Creating a Successful Law Firm in Lockdown – Alistair and Shona Wells – S6E11

You could say that leaving a secure and well-paid job to start your own law firm in the middle of a global pandemic is a little brave, huh?

That’s exactly what this week’s guests Alistair and Shona Wells did and in this episode, they’re sharing with us the highs, the lows, their experience as a whole and their learned lessons!

Alistair and Shona are both qualified solicitors, having had impressive careers in the industry prior to starting their own law firm. Their mission is clear and simple; they wanted to build a better, more human, less formal legal experience for start-ups and scale-ups… so, with a great deal of planning, a fair bit of dedication and a clear motivation for achieving their mission, was born!

Whether it’s an individual legal project or ongoing collaboration through their innovative subscription package, Alistair and Shona are there to make sure your business gets the legal support it deserves.

𝐒𝐨, 𝐰𝐡𝐲 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐛𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧?

You can catch our Rob Hanna, Alistair and Shona talk about:

  • What building a small commercial firm during the 2020 lockdown looked like
  • The challenges they faced when building your their law firm
  • Why the corporate culture is so important
  • Tips and advice for becoming a successful solicitor
  • The importance of technology in today’s world


00:08 Rob Hanna:

Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast. You are now listening to Season 6 of the show. I’m your host Rob Hanna. This week I’m delighted to be joined by Alistair Wells and Shona Wells. Alistair and Shona, are Co-founders and Directors of Tend Legal. Alistair studied law at the University of Liverpool. He was a paralegal at Clifford Chance for 3 years, before moving to Woodford Solicitors where he made partner in 2014. Alistair is a solicitor specialising in company law, commercial law, employment law and dispute resolution. Shona attended the University of Manchester and qualified as a solicitor. Shona is responsible for the management, finance, admin, marketing at Tend Legal. So a very warm welcome, Alistair and Shona.

00:54 Alistair and Shona:

Thanks, Rob. Hi, Rob. Nice to see you.

00:57 Rob Hanna:

Great to have you both with us. And before we dive into all your amazing projects and experiences, we have a customary icebreaker question here on the Legally Speaking Podcast, which is on the scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very real, if you’ve seen it, what would you rate the reality hit TV series Suits in terms of its reality? So coming to you first, Shona, if you’ve seen it give us your rating, in terms of how real you think it is out of 10?

01:27 Shona Wells:

So I have seen it, it’s been a long time since I watched an episode. Reality I’m saying pretty low, to be honest. I’m gonna go about 4.

01:36 Rob Hanna:

About 4. Alistair, how about you?

01:38 Alistair Wells:

That’s a it’s a tough one isn’t it? Because I think I’m gonna, I’m gonna go a bit higher. I’m gonna go for 7 because I think there’s aspects of it that everyone can relate to, even though the stories are a bit far-fetched.

01:48 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, okay. Well, we’ll break it down the middle, somewhere between the both of you somewhere around a 5 slash 6, which I think is fair. And we’ll move slowly on to the exciting things all about you both. So to begin with, would you mind telling us a little bit more about your backgrounds and journeys? We’d love to come to you first Shona then Alistair.

02:06 Shona Wells:

Sure. So thanks for the introduction. So I used to work in, once I qualified as a solicitor, I was working in the private client department. So completely different to what we’re doing here at Tend. But I finished work, I went on maternity leave with our first child in 2010. And I have not been working as a solicitor, while while I’ve been looking after the children, we’ve now got 3 children. So coming back to start Tend, was a was a huge change for me. So but we made the decision. And so I’ve come back in in a more management role, sort of working on the business side the finance, because obviously, this is a completely different area of legal advice that we’re giving to where I qualified.

02:51 Rob Hanna:

Yeah. And I mean, that’s inspiring in itself, the fact that you, you have a young family, you’re running the firm, and you’re, you’re sort of in the thick of it. So thank you so much for sharing that. And Alistair would love to know more, a bit more about your journey as well.

