Chelsey Questions for Sarah Bartholomeusz

Tell us a bit about your background.

I’ve wanted to be a lawyer for as long as I can remember, I had a teacher in year 7 who was a real inspiration – I sent flowers to her the day of my last exam in Law School.

When I finished high school I went to study arts and law at the Unviersity of Adelaide.

I’ve worked as a coropare and commercial lawyer for over 12 years.  I started in a boutique commercial firm in Adelaide before moving to work in litigation at top tier firm and then on to two different roles as counsel for large ASX listed companies.

When I was 32 weeks pregnant with my second child I was made redundant from my job when the subsidiary I was working for was sold.  The new owner of the company approached me and asked that I continue to work for them as a contractor which I did.  But from there I saw an opportunity for other lawyers and clients, and You Legal is now a top-tier virtual firm.

What is You Legal and how does it work?

You Legal is a specialist law firm providing documents and advice to corporate and business clients.  We provide clients with a Virtual Legal Counsel service, where we act as in-house counsel for as a member of their team and we also provide all the corporate commercial services that a traditional commercial firm provides.  We have expanded to include legal experts in corporate, commercial, employment, property and intellectual property.  Our clients include a wide variety of businesses including ASX-listed companies, medium sized businesses and franchise businesses.

How do you stand out from competing law firms?

After 12 years spent in traditional law firms and in big corporations as in house counsel I had a unique insight into the problems facing other clients and lawyers.

Our think our greatest assets are flexibility, efficiency and scalability.

The online element isn’t what defines us, but it certainly broadens our ability.  From our initial start in Adelaide we have worked with clients based all around Australia, so we are at the point where we will be expanding Australia wide this year. 

We still meet and speak with clients in the ordinary way when it’s necessary, but when its not we’re able to fill the gap in an innovatinve fashion.  The law more than any other profession can be precedent bound so it can be hard for traditional firms to move away from the classic methods of doing business.  We’re really trying to break that mould.

The structure of the firm also means lower overheads, we provide clients with partner level lawyers who are experts in the field, in a way that saves time and money and provides clients with the best value for their legal spend.

We also aim to have happy lawyers!  It’s no secret that the legal profession is particularly vulnerable to mental health issues. Lawyers we are always dealing with issues that mean a lot to our clients, it is a great privilege, but it can weigh on lawyers minds as well.

We aim to be personal and accessible with the breadth, experience and service you would expect of a large traditional firm.

Our values really reflect this:

Unstoppable

We are passionate about giving leaders of growing companies outstanding service, providing them with confidence and allowing them to make bold decisions within their businesses.

Fresh

Our collaborative approach provides a different coloured lens or our clients and colleagues to view the profession.

Love your Life

We aim to inspire our clients to live a life they love through our energy and passion.

Thoughtful

We listen and we relate to our colleagues, clients and the community to understand what they want and need.  

What has the feedback been like?

Fantastic.  Our clients appreciate the value for money, the flexibility and the services we offer.

We are constantly asking for feedback, and we recently called a number of our clients asking what they thought we should “start, stop and keep” doing – which has enable us to adapt the business to suit what clients are asking for, not just what we think they want.

Who are some business people you look up to?

Gail Kelly, Sheryl Sandberg and Beyoncé.

Why do you believe a work/life balance is important?

At the same time as I started You Legal, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, it was a real eye-opener at a critical time for me – I was about to have another baby.  I wanted to create a business that allowed my team and me to live a life we love, to work hard, get great out comes for our clients but also to have a balance to provide the energy for the passion that our work requires – and we want to work with clients who also value this in their businesses!

Who are some of your key team members?

Everyone!  Everyone at You Legal works on the same basis, and fulfills different but equally important needs. This is part of our flexibility, we engage who when we need to best serve our client’s needs.  They are all introduced on our website! 

Was there a particular point where business began to boom?

Almost from the start, I started working again with our foundation client when baby Nicola was 6 weeks old, because of the flexibility I would work when she was sleeping.  I started agreeing to take on more clients when she was 6 months old and from that point we grew by 400% in our first complete financial year.  We’ve grown from one foundation client to over 100 clients in the same year.

Have you won/been nominated for any awards?

You Legal was a finalist in the Telstra Business Awards’ Start up category this year!  I have also been nominated for the Telstra Women’s Awards.  Watch this space!

In 2014, You Legal was a finalist in the Anthill Cool Company Awards, we had some very cool competition!

You recently announced the advisory board for You Legal. What made you choose these people?

These people really represent the best and most innovative thinking in Adelaide, and most importantly they really align with the You Legal core values. 

The Advisory Board are also leaders in their chosen fields, You Legal is constantly striving for this.

 
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