Female Leader, Lyn Lucas, Director Online Divorce Lawyer

Lyn Lucas Director Online Divorce Lawyer‘s disillusionment with traditional methods of Family Law practice and desire for greater work flexibility converged and saw her establishing a new business model for divorcing couples to avoid litigation. Based on her background as a mediator, Lyn founded Online Divorce Lawyer to help couples going through divorce who had agreed their property settlement to access a lower cost, out of court alternative, using technology.

Working predominantly from home, and semi-retired, Lyn has found this business model so effective that she’s now set up a second business to share her formula with other Family Law practitioners who want change. Family Law Blueprint draws from Lyn’s Online Divorce Lawyer business model to show lawyers how they can run a national practice, work flexibly, earn well and have a less stressful life.

Online Divorce Lawyer is all about keeping divorcing couples out of litigation. What inspired you to come up with this innovative model?

I studied Law as a mature age student. After many years of practice in Family Law, I became disillusioned with the systems of the Family Court, and the detrimental effect it had on my clients, who became very stressed. They could not understand why the process took so long, and was so expensive, and why they each needed to have separate lawyers.

I was also becoming stressed, and decided to find another way to continue doing the work I enjoyed, but in a different way that would be of benefit to my clients, and to me. I’m also a Mediator and have always felt more comfortable using mediation to resolve clients’ problems, rather than the adversarial approach.

The “light bulb” moment came when I realised I could benefit from using 21st century technology to start a unique online family law practice. So about eight years ago I started Online Divorce Lawyer. Now I have a national practice with clients around Australia. I only work with clients who agree as to their property division, so there is no conflict of interest.  Settlements are organised in a much shorter time frame. I work for a fixed fee and have happy clients, which results in a happy me!

Finally I can have holidays when I want (and I have had several since semi-retirement), and still keep my practice bubbling along with my trusty laptop. Clients don’t complain about their lawyer being away, they just don’t know where I am working from. I even had 4.5 weeks holiday in the United States!

Tell us about the “NewLaw” movement, and its benefits for both customers and lawyers.

When I started to research the “NewLaw” movement I discovered that I was already a part of it. The term arose about five years ago to describe a growing category of alternative legal service providers that set themselves apart in key ways. They were using new or disruptive technologies, and were willing to innovate.

Flexible working was encouraged, including remote working, often giving rise to greater job satisfaction and work-life balance.  Their service provision was client-focused including alternative pricing strategies. It is a completely different model to the traditional large law firms, who are facing increasing competition from rapidly evolving NewLaw providers.

In a recent enquiry conducted by the NSW Law Society entitled The FLIP Enquiry (Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession) I was invited to speak about my online practice. When the final report was released I had four comments recommending my innovative practice and my use of technology.

Your new business, Family Law Practice Blueprint shares your successful business model. Tell us about it.

I have just launched my Family Law Practice Blueprint membership site. The fact that I had built a national family law practice successfully over the last eight years motivated me to show other like-minded family lawyers how they could do it too. My original thought in starting the online practice was with a view to semi-retirement and being able to work from home.

The practice of law, in all areas, is very stressful. I also felt that there would be a number of family lawyers who would like to do what I do, and especially to keep clients out of the Family Court. An online practice could appeal to lawyers with young children who preferred to work from home, regional and rural lawyers looking to expand their practice nationally, and older lawyers wanting less stress but still interested in working their own hours (and being able to have holidays).

I haven’t as yet found another law practice like mine. This is surprising because it certainly “ticks all the boxes” for me, and this niche market is huge.  I’m sure the Family Court would like to see more practices like mine, and leave the Court to deal with the more complex cases!

What is important to understand for customers and practitioners using fixed legal fee models?

Fixed fees are very popular with clients. Most family lawyers work on an hourly basis which can often be most unfair to clients. (Some lawyers take much longer than others to do the same job, and they all have a budget to meet). Clients understand fixed fees and feel comfortable in knowing exactly how much it will cost, unlike hourly rates which can quickly escalate and the end tax invoice can be a shock.

I am comfortable quoting a fixed fee because I know approximately how much work is needed to be done for my clients and the time involved.  Sometimes I lose out because clients may have been more demanding, but this is rare. I also provide a Costs Agreement that sets out exactly what work I will be doing for them.

Your greatest challenge?

To educate clients that there are alternatives to settling their property division. Historically clients have been told that each of them must have a separate lawyer due to a possible conflict of interest, which immediately doubles their costs.  If the couple agree on their property division there is no conflict of interest in my view.

I prefer to prepare a Binding Financial Agreement for clients, and this requires that each party have independent advice before signing the document. I can do this for one client and I have colleagues who can do this for the other client. My experience is that when I act for both clients I get both sides of the story immediately. Whereas if two lawyers are involved, it can be several months (and higher legal fees) before both lawyers realise that there are always two sides to each story!

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of the fact that by using my Online Divorce Lawyer practice model I have assisted so many clients to resolve their property settlements in a short length of time, with a saving of legal costs and with much less stress than going through months of having lawyers arguing over the property division, and being pushed to commence applications in the Court.

Fortunately I don’t have to meet budgets as I’m now semi retired and work from home, and glad that I can pass on those savings to my clients. When grateful clients tell me that I have made their separation and property settlement much easier and less stressful than they expected, I know I have done the right thing in starting my unique practice.

Advice for future female leaders?

Be brave! Believe in yourself, your goals, and your abilities to make a difference in the lives of others. We only have one life so grab the opportunities as they come to make changes for the better.

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.