In recent years, a raft of articles circulated in the Australian media contained disheartening news for women reading who were either already working in the field of law or who hoped one day to be. ‘Female lawyers being burnt out by the ‘boys’ club’ lamented one national masthead. ‘Glacial pace: one third of new law firm partners are women’ described another. In an age where the balance is finally but certainly shifting in many sectors, it’s unfortunately still the case that in many others the correction is happening at a snail’s pace, regardless of technological advancements or cries for change from within.
Law, in particular, has always been seen as a particularly conservative industry, with women in leadership positions and senior roles grossly underrepresented. In 2016, the proportion of women partners within Australian law was just 24.4%, with only a slight increase of 0.8% over the following 12 months.
Key industries within Australia, including law, are coming under increasing pressure to evolve. Challenged to ensure strategic frameworks are developed and implemented which nurture and provide opportunities for women to make their way to the C-suite, it’s also critical they are integrating (and capitalising on) constantly evolving tech applications to enhance commercial relationships and service output.
Mellissa Larkin was already a successful corporate lawyer after having spent years practicing both in Australia and abroad, when she decided to found her own firm in 2016. After nearly 20 years in the legal industry, Mellissa observed a rising tide of clients no longer content with paying exorbitant fees charged in 6 minute intervals for some indeterminate outcome. It was clear – businesses needed more than just legal support to successfully run their businesses. They needed a range of custom business advisory services. They wanted representatives who were trusted thought partners.
Something had to change, so she committed to forging her own path towards a new style of legal and business advisory practice.
Mellissa explains, “I knew that the traditional model was broken and there had to be a better way. Then once I’d started thinking about doing things differently – providing a service akin to that of an in-house legal team, flexible, affordable, building and growing real relationships with clients – working in a traditional role was no longer an option.”
Her vision was Peripheral Blue, a disruptive new style of legal and consulting practice championing equality, cultivating opportunity pathways for female legal practitioners, and embracing technology to streamline workflow. Internal and external communications would be improved and enhanced. Clients would be serviced better and more efficiently.
The firm, while based in Adelaide, South Australia, has fast moved into both legal and consulting work Australia-wide. Drawing on the combined expertise of some of the country’s most dynamic practitioners and consultants, Peripheral Blue offers clients access to top tier legal and consulting services without the traditional, often cost-prohibitive pricing structures. It was a bold decision, but one which ensures companies that may have previously been put off by or priced out of working with traditional ‘big name’ firms, can have ready and ongoing access top tier legal counsel and business consulting services.
While there is still a place for traditional law firms, Mellissa firmly believes that “there is a very real need in today’s market for access to top-tier advice offered in a more flexible, cost-effective way.”
Traditional industries such as retail, publishing, education, and automotive have already been largely disrupted by technological advancements, yet conservative industries such as banking and law have been slow to follow. Paradoxically, while many nimble young startups leverage tech to execute clever ideas and agitate for change, they often lack the frameworks – including legal – required to ensure sustainability.
Whereas some new firms offer easy to access templates or ‘one size fits all’ legal documentation and services, they often fail to take into account the many and varied complexities that many SMEs without dedicated legal representation are facing.
“The risk with these type of services is that because they aren’t tailored to the client’s individual circumstances,” Mellissa explains, “they often don’t adequately mitigate or even address the risks their businesses face.”
Peripheral Blue’s approach combines the one non-negotiable from the traditional legal model – top-tier service and training with the employment of digital technology strategies, to advance an agile workforce and a new, more effective style of contemporary service provision.
“The use of a digital-first approach in the legal industry has been profound – it’s allowed us to streamline our processes, provide services in an agile and collaborative manner, and save clients money in the process.”
It is through just such careful consideration of client needs and staff wellbeing, and the strategic digitising of commercial opportunities, that Peripheral Blue is succeeding in positioning itself as a progressive new style of firm willing – and able – to revolutionise the way legal services are practiced in Australia.
About Mellissa Larkin:
Mellissa Larkin is the Founder and Managing Director of legal and consulting firm Peripheral Blue. In launching the business in 2016, her aim was to disrupt the legal and professional services industries by giving clients access to top tier, yet flexible, responsive legal and advisory services, without the top-tier price tag. A graduate of Flinders University, Mellissa has worked at high profile firms in Australia and internationally, having completed her Masters in Law at Trinity College, Dublin. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and three children.