In 2021, it’s anticipated that two new law firms will open every working day. To help these budding startups to get their businesses off to a flying start, Quill caught up with Jay Bhayani at Bhayani HR & Employment Law to share her wisdom on the practicalities of setting up a law firm.
Tell us a little about yourself and your practice
Bhayani HR & Employment Law is a niche practice offering straightforward employment law advice along with outsourced HR services. I launched the business six years ago and have grown to such an extent that I now have offices in Sheffield, Leeds, London and, most recently, Leicester.
Was it a smooth transition from partnership to sole proprietorship?
In a word, no. My original business plan was based on an agreement with the managing partner of the firm I was leaving whereby I’d arranged to take my team, clients and precedents with me.
Unfortunately, this plan didn’t materialise. The agreement fell apart because the partnership took umbrage with my leaving. I left with absolutely nothing and ended up with a 4-year trademark dispute over my name.
Resultingly, I started completely from scratch on my own with not a single piece of paper, renting a small windowless unit off a dual carriageway somewhere. I did lots of crying and lots of planning.
Although it felt far from it at the time, my previous firm actually did me a favour as I built a business fit for its time rather than relying on what I’d always done. I was also more determined than ever to prove to myself and others that I could succeed.
How did you go about building a business from the ground up?
I took measured risks, some of which were personal risks such as the trademark dispute which was costly, and thought carefully about whether I was taking the right steps at every stage of the journey. Plus, I worked hard. Even though it was exhausting, the hard work was more fulfilling and rewarding because I was doing it for myself.
My only regret is wishing I’d set out on my own ten years earlier when I was in my early 40s with more time and energy.
How important is technology to running your business?
I’ve always had a physical office and I’ve always had a remote working infrastructure. There are some big draws to having an office, for example giving credibility to potential clients and distancing life at work from life at home. Likewise, I’m a fan of remote working and I’ve made this option available for employees from the outset.
I have to confess, I didn’t have a clue about technology but quickly discovered the benefits of cloud software. As long as I have access to a phone or laptop, I can see time recordings, outbound expenditure, inbound fees due and cash flow generally.
The same concept applies to my staff who are currently spending only one day per week in the office with the rest of their time working from home. This single day in the office gives my employees the chance to collaborate, supervise, file and organise anything that can’t be done at home. It gives me the chance to check in with them and ensure their wellbeing isn’t being unduly impacted during these Covid times.
It’s Quill’s cloud practice management and legal accounting software that allows us to operate in this truly flexible way.
As an outsourced service provider, do you advocate the outsourcing model?
From day one, I’ve been both a supplier and consumer of outsourcing services. Being a complete novice regarding financial management and compliance, I instructed Quill to handle my legal cashiering and payroll with the compliance responsibilities that accompany these jobs, for instance, client account management and bank reconciliations. I simply wouldn’t have known how to deal with any of this.
As a new business, it’s vital to concentrate on servicing clients and instruct help elsewhere. It would be impossible to replicate Quill’s services in-house because of its vast collective experience and knowledge in these heavily regulated functions.
Outsourcing is a no brainer. Why would any business owner waste their management time on tasks outside your specialist areas when they could be charging a good rate delivering legal services instead?
Outsourcing costs far less than paying for someone in-house and outsourced suppliers have far more expertise than one person doing the role. Outsource to a company that understands how law firms operate and you’re at a real advantage.
Do you have any parting tips for entrepreneurs?
Before going it alone, work out your relationship with the firm you’re leaving so you know your starting point. Plan based on what the reality of your situation is whilst being adaptable and prepared to change as your business progresses.
Get the right technology in place for remote working capabilities but don’t completely rule out having a bricks-and-mortar office as well. Serviced offices are readily available and you don’t need a huge space unless you have lots of staff. Speak to cloud software providers – Quill included – about technology.
At the same time, play to your strengths and outsource to cover the skills you lack. Again, using Quill as an example, this could be legal cashiering and payroll support. In Bhayani Law’s case, this would be outsourced HR support.
With solid foundations in place, there’s nothing you can’t achieve with resilience, dedication and hard work. Success is yours for the taking.
About Jay Bhayani – Solicitor & Managing Director
Jay is a specialist employment law solicitor and leads the HR & Employment Law Team. She has over 25 years’ experience in dealing with all aspects of HR and employment matters and specialises in complex and sensitive issues.
The Firm’s innovative Watertight fixed-fee HR support package is a cost-effective solution that provides complete peace of mind for clients. This, together with her energy and enthusiasm is a winning approach.
In addition to her legal work, Jay is an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ at Sheffield Hallam University and a member of their management school advisory board, a past member of the Law Society’s Women Lawyers Division Committee as well as a mum of two teenagers!