By Danielle Snell
Working as a senior litigator at a national law firm when the COVID-19 pandemic began and in early stages of pregnancy, I found myself (as most of us did) in uncharted territory but in many ways at the start of a new exciting era.
During the near seven-month lockdown in Victoria, to my surprise my practice continued to grow as the demand for legal work increased. Dealing with over 500,000 documents in any one given case, I collaborated with my clients, barristers and the courts in a more progressive, fast-paced way than ever before. For the first time in my nearly 15 year legal career, I had full autonomy over my working conditions and cases without the stereotypes and firm politics I sometimes encountered when working out of a large CBD law firm office.
Two and a half months into lockdown, I realised I had never been more fulfilled in my legal career– I was dealing with clients in a manner that aligned with my values and beliefs, running cases in a dynamic virtual environment (which saw me actually draw closer to clients than the less frequent physical meetings that would occur in the office) and exchanging documents in an instantaneous collaborative and cost effective manner.
In addition to gaining flexible working arrangements and work life balance that suited my diverse professional and personal roles, my business grew from strength to strength I believe due to my willingness to adapt and innovate.
It did not surprise me to hear from colleagues in the legal profession that those less adaptive lawyers attached to the traditional law model and its more archaic processes were finding the new-covid world much more stressful and difficult to operate in.
Soon after, I made the decision to partner with former colleague, Robert McGirr, in order to create their own truly entrepreneurial multi-disciplinary law firm. Elit Lawyers by McGirr & Snell. I was determined to create a dynamic environment where our clients are part of the team and journey rather than removed from it. I truly believe its time for the law industry to step up and provide a much more transparent and collaborative service and by offering this infrastructure, also save cost and time for clients. In addition to providing clients with advanced technology processes, Elit’s model is based on the belief that technology is also about customer service and creating an authentic client-centric experience.
I also endeavour to create a progressive workplace of the future. I recall asking a former top tier law firm employer for flexible work arrangements a few years ago but was told it was paramount that I remain in the office five days per week with my “bum in the seat” to deal with team demands and mentor junior lawyers. It is amazing how outdated this mentality seems now in the post COVID-19 world, but it was all so common in large law firms prior to the pandemic.
Seven months into lockdown and 30 weeks pregnant, I was proud to launch Elit Lawyers by McGirr & Snell in November 2020 and take control of my own legal destiny by creating an innovative legal service model that reflects my values and puts clients first.