Today I’m joined by a very special guest, my friend and mentor, Clarissa Rayward in a refreshingly unfiltered conversation about her law firm, her ‘side hustle’ and The Retreat, the world’s best legal conference that she runs annually.  

Clarissa has been in family law since forever and has been running her own law firm, the Brisbane Family Law Centre, since 2008. Clarissa is also something of a guardian angel for 130-odd lawyers, businesses owners and professionals around Australia (of which I am one) who all hang out in the online space that she created: Happy Lawyer Happy Life ‘The Club’.  

There is so much to learn from Clarissa and the truly amazing thing about her is that she’s more than willing to share her ideas with anyone who’s willing to listen. Doing so, she says, feeds her fundamental desire to help people (that’s why she’s a lawyer). She doesn’t care about being secretive about her creative process because even when people steal her ideas, she’s already moved onto the next one. In fact, sitting on business secrets out of fear is a big part of the general unhappiness that haunts our industry. 

When she got started in family law, Clarissa didn’t agree with the way things were being done:  

“I was observing it to be delivered in a way that didn’t enable people to move forward, be friends and productively do things in a way that supports their children into the future.”  

Now, when working with people going through divorce and separation, she describes it as ‘looking for amicable solutions’ which ultimately means helping couples remain friends well after the divorce process.  

Divorce, which Clarissa talks about as ‘heartbreak’, is a human, emotional issue, not a legal issue. As such, the Brisbane Family Law Centre has actively developed strong relationships with psychologists, financial planners and accountants in order to allow clients to get the professional advice they need in a one-stop-shop sort of way. This minimises stress for the client and prevents lawyers from ticking a box by simply mentioning to a client that they need to find an accountant. As Clarissa says, ‘other professionals have real value in the space of estate planning and divorce’. 

So, Clarissa conducts her business in a very holistic way. In the episode, she talks us through how she organises her team, uses social media to boost her message and attract more clients and turns ten-page long advice letters into nifty one-page infographics. A lot of that extraordinary work was enabled by her team target concept whereby her entire staff focuses on a weekly, collaborative goal. I love this because it removes all the hierarchical nonsense from the firm and makes it so that no one is more valuable than anyone else, it’s just a case of: 

“What’s the thing that needs to be done? Who has the skillset to do it? And we just get on with it.” 

I can’t end these show notes without mentioning The Retreat which is the annual physical manifestation of Clarissa’s online club. Last year, there were giant inflatable flamingos, tinsel walls and even a flash mob, intermingled of course with a series of high-quality, high-energy and high-performance presentations conducted by speakers from a wide array of professions. This year The Retreat will take place virtually, thanks to COVID-19, but having heard some of Clarissa’s ideas for the weekend, I’m excited and confident that it’ll be nothing less than an extravaganza. Tickets are on sale at www.happylawyerhappylife.com/theretreat. 

Listen for an enlightening discussion of all things law and business, including but not limited to: 

  • A holistic approach to family law that puts amicability first. 
  • The spider web of social media that places your business’ message exactly where your clients like to hang out (Clarissa’s was one of the first law firms to have an Instagram account). 
  • How Clarissa became an ‘accidental wellness advocate’ and how that fits in with her broader business strategy. 

About Clarissa Rayward

Clarissa, on most days, describes herself as a “happy family lawyer”. She loves the work she does and the way she’s able to do it. Working in Brisbane, she is a collaborative lawyer and mediator specialising in helping separating families stay out of the Family Courts and in that vein, she founded and continues to operate the Brisbane Family Law Centre.  

Clarissa is all about the side hustle. She is a wife, mother, chocolate lover, online community curator and in 2015 became the author of her first book, Splitsville, an easy-to-read legal guide for families experiencing divorce and separation.  

As is self-evident, Clarissa is an endlessly creative person with a big heart that doesn’t stop with her clients. Her commitment to her legal peers and colleagues manifests in a multitude of ways, namely her second book, podcast and side business, all of which co-exist under the umbrella name ‘Happy Lawyer Happy Life’. Connect with Clarissa and watch your life evolve into something you’re proud to call yours.  

Clarissa Rayward quotes 

  • “Divorce aka heartbreak, they’re emotional issues, they’re not legal issues, and yet we try and apply legal band aids to what are very human, emotional issues.” 
  • “For me it’s not just about the legal issues, it’s genuinely looking at what are all of the challenges that divorce and separation bring to a family, and how can I try and bring them all into one place.” 
  • “Mindset and value set are the first thing I look for when it comes to hiring. Assuming that is in line, then I will look to what do we need in the firm? What is the task or the problem we’re trying to solve?” 
  • “We can all be great lawyers and live great lives, whatever that means for each of us individually.” 
  • “Business is not static. The minute it’s static you’ve got a problem. It’s just being in a head space all the time of, ‘how can I do this better?’” 
  • “Everywhere in my life, every business I have, I don’t overthink it. I tell it how it is and get on with it.” 

Find Clarissa online 

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