03:04 Alistair Wells:

Yeah, so, I mean, as you mentioned, I I started out like a lot of people desperately trying to get a training contract and paralegalling for about 3 years at Clifford Chance and then qualified with a firm in in Fulham called Woodfords, which was what is it’s a small firm, which does a range of things, mixing of high street, bit more commercial, a lot of property work. And I kind of found my niche there, really within the sort of commercial dispute resolution and employment with the big things I was doing, and corporate as well, and really was very happy there for a long time. And it was only when the pandemic came that we really thought about doing anything else. And I think a lot of things came together at that time for us. I’d certainly never thought of running my own firm. But yeah, a lot a lot of things came together. We were we were kind of realising like a lot of people, I think how much time I’d been away from home while our kids were small. I think we realised how possible it was to work differently to work remotely. The tools that were out there that enabled that, that kind of more flexible working, but also I think a lot of the thoughts we’ve been having about how there’s a need for change in how how legal services delivered and all of these things came together, and the fact that you know, Shona was starting to think about what what, what’s the next step for her going back to work. And all of these things sort of came together at the right time. And we had this idea for Tend.

04:17 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and let’s let’s dive into that because I think that again, is remarkable because during you know, lockdown of 2020, you know, a lot of people were worried perhaps a lot of people retreated, but you both decided to put your entrepreneurial you know, and perhaps risk hats on and said you know what, we’re going to establish Tend Legal so, you know, I’m a big fan of the firm and I’ve been at events where people speak very highly of Tend and what you’re trying to do and you know, changing with the times a lot like previous guests we’ve had, Stephenson Law Alice Stephenson and Jodie Hill Thrive Law and I really recommend what you’re doing in terms of offering a new wave of legal services in a modern form, because, you know, my understanding is you’ve got a strong commercial firm, you’re acting for tech, but also creative businesses, startups, scale ups. So would you mind Shona just telling us a little bit more about Tend Legal generally?

05:06 Shona Wells:

So so we obviously we started right at the end of 2020. And it was just the 2 of us, sat here with our laptops, we decided to go for a fully remote, we don’t have a physical office. So we work from home. And we Alistair uses some workspaces up in London as well. So it started off just the 2 of us, which was it was, it was a big risk, to be honest, wasn’t it, you know, you gave up your steady steady job, you were a partner, and yeah, so but we just felt really strongly that we could make it work and that we would, you know, give it 100% to try and make it work. And so far, so good. So that was that was where we started, we decided quite quickly that we would like to recruit someone to assist. So we created a paralegal or paralegal slash trainee, and that was the start of 2021. And we’ve just been sort of just just trying to grow in a in a really steady manageable way since then. So just just taking taking work as it comes in and recruiting when we feel it’s really it’s the right time, as opposed to trying to grow too fast, or do anything too quickly. Just taking it taking it steady, growing quite an organic way that feels quite natural to us, and it feels manageable as well, which is important.

06:19 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and you’re absolutely both doing a great job of that. And I love that sort of, you know, way of way of thinking about things as well, because you see, so many businesses, when they start up, they’re so keen to hire and they don’t know why and sort of they they hire so many people so quickly, and it doesn’t work. So I love this approach that you’re taking, that’s right and in line with your business and sort of you know, organically growing out along with your your brand, which is ever present as well. But honestly, you’ll know as well as being a lawyer, you know, when you run a business, it’s never straightforward. And the challenges and we’re always looking to try and you know, understand some of those challenges, and maybe, you know, advise people if they were thinking of setting up their own firms. So maybe a 2-part question. But you know, what were the challenges you faced during Tend Legal, setting up Tend Legal? And then, you know, what were the challenges bolted on to that within a pandemic, I hope, you know, we we never experienced these times once again, but you know, what are some of your learnings from that, you know, if we ever did find ourselves in these really interesting market?

07:11 Alistair Wells:

