The Law Boutique: From the Beginning, to the Pandemic and Beyond

qLegal Students Arushi Walia and Casey Marinas discuss how the Law Boutique, a start-up founded by Electra Japonas, successfully navigated the COVID-19 Pandemic. This article explores how and why the Law Boutique operates and the general lessons start-ups can learn from this company’s success.

All successful start-up stories begin with a small idea in the passionate mind of an entrepreneur! Start-ups originate with an urge to fill gaps by bringing a revolution in thinking and working. These gaps are often a by-product of complacency which is driving towards a big black hole of monotony.

The legal industry has evolved over the years and it may be widely understood that lawyers will never be out of fashion. However, for fashion to remain trendy; it must evolve. It must ‘fill’ the gap!

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash
Photo by Marvin Meyers on Unsplash

The Law Boutique was founded in 2017 by Electra Japonas, an inspiring and passionate in-house counsel with over 10 years of experience in the legal field. During this time, she observed how the full potential of some brilliant lawyers was not being utilised. Their abilities were mostly clocked-in and put up on time sheets which created a vicious circle where creativity could not flourish. Lawyers apparently spend more time negotiating with each other than with the client. Here, Electra understood that the cost and effort versus the benefit was not really going hand in hand.

In response to these issues, Electra envisioned a better equipped in-house legal team which could achieve its full potential. On top of that, she believed that the work done within these companies should be less external in order to make the best use of a lawyer’s time and work.

Pivot and take the risk!

In Electra’s words “The Law Boutique has some amazing clients that enable it to pivot!” The Law Boutique is a futuristic and evolving entity that believes in taking risks. It is proud to be working with clients that allow it to build on experiences, as taking risks, no matter the consequences, is the key to its success. This is especially relevant to start-ups who are generally based on novel models and ideas and therefore are more open to risks.

During the pandemic, The Law Boutique did just this. They took risks and ‘went for it’. Unlike many companies, The Law Boutique implemented a policy which involved hiring more employees. Additionally, the company invested in technological growth and customer service. Now during a potential phase out of this world crises, The Law Boutique is proudly reaping the benefits of the once upon a time risk they took.

Navigating the pandemic

The Law Boutique grew during the pandemic and despite these difficult times, it operated with resilience that enabled it to thrive. Indeed, the company faced the challenges that came with working from home, while attempting to hire more people and work with new clients. With almost everything operating remotely, the usual rapport that you would build easily from the outset by meeting face-to-face was lost. Moreover, a lack of separation between work and home which could lead to overworking.

Nevertheless, The Law Boutique has since moved towards a remote-working model since the pandemic began. It managed and hired remotely as well as obtained new clients. This was done through various online platforms. Electra elaborates that The Law Boutique operates with a ‘flat matrix’. This is unlike the usual hierarchical structures that typically characterises law firms. With regards to training, employees are given responsibility but are also encouraged to escalate when they are stuck or need support. With this structure, The Law Boutique and its team were resilient, which enabled it to grow and meet the challenges of today’s climate.

Outside of work, The Law Boutique has committed to maintaining a healthy company culture. The team organises regular virtual socials such as pub quizzes and cooking events. Despite the uncertainty that these current times bring, The Law Boutique remains optimistic, ready to face challenges head on.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

The new in the old

The challenge in growing a start up in the professional services sector is that there are certain established ways of operating which are construed as more ‘accurate’ and ‘reliable’. It is always an uncomfortable task to go against the flow where a longstanding pattern already exists. This requires finding creativity within a framework itself. More like outside the box thinking but within the big circle surrounding it!

The Law Boutique employs a ‘Lightning Service’ whereby it operates as an outsourced contract management service. This serves to look at the process of a contract more pragmatically making use of technology that helps to glean the content, the outcome of which is a more refined and constructive document as opposed to standard drafts. Therefore, The Law Boutique through this service, employs a proactive approach and seeks to consider all bases as opposed to operating within a narrow framework.

Going against the norms — building a ‘creative’ side of law!

The Law Boutique is currently working on three projects which are stimulating and worth a mention.

  • Legal Design — Here, the focus is on who is using the document. This model works on the notion and belief which The Law Boutique stands by that it takes a good lawyer to be able to understand the audience and to tailor the legal drafts and opinions accordingly. Their main focus and idea are to visualise the contractual legal journey of the client, stepping in those very shoes and delivering the right legal context.
  • A Contract Playbook — The Law Boutique provides clear guidance on a client’s preferred positions, approved variations and an indication as to whether the terms in a contract draft will be accounted as negotiable or not. The Law Boutique believes that consistency is the key to managing the risk in a legal contract and having this guidance ensures the ability to track the contractual landscape accordingly.
  • One NDA Club — This is one of the recent and most promising ventures by The Law Boutique. The ‘One NDA Club’ seeks to standardise an NDA that is approved by at least 100 lawyers with the goal of being used by more than 1000 companies. This initiative is based on the study as to how much time a lawyer — whether in-house or otherwise — spends on a general NDA, which is one of the most important and common documents required in transactions.

Parting words…

Electra expressed her opinion that the journey into law is often prescribed and structured. Speaking from experience, Electra observed that this can result in molding an individual into a certain type of lawyer that is part of a ‘pyramid’ hierarchy in law firms. Indeed, this environment appears to be circumscribed and ‘kills the diversity of thought’. Such a structure can hinder innovation in the legal industry. Electra argues that the legal industry needs different business structures in order to catch up with other sectors, like Tech, where the culture is completely different.

When asked for her advice to prospective entrepreneurs, Electra highlighted that it is very much a personal journey. Despite the hard work start-ups entail, it is important to remember that what awaits is a rewarding experience. Off the back of that, she understands that personal experience cannot be underestimated and as a result, you should be able to grow with the business. Electra echoes the Lean Start Up Model, where one should “Fail fast. Fail cheap. Fail quick”.

This article was written by Arushi Walia and Casey Marinas who are participating in qLegal as part of their Law Masters studies at Queen Mary, University of London.

qLegal provides pro bono legal advice to start-ups and entrepreneurs on intellectual property, data protection, corporate and commercial law. See the qLegal website for more details and to book your appointment now. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for regular updates on issues relevant to your business.

We provide free legal advice and resources to tech start-ups & entrepreneurs in the UK, at Queen Mary University of London. @qLegal_ on Twitter and Instagram!