Michael Bradley, today’s guest, gave me an unusual answer to a standard question. I wanted to know how his law firm goes about charging clients on value as opposed to time. I asked, “How does this work in practice?”
And he said, “Really well, actually!”
So, either Michael had a really good sleep that night or he’s just a genuinely happy lawyer. My instincts – and the conversation we have in this podcast – tell me it’s the latter.
Michael, like so many of us, left a big law firm to start a little one. Its name is Marque and the headline on its website reads ‘Law, done differently’. In the episode, we talk about what that means to him, starting with recognising the ways in which the law can make us unhappy:
“Early on, we recognised timesheets as one of the key causes of dysfunction for law firms and their relationships with clients.”
So, most of the work at Marque is done either on retainer or fixed fees and all metrics and measurements are banned. As he candidly puts it, everyone already measures people on an utterly subjective basis and his firm is just more honest about it. You really see what Michael means when he says that one of the big missions of the firm is to let everyone be one person – not a lawyer and a human being, separately.
When you start a business, you have a unique opportunity to throw away all your old ideas and ways of doing and start fresh. Everyone involved gets to pitch in their ideas and values and that melting pot becomes the overall purpose of your firm or company. But what happens next? What do you do when you’re a few years down the line? You’re paying people’s salaries, you’re drowning in overheads and it’s just not as simple as chucking it all out and starting again.
For Michael, this isn’t a catch-22 situation. His solution is to hit a metaphorical ‘reset’ button every few years to bring values up to date with changing staff and times. Here’s why he thinks it’s worth it:
“As your business grows, you have more to lose so it becomes riskier to make big changes. But businesses that aren’t prepared to take risks will stagnate.”
Exactly. Listen to the episode for an exploration of what happiness and fulfilment can look like in the legal industry and some of the ways you can go about finding some for yourself.
About our guest
The first 20 years of Michael Bradley’s career were spent at a large national law firm, following a career trajectory from graduate recruit to managing partner. In 2008 he left to start Marque with some colleagues, with the seriously stated purpose of completely changing the way law is practised. He’s been running Marque since then. Michael is also a widely published writer; he currently has a regular column with Crikey writing on justice and politics, and had a book published in 2019.
Marque has been an outlier in the industry since its launch. They operate on fundamentally different principles and business model from their competitors. Their driving purpose is to use law for good. They measure their success by reference to their own happiness and fulfilment.
Michael Bradley quotes
- “Lawyers have to have two personalities: lawyer and human. That means you’re okay with behaviours as a lawyer that your human side wouldn’t be okay with. Over time, this is very damaging. So, part of our vision was to just be one person at all times.”
- “Value pricing is very uncomfortable for lawyers. It seems so unscientific… so there’s a lot of fear attached to it.”
- “You have more to lose as you go on so it becomes riskier to make big changes. But businesses that aren’t prepared to take risks will stagnate.
- “Fundamentally, we really liked being lawyers but we really hated the way law is done.”
Find Michael online
My new book – It’s Time To Do Law Differently
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Thank you to Nexus Law Group
This episode is brought to you by Nexus Law Group. For those seeking positive career change, Nexus Law Group offers senior lawyers the freedom of sole practice with all the support and infrastructure you need so you can focus on what you do best – practising law. Contact Nexus to find out how you can take the next step towards a more rewarding legal career. Find out more on the Join Us page at nexuslawyers.com.au.
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