Yeah. I mean, I suppose the biggest challenge was, was making that leap, you know, deciding to actually go ahead with it. And we had this idea in March 2020. And we, which was, obviously in the first lockdown, it was quite a stressful time. But also, we had this this idea, and somehow it seemed we seem from quite early on, we were very sure that this was the right thing to do. We, you know, I think I was in a place where I’d been doing the job long enough that I was confident that I could do it, that I could make money doing it, that I had contacts. And I suppose the risk, the element of risk was, well, is anyone going to notice that we exist, are going to are people going to think that this firm, because a lot of what we’re doing in terms of how we present, we wanted it to be quite different. So a lot less formal than a traditional firm, we’re working with a lot of start-ups, scale-ups, who are, you know, we wanted to be more like them, to be more like the people we’re working with, which does involve being different and that that felt like a risk. I mean, I know that we’re when we had the photos done for our website, for example, you know, it’s very casual. I remember waking up in the night and thinking actually, was that a massive mistake, wearing a t-shirt on our photos, and are people just gonna laugh at it. And so a lot of, I think a big part of the challenge was just overcoming that those sorts of fears that actually, it’s partly imposter syndrome. It’s partly that, you know, when you start anything new, there’s always that fear that actually it might not work. So I think that was a big hurdle, just just actually getting our heads around it, and realising that it was actually a reasonably reasonably good idea, a very good idea I hope, but but you know, taking that step, and so and to get to that place, I think we just talked to a lot of people, you know, family, friends, people in the profession, and almost without set, without exception, everyone said that’s a great idea you should do it, which was really encouraging. And so we did, I mean in terms of setting up I think, as I say, yet another fear was that no one would notice us, you know, we’d particularly you know, you don’t have an office, you and I have this, this fear that we’ll just launch a website, and they’re just be tumbleweed, you know that you put it out there, so what, no one knows about us. And so I think from quite early on before, once, we’d had the idea, I mean, that was really why I started posting stuff on LinkedIn. And I couldn’t, because I was still working at my last firm, I, you know, it wasn’t like to start talking about the new project. So it was kind of I thought, well, if I need to connect with people we’re going to be interested in the kind of thing we’re going to be doing is talking about values about things we wanted to change, you know, just random stuff sometimes. But actually, that was that was really good in finding those people. It allowed us to find the people that would would be interested and that when we actually launched the firm, we could, you know, would be interested to know about that and would follow our journey and hopefully work with us at some point. So so that was yeah, that was that was that was another thing we sort of had to deal with. I mean that we’re starting a firm there’s also is a whole age of admin, and practical points. Yeah. None of it is actually super hard on its own, but there’s just a lot of small jobs.

09:55 Shona Wells:

Like lining things up, you know, to get our SRA authorisation lining up, I had to get my practising certificate renewed and you know, and then to get there, you’ve got to get the insurance and the PI cover, and you’ve got to get the quote, and you’ve got to get various things lined up. And, you know, the quote expires after 30 days, and I think we were waiting for something else can be so it just just from a practical point of view is that was stressful kind of see going through, and then that there, it worked out, and we were ready for first of December.

10:24 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, yeah. And that’s, that’s great advice, because it’s a process, isn’t it, and it’s managing that process and having systems in process, you know, to ensure that, you know, you can get to the end goal of setting up the firm. And I think just to sort of play on the point Alistair something I’m passionate about, not only as a sort of, you know, entrepreneur, but as a general business person, beer kills more dreams than failure ever will. And the fact is that you took action. And, you know, yeah, you’ve made photos that are different, that are unique, but it’s also what you want to represent, you know, you’re not trying to be in the traditional lane of it’s always been suit and tie, suited and booted with this particular shot. It’s this is us, this is our firm, this is what we stand for, this is what we believe is right for our client and portfolio, and these are our values. And that’s what I want to talk about, and you touched on it briefly, and I just want to kind of dig a bit deeper Shona as well. It’s something I’m super passionate about, because not only is this good for clients, this is good for people who join firms like yous, but overall mental health and well-being because let’s be real, there is real pressure on lawyers, particularly in some of these firms, and you know, their their overall well-being has gone down in recent times. And your mission is to build a better, more human, less formal legal experience for start-ups and scale-ups. So just want to talk a little bit more about that Shona, you know, I think it’s a really important point that we just need to sort of hammer home.

11:36 Shona Wells:

Yeah, absolutely. So it was really important to us to I mean, the word authentic gets banded around a lot. But basically, that’s, you know, the photos show us as ourselves, that’s, you know, we’re not, we’re not trying to fit into a mould, we’re not trying to, we’re not trying to look different, but that’s just, that’s just who we are. That is we, you know, we’re looking different to other other law firms, but that’s, that’s just showing us as ourselves, and that was really important. And that’s really the message that we want to get across not just to our clients, but also to people who work with us. And we’re fortunate to have some really great people working for us now. And I think they really feel that I hope they feel that that they can be themselves, that we’re all in it together. It’s not a question of us being the partners at the top, we’re all in it together, we’re all working together. And we just really want everyone to feel that they can be themselves ,to be open, to tell us what’s going on if they’ve got, I don’t know, childcare issues or appointments. It’s no problem, we just we have work we need to get done. But there’s there’s no strict rules about how we work and when we work and how we look or, you know, it’s it’s everyone feeling comfortable being themselves, and hopefully that is a real helpful everyone’s mental health because, you know, let’s face it, everyone’s everyone’s got a lot of stresses going on for various different reasons. Everyone’s got a lot on their plates. And it’s just trying to work in a way that allows people to live their lives and do it do a job that they hopefully love as well.

