Danielle Snell on achieving professional fulfillment

Republished from The Impact Lawyers

Danielle Snell launched with her former colleague Robert McGirr a new law firm in Australia, having to face the pandemic at an early stage of her project.

She launched Elit Lawyers by McGirr & Snell when she was 30 weeks pregnant and what started as a small dream promoted by two people, in a few months became a robust firm with ten employees. The Impact Lawyers interviews Danielle Snell where she explains the challenges she faced and the successes she achieved in the long and beautiful journey of launching her own law firm.

1. What is it like to set up a legal project in the middle of a pandemic?

I was working at a large national law firm when the pandemic began and very quickly had to pivot my practice to run multi-million dollar litigation in the confines of my dining room. I realised that the law industry was undergoing a radical shift – I was closer to my clients than ever before and technology was facilitating increased collaboration between clients, barristers and the courts. The pandemic affirmed to me that it was possible to work in a way which was progressive, aligned with your values and empowered your clients.

It is ingrained within many industries, not just the law, that women of childbearing age put their careers on hold until their children are at school. So when I announced that I starting my own law firm at 30 weeks pregnant I was met with scepticism – but also a lot of support. Support is key and I am surrounded by mentors, supporters and staff with similar work ethic, values and desire to challenge the status quo.

There were many challenges in getting the firm off the ground, from choosing a name to designing bespoke technology solutions. What surprised me the most though was how hard it was to launch a website!

The last year have been fraught with challenges, learnings and tremendous successes. We very quickly established ourselves within a boutique niche and our progressive way of working has been very attractive to prospective employees. We grew incredibly quickly – starting with a team of two and by 8 months we had a team of 10.

2. What advice would you give to lawyers who are thinking of starting their own project in the legal sector?

If you can dream it, you can do it. Every vision and every aspiration will face challenges as you get it off the ground. I have been there and understand first-hand how a knock to your confidence can start a downward spiral. But it is within each of us to break down those mental barriers to success. Now that I’m on the other side I can see that the challenges were worth it. I have never felt more fulfilled in my legal career.

By backing yourself, surrounding yourself mentors and supporters, having the conversations, writing the lists – each step is leading to change. You too can achieve professional fulfillment beyond your wildest dreams.

3. Do you work with technological automation tools?

The pandemic highlighted many of the archaic processes still in place within a “traditional” law firm model. Gone are the days where clients should be waiting for their lawyer to provide them with information which should be accessible instantaneously.

Before we launched Elit Lawyers by McGirr & Snell I engaged leading IT consultants to design bespoke technology solutions which promotes transparency, accountability and client empowerment. Our 24/7 web-enabled client portal creates an environment where clients are part of the team and journey rather than removed from it. This not only offers clients personalised support but enables increased efficiency to save cost and time and enhance quality outcomes.

4. How are you promoting your firm’s services?

With our peers and clients online more than ever, we initially focussed our attention on brand building through online platforms. We have a strong presence on social media (Instagram and LinkedIn) and unbelievably are going through a second website project.

We are also regularly featured in the media, widely recognised for challenging the traditional law firm model and commitment to diversity and inclusion within the law industry. Our firm has also been involved in many public interest and high profile cases. Our involvement in the media and being recipients of awards and accolades by prestigious industry bodies, we have seen our client base diversify and file load increase in unexpected ways.

As we exit the lockdown era of the pandemic we are looking to more traditional styles of marketing. Although we are quite close with our client base, there is nothing like catching up face to face. We are excited to return to connecting with our clients in person and meeting new connections.

5. In what way does your firm manage to connect with the needs of your clients?

During the pandemic I connected with clients in a deeper and more meaningful way than ever before. Through these conversations and understanding of industry trends, I felt empowered and equipped to design a firm which truly aligned with client ethos’ of diversity and inclusion and progressive technology practices. Our firm’s premise is to be accountable, transparent and accessible to our clients.

Litigation is inherently stressful and clients should be able to access their lawyer and their legal documents – that they rightfully own – at any moment of the day.

Part of the service at Elit is that clients they can call their lawyer at any time. We are on the journey with them.

6. In a new project, which is better: office-based, remote work or a hybrid model?

Starting a firm amidst a pandemic has meant that our firm hasn’t experienced a lot of office-time. Although my team and I have maintained (and sometimes established) connections remotely, it does not compare to seeing them in person. Working within in an office environment can lead to great things. Something I particularly miss is in-person collaboration and brainstorming sessions – it is difficult to recreate the feeling or excitement of being onto a really great idea remotely.

In saying that, Elit strongly advocate the benefits of remote working. We employ a diverse team of highly experienced individuals and empower them to elect when and where they work. This model enables for lawyers and legal teams to achieve greater personal and professional fulfillment, without compromising on the delivery of excellent client service.

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With us personally, it is just one more way we’re different.

Danielle Snell

CO-FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR

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Robert McGirr

CO-FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR

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"This was a “David v Goliath” fight as our dispute was with a large global corporation. The attention, compassion and guidance that Danielle and the team showed us was absolutely incredible."

CEO & Founder

National mental-health support organisation

We recently instructed Danielle from Elit Lawyers by McGirr & Snell to help with a legal dispute. As a small purpose led business, this was a “David v Goliath” fight as our dispute was with a large global corporation. This dispute was during a very emotional time as we were in the middle of a global pandemic, Melbourne’s sixth lockdown, homeschooling and no childcare – all while trying to keep our small business alive.

The attention, compassion and guidance that Danielle and the team showed us was absolutely incredible. I have 10 years legal experience myself and even with that, I was reluctant to litigate, especially during such a difficult time. However Danielle always gave us confidence in knowing that she was in our corner and always working for our best interests, so my reluctance was quickly appeased.

Today I am pleased to share that David defeated Goliath and we could not be more thrilled with the result we received thanks to Danielle and the team from Elit Lawyers. Danielle not only saved our company, but ensured that we could continue doing the good work we were previously and helping improve the lives and mental health of mothers across Australia.

I could not recommend Danielle and the team from Elit Lawyers more highly. I am *hoping* that I will never need their services again, but feel very reassured knowing they are there and always in my corner.

Thank you Danielle and team.

"

"Danielle is a well-known and respected lawyer who knows how to handle difficult and intensive litigation."

Queens Counsel, Devers List

Victorian Bar

Danielle Snell is a very intelligent and impressive lawyer whom I have worked with in my role as senior counsel on various litigation matters.  She is a well-known and respected lawyer who knows how to handle difficult and intensive litigation.  Danielle combines a deep knowledge of the law across many practice areas with a practical approach to litigation, and is authentic and charismatic in her dealings with others.

"

"Danielle and Robert demonstrate outstanding expertise and approach all matters methodically with a clear and practical focus..."

Chief Operations Officer

Peak industry body for fire protection

As Chief Operating Officer it is extremely important to work with lawyers who are easily accessible, honest and trustworthy.  We have briefed Elit Lawyers by McGirr and Snell across various legal disciplines and now use them as our “go to” solicitors.  Danielle and Robert demonstrate outstanding expertise and approach all matters methodically with a clear and practical focus on achieving the best possible result.

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"Danielle demonstrated a refreshing and unique ability to narrow the issues, and succinctly explain complex matters."

General Counsel

Leading home building company

Having worked alongside Danielle in litigation matters I have found her approach to be thorough and strategic.  In particular, Danielle demonstrated a refreshing and unique ability to narrow the issues, and succinctly explain complex matters.

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