Having the right support behind you is key when building a firm in the middle of a pandemic, said this director and co-founder.
Danielle Snell is the director and co-founder of Elit Lawyers by McGirr and Snell. Speaking recently on The Boutique Lawyers Show, Ms Snell reflected on opening her own firm during a pandemic, the challenges of doing so, and what she’s learnt along the way.
In terms of first getting her business off the ground, Ms Snell said she experienced both scepticism and support – both with her being 30 weeks pregnant and it being in the middle of a pandemic.
“The scepticism was inherent. It was something that was sort of ingrained in me throughout the years of my growing as a litigator. And particularly then once you do get to those childbearing years, it was like, we won’t necessarily put you in front of the client, or we won’t necessarily give you this leading high-profile case because you might not be here five days a week,” she said.
“And I think that the toxicity can sort of eat away a bit at those confidence levels of practitioners, which I find quite saddening, not to mention the fact that I’ve seen so many women lose the practises that they have worked so hard to build when they do take time out of the workforce.”
Ms Snell did take time out of the workforce when having her first child, but said that this time, she had worked so hard for where she was and it felt like the right time to open her own firm.
“I knew that with the right support and the right mentors that I could do it,” she said.
“And that undertone of those people that will roll their eyes and treat you as though you’re not capable of doing it, or you’re thinking somewhere not in reality. But the practice is booming, and I’m proud of it.”
Having the right support has been instrumental in the firm’s success, added Ms Snell. However, there were a number of challenges at the firm’s inception.
“When I was heavily pregnant and I was arranging everything to start the film, do you know what the one thing was that I found the most difficult leading up to the establishment? The website. It was shocking to me that that was one of the most difficult aspects,” Ms Snell added.
“Since then, since having established the firm, I have found that once we reached that sort of eight to 10-person mark, that’s when the HR side of things became more of a challenge in terms of just general people management, staff training, infrastructure, project management, all of that sort of thing.
“Because it’s always front of mind to me about the culture and the values that the firm’s representing. I never want to leave that behind – so that is front of mind the whole time,” she added.
Culture is of the utmost importance to Elit Lawyers – and Ms Snell said she’s taken an enormous amount of pride in creating a “dynamic, innovative law firm”.
“This is a new-age law firm, so we think with contemporary values and we think about what it’s like for these staff members, living their life in this pandemic,” she said.
“Let’s not pretend that it’s five years ago here; we are where we are, and we have to deal with it based on contemporary values.”
In fact, Ms Snell advised other lawyers to take a look at their own working environments to see whether they are benefiting them or not.
“If you feel in your bones that you could excel beyond what you’re able to within the environment that you’re currently in, I would implore you to write a list of ways in which you could affect positive change. And that might not mean starting your own firm, but that might mean having a discussion with someone within that organisation or thinking about a different process by which you can conduct a matter that would serve you better,” she said.
“But if you’re doubting yourself and your confidence levels are reducing, there’s a reason for that. I can speak first hand that I sort of just let it go on for a bit too long. And now that I’m on the other side, to see the success that I’ve had and the way in which clients are reacting to my service and my abilities, speaks words.”