12:59 Rob Hanna:

And that inevitably will have an impact on retention levels as well, and the way that you approach things because like you say, to be themselves, that is not, 1 part of your life as being a lawyer but a full life is family. There’s other things, you know, things that go on and understanding and allowing people to feel comfortable and safe to say, hey, you know, I’m having a child, you know, I need to go and pick up my children or this has happened or, you know, my mental health isn’t good this week, or whatever it may be, allowing those spaces for people to feel like they can be their true selves. I think once firms understand that more than just necessarily, you know, the salary wars that we’re seeing, particularly in some of the larger city firms, I think the more that that is sort of hammered home the far better it would be. And you know Alistair you’ve had a wonderful career, because, you

13:41 Rob Hanna:

Know, we’ve talked and touched on the fact that you were with Woodford Solicitors and you know, you made partner and you know, you obviously achieved a lot in a short period of time. But what would you say some of your previous experiences as being a solicitor has assisted you in building Tend Legal and if so, anything in particular, you would highlight that might be beneficial for people thinking of setting up.

14:05 Alistair Wells:

I think, I think 1 of the things, I suppose it was helpful was was training and coming up in a small firm. You have to be very adaptable, you have to be from an early stage, you have to be quite self-sufficient. You have to get things done quickly and efficiently. And you have to be very good with people. And it’s I’d gotten my experience having having worked at Clifford Chance for a bit, that was a great experience as well, but very, very different. I was a tiny, tiny part of the big team, working for a huge client who I didn’t really get to meet very much and then going somewhere like Woodfords, on the first week, you get given a pile of files. I got the support that I needed absolutely. But But you know, I had responsibility for actually getting things done. I had client contact, you saw the impact of your work a lot more. And really, I think just getting that that that exposure in a busy firm and building up experience of dealing with a wide range of things. I kind of often thought I you know, I’m quite unusual I suppose these days in that I’m not very specialised as a lawyer. I have sort of 2 or 3 areas that I’m comfortable dealing with, which is unusual, but it sort of brought me to a place where I was working with companies, so commercial clients who sort of saw me as their, as their general counsel almost, you know, they’d come to me with any legal problem, not that I can answer all of them, but I could point them in the direction somebody else or a colleague, or, you know, so, so I had that that breadth actually stood us in quite good stead for for starting something new because we realise, well, that in itself could be a business, you know, the things that that I have experience in. And as we sort of grown it, you know, we are getting people who are more specialised in those areas, and I can sort of because I’ve got familiarity with that I can I can help them and oversee what they’re doing. But yeah, I mean, I think I think it comes probably being able to deal with people is the biggest skill, you have to think we talk about a lot, actually for a law firm is how how people feel, and whether that’s people who work with us, or whether it’s clients, you know, we think of law as this really kind of technical hard subject and you’re delivering, you know, if you’re delivering the right advice, it doesn’t really matter. But actually how people of course it, of course it matters that you’re giving the right advice, you’re actually doing the job but but how the client feels when they come away is is as important as that. And if they’re going to come back to you, if they’re going to go away feeling like they’ve been heard, that you understand what their goals are, and that you’ve you’ve put together something to help them achieve that, then they will, they will come back. And similarly with with employees and lawyers that are working with us, it’s about finding what, it’s about understanding what they want to achieve, as well as what you want them to do for you. But the beauty of I suppose it comes back to what we were just saying, but I think the beauty of what’s happened since the pandemic is that actually there are all these options for people. And whilst you know some some employers and some firms will be thinking, this is a disaster, our employers or employees are all saying they want to work from home and we’ve got to get back in the office, and we you know, and I appreciate it’s difficult if you’ve got, you know, a big office building, but actually it’s a massive opportunity because particularly for a small firm like us, you know, we can’t compete, obviously, we can’t compete with Magic Circle or city salaries or big firm salaries, but we can compete in lots of other areas, and I think in terms of culture and flexibility, if you can offer someone the opportunity to work in a way that suits them and their family and you know recognising the importance of the other aspects of their life, then then that’s a massive attraction for them. And I think we just wanted to create a place where we’d be happy working, even if it wasn’t our firm. And if we can do that then I think it’s not only is it the right thing to do, but but it’s also this huge opportunity and I think it’s allowing us to find people who are really good, but don’t necessarily want to work in a sort of traditional environment.

