A friend said something to me a couple of weeks into my new life as…
At a time when everything’s gone online, lawyer Andrew Byrnes has had a head start—he was already doing this before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Andrew has a bit of an anti-establishment streak running through him. So it may surprise you to find out he is a lawyer.
But while Andrew has immersed himself in a profession which clings to history, precedents and the traditional way of doing things, Andrew is using a very modern approach at his new firm, Andrew Byrnes Law Group.
One of them is to do as much work as possible digitally, which cuts down on cost, paperwork, and—in this time of required social isolation— the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
The relatively young firm which started operating in late November 2019 aims not only to do things differently, but also devotes part of its pre-tax income to charity.
Andrew, who combined his Law Degree with a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Wollongong says he operates his legal practice less like a traditional legal firm and more like any other business – with a focus on client satisfaction.
“Law is a profession which holds on to the past. That train of thought is, I believe, deeply engrained in lawyers because of how we are trained to think. The old way of practising law was certainly profitable for a number of the older law firms for a number of years due to a combination of different circumstances—why change it, they probably think?”
Yet when he began his early career, Andrew found himself “spending valuable hours in the day printing out things to place in a file and then bringing large volumes of folders into conferences with clients. I thought to myself—why are we doing this when we have computers that can store all of this information for us?”
The cost of this excessive paperwork and administration does not necessarily deliver a clearly noticeable benefit for the client in any way, especially when they are sent the bill from the traditional law firm, he noted.
Moreover, Andrew believes traditional mega offices are a thing of the past, and the charged-by-the-minute conversations which are difficult to understand and heavy in legalese makes the client feel overwhelmed and make legal advice and legal representation inaccessible. These aspects of legal practice are also what makes it traditionally so expensive.
“I am a lawyer that tries to instead put myself in the shoes of my clients and think about what it is that I would want if I was looking for a lawyer to help me,” he explains.
“So I remember that what I would value as a client of a law firm is providing a great service at a fair price and I then focus my efforts on developing a long-term relationship with my clients based on this. How I achieve the fair price is through doing the business of law differently, and certainly less traditionally.”
So how does it work?
For starters, Andrew says the current state of social distancing has opened up people’s minds to the concept of online video conferencing and telephone conferencing in place of face-to-face meetings.
That said, Andrew says that his law firm does the same types of general legal work as other law firms. His days are very varied, in that his days involve fearlessly representing clients in Court in criminal cases, preparing wills and estate planning documents for clients, providing advice and representation in civil disputes and civil litigation cases, and acting in personal injury cases.
Just like any more traditional law firm, but the day-to-day work is just done differently.
On top of this traditional legal practice, he also currently offers two types of online legal services. One is an online interview/case assessment for a criminal case—soon to be extended to civil cases—and the other involves ordering your legal documents online, but with tailored legal advice provided with it.
In the case of online cases assessments, he uses specialised software to ask clients the most important questions which need to be answered for a productive initial client interview. Once he has assessed the answers to those questions, he can offer advice about what to do next.
“This online interview is completely free for clients and is useful because people can simply complete an interview at their own time and get advice more urgently than having to wait for a time to meet a particular lawyer in their office.”
In the case of an online legal document, once the online interview is completed, a draft of the document incorporating the client’s answers is sent to Andrew for checking and editing so he can ensure the document is legally correct. Then, he sends a link to a client with a video recording of him taking the client through the document and explaining its effects, which they can watch at their own time.
“So, for example, in the case of a will, I would take them through the clauses of the will and would explain their legal effect, and would ask them to check whether there is anything that needs to be changed or would raise legal issues which may arise based on the clauses. Once those aspects have been sorted and any changes made once the client has looked at the will and my video, the client is then sent the finished Will and is given instructions about how to have it validly executed.”
This is different to just buying a will kit from a post office or even buying a will from a website that allows you to just order a will with no legal input, as these are not necessarily reviewed by a lawyer and may contain unforeseen pitfalls if not checked.
Going online and digital has allowed Andrew to deliver the final product, faster and in a more cost-effective manner—and with less paper.
“I have invested in legal software that is highly secure. That said, there are certain legal documents that (for the moment) must be physically signed and these have to be kept secure, which we do, but the idea that every single document of a client’s needs to be printed off and kept is outdated when you can keep an online file effectively forever, keeping their data and information safe.”
Meanwhile, Andrew has already begun the process of donating part of his firm’s income in line with his personal ethos of giving back.
“I believe that as lawyers we are a fortunate profession and that giving back is the right thing for us to do. I have had exposure, particularly in criminal cases, to people who have faced great hardship in their lives and those who are living rough or have drug problems. It is very often the disadvantaged communities who find themselves on the wrong side of the law and who we as lawyers need to help. Yes, we can do this by representing them, but there are other ways we can give back, and I wanted my business to do exactly that—give back.”
You can find out about his charity donations on his socials, facebook.com/andrewbyrneslawgroup and @andrewbyrneslawgroup on Instagram.
“I think lawyers tend to have a certain perception in the community. I am hoping my business model may turn that perception of lawyers on its head.”
To book an online or telephone consultation with Andrew Byrnes Law Group or to get started with an Online Legal Service, go to andrewbyrneslawgroup.com.au.
Once the COVID-19 situation improves, meet them at Level 9 Nishi Building, New Acton or pick a location that suits you better. Phone (02) 6243 3620.