As the world marks International Women’s Day, lawyer Courtney Lockett has shattered the traditional model of the blue-chip and top-tier law firms by setting up a chain of legal practices.
“Going out on my own has allowed me to reach my potential and have the best of both worlds – constantly improving my abilities as a lawyer and also being a business owner,” said Lockett, the Principal and owner of three Lockett McCullough Lawyers legal practices.
Today, the 32-year-old employs 12 people and services 3,000 clients a year.
“We need more lawyers working outside the old institutional model. You can achieve amazing things running your own legal practice,” Lockett said.
Lockett said her early success has fuelled her dream of growth and she wants to grow her business. Four years ago, she secured a business loan to launch her first legal practice in Toowong, an inner-city suburb of Brisbane, and after outgrowing the practice and paying down the loan, she used her home as collateral to buy her second practice in Albany Creek. Earlier this year she paid cash for her third office in Noosa, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
“Everyone needs a lawyer at some point in their life and I hope that our boutique offices offer a comfortable environment for clients to make decisions regarding their legal matters,” Lockett said.
“Being a lawyer is very much finding a way to argue your client’s point and problem solve.”
Lockett offers the following advice to millennials wanting to start their own practice:
- Decide on your niche: Lockett is passionate about everyday Mums and Dads having access to sound legal advice and believes suburban firms can capably share the space with the top-tier legal firms without the red tape and their rigid institutional model. She says the pandemic taught her the benefit of operating a high-volume generalised practice that offers expertise in the conveyancing, wills and estate administration, family law and compensation spaces.
- Embrace technology: She took advantage of new technology to improve her business efficiencies and reduce delivery times of documents such as property settlements. Her offices were one of the early adopters of PEXA, an electronic conveyancing system that enabled her staff to deliver 600 settlement transactions in four months during the coronavirus lockdown last year. (Lockett McCullough Lawyers was an award finalist for the PropertyX Innovate Awards 2020 by PEXA in the category of Panel Law Firms).
- Flexibility: Lockett was inspired to go out on her own because of the work–life balance it afforded her. She said it offered her an unprecedented chance to reconsider how and where she worked, the freedom to explore new opportunities in the legal space and become more entrepreneurial in building her brand and growing her practices.
- Intellectual challenge: Her biggest fear setting up her own practice was whether she would stagnate as a lawyer and lose the ability to think and construct legal arguments. Instead, it’s enabled her to balance her love of the law and helping people with the challenge and stimulation of growing a business and earning a living.
- Client retention and acquisition: Lockett said a significant contributor to her firm’s exponential growth has been repeat business and clients returning for advice on different legal matters year on year. She said the expansion of her referral network to military personnel and their spouses had helped deliver new clients to her practice.
- Create a client-focused culture: Her advice for young lawyers wanting to branch out on their own is to have a clear vision. She said having specific goals and a clear business strategy and financial plan has helped her establish the McCullough Lockett brand and practices across Queensland, Australia.
- Remain visible: Lockett uses social media to showcase the firm’s expertise. Sharing industry updates and legal advice has been an effective way for Lockett to market her firm and attract new clients.
- Build a quality team of people you can trust: Lockett said if you want to run a great business, you need great, talented people. She employs solicitors who are highly accomplished and recognised in their respective areas of law and employs some of Brisbane’s most experienced conveyancers.