17:33 Rob Hanna:

And yeah, it’s so important that you highlight that because, you know, also people sometimes don’t grasp the importance of this. But you know, the happier the workforce also, you know, the bank balance suddenly becomes a lot better as well, you know, it is, you know, a trickle-down effect and so it’s really important that you know, once that culture is established, I want to talk a little bit more about culture a little bit later on. You know, it’s more than just 1 dynamic, the whole machine of the organisation benefit from it. Time for a short break from the show. Are you looking for a way to get your firm working more efficiently and profitably, while ensuring a better work life balance to your team? Well, if you haven’t considered our sponsor Clio, I’m here to strongly recommend that you do. I absolutely love working with Clio, not only is it the world’s leading legal practice management and legal client relationship management software, it also has a really solid core mission to transform the legal experience for all, something I personally support. What sets clear apart for me, it’s their dedication to customer success and support. There are lots of legal software’s out there. But I know from talking to Clio users that their support offering is miles ahead of the rest with their 24 5 availability by email, in app chat and over the phone. Yes, you can actually call in and speak to someone. Clio is also the G2 Crowd leader in legal practice management in comparison to 130 legal practice management software’s and has been for the last 14 consecutive quarters. G2 Crowd is the world’s leading business solutions review website. You can check Clio’s full list of features and pricing at www dot Clio dot com forward slash Legally dash Speaking that’s www dot c l i o dot com forward slash Legally dash Speaking. Now back to the show. I guess talking a bit more about processes, because Alistair in an interview you had with Clio, you outline you “liked the fact that Clio is effectively a complete law firm in a box – it offered most of the tools we needed to get started straight away”. So I know obviously Shona that you do a lot of the management of the firm and sort of oversee things. So can you explain further how you’ve sort of integrated in and utilised Clio and you know, the benefits of that to your firm?

19:59 Shona Wells:

Sure. So I mean, we’re we were really fortunate that once we decided to make this decision to go ahead with Tend and be be a fully remote firm, you know, we start looking and there’s all sorts of the technology out there is amazing. So I think you’d already heard, Alistair had already heard about Clio. So we had a look and we ran a trial of it and you know, found that actually, it offered a lot of things we needed to run the law firm. So so basically our case management system, client and matter directory, we use it for storing all communication. So it’s basically our paper file is a digital file, everything you need is on Clio. So if someone goes on holiday, you know, everything, all communications, documents, everything to do with the file is all stored in Clio under matters. And it has various I mean, there’s still lots, there’s still lots of things that we probably haven’t discovered that it does, but there’s lots of all the you know, reports and things that we need are on there. And we link Clio with Xero for our business accounting, and we also use for our client accounting, we use a program called Klient with a K, which also syncs with Xero. So it all with Xero, with with Clio, sorry. So they will sort of work together, they all sync together and it just makes it really, really seamless, to be honest. We can access, we can access what we need from anywhere, you know, we’ve got our laptops. They do have mobile phone apps, as well, which I don’t use very often because I try and keep it in 1 in 1 thing, you know, keep keep work in a box in the laptop, but it just means that as long as we’ve got a secure internet connection, you know, you work you work up from London sometimes or we can take the laptops away if we need to go away, can come with us and we can just access what we need, and we know that we’re not going to be oh, I can’t find that information, it’s all there, you know what we need is there.

21:38 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, yeah, that’s great. And you know, I love that you know, what Tend Legal is a tech enabled firm, right? You’re using technology wherever possible to cut out mindless admin, which I absolutely agree with. I’m a big fan of tech and massively into Web3 and NFTs and all of that good stuff. And have you incorporated any other sort of legal tech or any other pieces in tech that you think might be helpful for people to know or have worked well for you in addition to the likes of Clio?

