. Just find another angle.
- Develop a thick skin. There will be bad days.
- Be consistent and develop processes quickly.
- Focus on your financials. Any business is about sales, what is your sales cycle?
- There is no work/life balance – it is 24/7 especially at the beginning
Where do you get your motivation and inspiration?
My motivation and inspiration comes from many angles. First and foremost my family. I genuinely believe “to whom much is given, much will be required” and my parents worked hard to give me the opportunities I have been given. My parents are first generation immigrants who arrived in the London in their 20ies without much. Yet we went to private schools and university, travelled the world and they gave us everything we could ask for me and more. I am inspired by them to do better, to give back and to work hard not just to honour them but also by my children – we have to remember those little faces looking up are watching and learning from us.
I am also inspired by all those around me. I have good days and bad – being an entrepreneur is tough, some days you can get slammed from every angle. My team, my colleagues, peers and clients spur me on to better.
What does the future hold for the business, for the legal market, for you personally, for other female founders and entrepreneurs?
I would love to see more female founders within the alternative legal service market, as well as more diversity in the profession and greater career choices for lawyers at both ends of the spectrum – junior and senior. The market is moving and it is opening up, but it is never fast enough for me.
For Halebury as a business, we are continuing to grow our team and our reputation within the resourcing space and the legal management strategy space via our LPM service. We want to continue to create genuine value add to clients and that is a key focus.
What top three tips would you give your younger self starting out as an entrepreneur?
1. Start sooner.
2. Read “Good to Great” by Jim Collins NOW.
3. Do not have 3 kids and move country within the first 4 year of launching your business.
Follow Janvi on @janvi25
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