Jacqui Brauman Director TBA Law bought a regional legal practice 6 years ago when the original owner retired. By applying ‘new law’ methods, a liberal dose of technology and digital marketing, Jacqui has grown TBA Law to 5 locations across Nagambie, Romsey, Seymour, Wallan and Melbourne, but the firm also provides services virtually.
Jacqui’s also authored 6 books, 3 of which are legal books on Estate Planning, an area TBA Law specialise in, and the other 3 are on the topic of women’s empowerment and success. She’s a committed regional and rural business owner, community member and proud local employer, whose chosen to build her career and life in a rural setting, contributing to the local economy and also servicing clients well beyond its borders.
TBA Law have been awarded as NAB 2017 Professional Services Winners, 2017 Australasian Law Awards Finalists and Jacqui was a 2016 Women in Law Finalist.
Tell us about the journey of acquiring an established regional law firm, and growing it to three times the size.
I bought the firm in October 2012 from a retiring male solicitor. I was initially concerned in a country town that a young female lawyer would be too much of a change. But it wasn’t. I’m frank in my advice, and I do efficient work and communicate well, which is mostly what people want. I also got very involved in a couple of community associations to get to know key locals quickly.
After two years, I had added another 2 staff members, and we re-branded and moved to bigger premises by my third anniversary. A lot of this growth involved embracing some more modern marketing – using Facebook, blogging for SEO to our website, and e-newsletters. My first book also came out at this time, and I did a lot of guest blogging at that time, and it also opened doors for me to meet other professionals in complementary fields for referral relationships.
The growth has continued, not smoothly, or without staff and IT issues (and the introduction of the NBN). I now have 8 staff plus myself, and 5 office locations. Part of being able to duplicate my services into a new location is utilising cloud software, so I could work from anywhere, and VOIP phones. Part of my success is being fairly conservative with what I spend, and making sure I put money aside for GST, PAYG, super, and professional indemnity insurance. Also, having peer mentors has been really helpful, to sit with a group of women business owners every quarter to talk business has been game-changing.
What are the ingredients to running a successful legal practice?
Effective communication. Being able to explain something complex to someone so they understand, and then keeping them informed throughout the progress of the matter.
And doing what you say you’re going to do. I’m accountable to achieve a result for my clients, and I will do that almost at all costs (to myself).
Share your predictions for the future of the legal profession.
I think it will divide into full service/ trusted advisor firms, and then document preparer firms. We won’t be able to be generalists, but will have to specialize in a couple of areas, and have a good team of either colleagues around us, or referral partners. A lot of firms are already outsourcing their document preparation and paralegal work to solicitors in South East Asian countries, which doesn’t sit well with me.
We will also do more appointments virtually, via Zoom or other platforms, and location will be less of a problem.
I really hope that some areas of law will become less adversarial and more collaborative, the more women that become senior in the profession.
You’ve written six books in total. What inspired you to write each one, and what’s the key message to readers?
Three of my books are legal books. Two are guides for families about the importance of estate planning in different stages of life, and the third is a bit more legally technical about the importance of digital estate planning (for your online assets).
The other three books are to empower women to succeed. One was a labour of love – The Cult of Dissatisfaction – and is very personal. The other two are older publicly available texts that I have re-written with a more female touch.
I love to write. I love to educate and am able to give the books away to other professionals to give to their clients. It’s a good business card.
Your greatest challenge?
I think every day has its own challenges. Mostly they are mental – whether I’m doubting myself, or the pressures that I put myself under to achieve a certain amount. Managing staff and keeping them happy and motivated is also very challenging, particularly because not everyone is self-motivated like me, and I just have trouble understanding and remembering that.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of creating a staff and supportive workplace, with great energy, and creating jobs for local people that didn’t previously exist.
Advice for future female leaders?
Keep perspective, and don’t lose yourself. Make sure you’re very clear on your own values, and don’t give in to doing things in a way that doesn’t match your values. You know what’s best for you, no one else does. Take their suggestions and advice on board, but trust your gut the most.
Also, take time for yourself to recharge. Don’t succumb to decision fatigue, or burn out on your goals if things don’t happen exactly how you want them to happen. Remember, if you didn’t move towards a goal at all, you’d still be back where you were to begin with.
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