22:02 Alistair Wells:

22:02 Alistair Wells:

We use a few things. So we use software called Legl L E G L for on-boarding. And that’s that’s does ID verification, does AML checks, you can use it to get clients to sign sign engagement letter. So it’s quite a slick thing. Once the clients kind of once we’ve had that conversation, the client wants to go ahead, we can just send them a link, they go into this engage platform, which is branded up with our, our brand and they can, yeah, they have to do their ID, there’s like a takes a video of them to check they’re actually alive and then just always a bonus. They sign the engagement letter, they can make a payment through the platform as well. So it’s just that kind of making things as seamless and as smooth as possible for clients rather than saying, oh you know you’ve got to print this out, sign it, post it back to us, it’s really trying to address those pain points. So that’s good. We use internally, we use Slack for communication, which is something we I think we realised a lot of our clients were using, and we’d been using Teams previously, which works fine, but I think what we wanted to do is to offer particularly with our subscription clients, we wanted to offer a sort of shared channel so they can we can have that kind of constant communication, or constantly available communication anyway, it’s using the tools they use and that’s it. Slack is great, actually, isn’t it? Yeah. So so we usually, yeah, there’s a lot of messaging internally throughout the day. We will you can jump on a call quite easily when we need to as well. What else do we use? So many.

23:23 Rob Hanna:

I think you’ve given a really good overview there of you know, and just showcase that you practice what you preach, you know, you’re pro tech, you’re looking for efficiencies, but also you’re putting the clients first because you know, where there’s friction there’s frustration, you talked a lot about trying to create a seamless process there, and I think it’s some really good messages coming out of this, that you know, to start the firm there needs to be a process, you know, to run a firm there needs to be processes, you need to adopt technology and think about things. And yes, there’s a little bit of trial and error, but I just love the sort of approaches the 2 of you take to run your firm, because it obviously makes a lot of sense because the more you can get this structure and organisation in place, the more efficient you can be. And that’s the reality, you know, you want to run your business as efficiently as possible and the fact that you say laptops, take them away, we flip them up and we can get cracking again I mean, there’s not many other firms that are larger firms that can offer that right now. So you’ve got nimbleness, you can niche down, you can be flexible, I think that’s what’s super exciting, and just wants me to loop back to the conversation about culture because you know, you make a more flexible, modern approach to culture. So just want to Shona maybe just talk us through the workplace culture you’re aiming to sustain because I think it definitely sounds wonderful at the moment, but obviously as evolutions of businesses go on, how are you going to ensure you sustain perhaps the current culture or indeed build on that?

24:36 Shona Wells:

Well, that’s that’s definitely something that is a challenge. And we do talk about it a lot, is you know obviously, like I said, we obviously started just the 2 of us and we were sat next to each other, so it was quite easy to communicate and check in with you know, do you want a coffee you can’t really make a coffee for someone when they’re, you know, up in Manchester. And though it’s something we realised that we needed to be quite intentional about. So that’s partly partly why we the Slack channel works because we obviously you can message and call individuals. But we also have a team chat, which can be for firm wide messages, but also for you know, silly Friday afternoon gifs as well, if someone’s, you know, feeling bored, and not that anyone’s actually got, you know, that much time to be bored. But you know, I mean, just to just have that interaction, because we’re not going to meet at the kettle or the photocopier. I mean, we’ve largely paperless though not much photocopying goes on, lots of scanning. So so that’s, that’s 1 thing that we really, we’re just constantly trying to make sure we remember that we need to check in, make sure everyone’s doing okay. And we tried to have, we’ve had a few team lunches, courtesy of Deliveroo, partner with Deliveroo, where you know, we sort of say, right, Friday lunchtime, we’ll have our team meeting lunchtime instead of in the morning, and everyone sent me what they want. And I sort of scurry around sending deliveries to various different addresses and actually, they’ve all they’ve all arrived, I always have a slight moment, I’m not gonna get their pizza or the noodles. But actually, genuinely everyone’s got food within about 20 minutes of each other and we sit and have a chat over on, you know, a Slack video or Teams, whatever works. And so just just to try and replicate a team lunch, a bit of a treat for everyone. And it’s just thinking of ideas, more ideas, as we go along. As we get bigger, obviously, it would be harder to check in with everyone every day. So it’s just just being conscious of it really.

26:20 Alistair Wells:

And I think that like you said, the intention intentionality is is really key. And 1 thing we found is in terms of like having those conversations with people. As you get bigger, you realise you need to actually put something in the diary. So with everyone, I have a sort of monthly just checking out, obviously, we talked most days, but but to have sort of monthly checking in the diary, where it’s just an opportunity to ask how things are going, you know, what are you enjoying at the moment, what are you any challenges you’ve got, anything you’d like to do differently, and I think we can help you with more and talking through those things. You know, sometimes it’s a short, it’s a short conversation, and then there’s like, no, everything’s fine, leave me alone. But but but you know, just having, I think you have to, you do have to, you have to kind of make the effort to have those conversations. And I think as well in terms of thinking about how we work making sure that we are collaborating with each other. So we were quite clear that we didn’t want the firm to be when we set up, we didn’t really want it to be just a whole load of individuals sort of consultants sat in their homes working away on their own things on their own. That’s not that’s not the point, we do want it to be a sort of team aspect to it. And so just making sure that we kind of mix things up a bit, we might put 2 different people on 1 project, and they can work out how they how they’re going to do it, or everyone has their own different areas of strengths. So so making sure that we keep that fluidity. And it’s really nice when you speak to someone say, oh yes I was chatting to, you know, another team member, and we haven’t been involved at all, you can really see that actually, that that’s happening, and they’re sort of working together on projects. As we get bigger I guess, that’s we’ll have to think about how we, how we keep that that going whether you have in different teams that work together, or how we do it is something we’ll work out as we go I’m sure. But it’s there’s a lot of learning as we go definitely.

28:01 Rob Hanna:

Yeah. And that’s the reality of of everything, isn’t it? You know, it’s, you know, it’s a journey. And you know, sometimes there will be some bumps in the road or you know, sometimes you think something’s gone fantastically well and the next minute, you know, something happens, but that’s running business as well as, obviously, you know, the day job and I guess I want to stick with you, Alistair because you know, I’m passionate about this. People talk a lot about b to b and b to c. And you know, it’s my friend, Joshua B Lee, who says that’s all nonsense. It’s all h to h, human to human, whichever way you look at it. And I think that lends onto what you’ve mentioned “law is all about relationships. Every business, no matter how big, is run by people, and if we are to understand our clients and serve them well, we have to connect with them on a personal level”. Could you just give us a couple of examples of maybe some that you’ve assisted or the types of things that you’ve worked on industries and where they’ve come from, because that’s a really good quote that you shared there and something that I stand by.

28:51 Alistair Wells:

Yeah, okay. So examples. I mean, I think 1 example of how we do that is with our subscription package, so we’ve we’ve something we’ve started doing over a year ago is working with people on a subscription basis. So instead of being engaged to a specific project, we we take a more kind of holistic view of their business, work out what their legal needs might be, agree a kind of scope and a monthly fee and then within that is largely unlimited. So and the idea of that is partly that it gives us the opportunity to really get to know our client, to get to know their business, to understand what they need, and to be on hand to give advice at a much earlier stage. So you know, 1 of the things we’ve been very aware of is that people don’t like to get legal advice until it’s absolutely on an unavoidable jeopardy, you know, it’s it’s either too expensive, or it’s just not they don’t connect with a lawyer or don’t don’t know a lawyer that will work in the way that suits them. And so for businesses to be able to have that that ongoing support we felt was really important for them. It’s important for us because then we can give better advice because we know the business that much better because we were on hand, we drafted the, we drafted the contract, the moment someone pushes back on it on a contractual term where they’d say, well you know, we understand why it’s there, we understand the parameters of it, what we can do to negotiate that. So it should make the whole thing kind of quicker and more efficient and more useful I think, which I’m not sure if, if this is answering the question exactly. So but but I suppose when you say that it’s about humans, I mean that that really is very true. I mean, no matter how big the client it is, it is about people. And you have to understand what it is that they want to achieve. So sometimes, when I was talking to a client this morning actually, who we’d help them with their as a shareholders agreement, and she said, it sounds like it’s made up, but it is, I promise you, it’s true. She said, she said, oh it’s such a breath of fresh air kind of dealing with you because we’d had, we had gone to another lawyer to prepare this shareholders agreement and it just, she just sent us these documents, and we didn’t really understand them, or we had to go through and change so much, and it was all in was really difficult English, and it didn’t, and I think what she was saying is that they hadn’t really taken the time to listen to her or to understand what she wanted, and they hadn’t then taken the time to explain what they’d done to help her, and so it was this really drawn out process where these documents were going back and forth, and they were they were too long, and they were too complicated, and it wasn’t really what they wanted. And so we were able to help them, I think we did stick with the initial documents just just made them shorter, more streamlined, and kind of help to explain what why they were the way they were. I don’t think they were bad documents. But but it was that kind of it’s coming back to that point about understanding people and thinking about how people feel, making sure that you’ve understood what they want, and that you’ve communicated what you were doing and why and that makes all the difference. I mean, they were really really happy, the job I think it was it was Jade, in fact, Jade and Neelam have done various things for this client and you know, it was it was quick, it was human, it was pleasant experience. And that’s exactly what we want it to be like dealing with with Tend Legal.

31:34 Rob Hanna:

So true, because you have to meet people where they’re at. And you know, I think with that, you know, and I’ve had my own experience with setting up my own business and you know, dealing with lawyers and I always say you know, I work with lawyers day in day out, I have my own legal talent solutions business and everything else, but I’m not a qualified lawyer. So I need you to treat me as idiot proof as possible and just explain this in simple layman’s legal terms and not bring the legalese. And I think when people understand that meeting clients where they’re at, that’s where you build trust, because sometimes you lose trust when you over engineer your craft, and you people don’t understand and they think, well what is that, and why is that suddenly costing me that and, you know, it suddenly creates I think the fact that you did that and that’s part of your process is so important because you’re meeting clients where they’re at. And I guess that leads me to before we sort of look to wrap up Shona about the future of Tend Legal obviously, it’s been an exciting journey, you were sort of, you know, born through the pandemic, I think that’s a success in itself and to where you are today, but, you know, what does the future look like for Tend Legal? What are some of your plans? And, you know, what are you hoping to achieve?

32:30 Shona Wells:

Well, I mean, who knows, to be honest. At the moment, you know, we’re we’re sort of we’re, we’re happy with the way things are going but I think we we definitely are looking to continue to grow but I don’t think we’ve quite we haven’t decided you know where where that growth will will end with it if it ends you know, we haven’t put a number on how many employees we want to have or how big we want to get, we’d like to just keep keep working getting some more clients of the in the sectors you know, is talking about tech industry and creative industries, types of clients we really want to work with grow our subscription model, and I’m guessing there’ll be a bit more recruitment along the way but just just keep on going in a sort of natural way to be honest at the moment, we haven’t set our sights on any particular target at the moment I wouldn’t say but just just enjoy the process and yeah.

33:20 Rob Hanna:

Such an important point that you just landed on there about enjoy the process because so many don’t you know and I always say to people why do you do what you do and some people will draw a blank but when the fun starts stop you know and I think you know, you’re having fun right now of course the challenges but I can just see it, I can hear it you know you’re enjoying running your business you know and what you’re doing for your clients and that’s what you need because that passion combined with fun will pull you through whatever challenges or you know, opportunities that come your way and you know, I’ve loved learning more about Tend Legal, I’ve been a big fan followed Alistair yourself particularly on LinkedIn for some time now. So I guess if our listeners do want to learn more about Tend Legal Alistair, what’s the best way for them to contact you, feel free to shout out any social media handles or website links, we’ll also share them with this episode for you too.

34:03 Alistair Wells:

Cool. Yeah, I mean, LinkedIn for me is really the main main channel. Obviously our website has has more information about the firm, contact details if you want to email us, it’s tend dot legal. We have an Instagram.

34:15 Shona Wells:

We have an Instagram page Tend Legal Instagram page.

34:19 Alistair Wells:

But yeah, those those are the main ways.

34:21 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, no, and I agree. And I’ll say it till I’m blue in the face as a big fan of LinkedIn. I think it’s one of the best places for business owners and people to network and meet right and like many people, so I’d strongly encourage to connect with both Shona and Alistair on LinkedIn. Thank you both Alistair and Shona for coming on the show. It’s been an absolute pleasure hosting you and wishing you lots of continued success with the firm and your future careers and pursuits but for now, from all of us on the Legally Speaking Podcast, over and out. Thank you for listening to this week’s episode. If you liked the content here, why not check out our world leading content and collaboration hub, the Legally Speaking Club over on Discord. Go to our website www dot legally speaking podcast dot com for the link to join our community there. Over and out.

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