To conclude our 2022 Law Firm Leadership Interview Series, we are delighted to welcome Kerri Shaw and Gemma Bunner, co-founders of Shaw & Bunner Legal.
After over ten years of working for a large national law firm, Kerri Shaw & Gemma Bunner set out to create a firm that would provide the flexibility they were looking for after they became parents. In 2018, they co-founded Shaw & Bunner Legal. Their mission was to represent regional-based clients who have suffered an injury, invest in their journey, and provide solution-driven advice.
We sat down with Kerri and Gemma to find out what they've learned after four years in business and what their top tips and tools are for running a thriving law firm.
It's been an incredible experience starting our own firm, and we've learned so much. Like many Personal Injury firms, we started in a more generalised space doing wills & estates, conveyancing, and probates, and then built our niche in Personal Injury. It reached a point where we've dropped the other practice areas, and we're now a boutique personal injury law firm. It's taken us a few years, but we're in a good place where we see ourselves and our firm moving forward.
A large factor in our success has been our partnership together. Having children was our driving force in creating our own law firm. Coincidentally, we had kids within five days of each other. We just missed each other in the maternity ward! Going back into the workforce after that period of maternity leave made us realise working long hours while raising a family wasn't going to work in the long-term.
It's always a juggle, but we've positioned ourselves so that day-care and school are within two minutes of our office. We can hear the school bell from our desks! With Smokeball Legal Practice Management Software and our IT setup, we can work remotely if one of our kids is unwell. We've learned to put structures in place so that when things don't go to plan — because, with kids, they inevitably don't — we can make the school assembly or cover each other's cases if needed.
We have complete trust in each other. We've worked together for over a decade at our previous firm. We knew each other's work ethic and had no doubts about how we'd work together. There have been so many things in business and personally that have come up, but we've maintained the same level of professionalism and friendship. It hasn't been a rocky road because we built our partnership on a solid foundation. We've been able to take on new challenges because of that trust in each other.
One of our biggest challenges is balancing the file work. The saying, 'working in the business, not on the business,' has largely been us. In the early days, we were doing everything from opening the mail to answering the phones. As we've grown our team, we've been more mindful about setting time in our diaries for strategic thinking and business development. We approach it by having a new quarterly focus on projects or sprints. Last year, we focused on rebranding and transitioning to Smokeball. This strategy works for us rather than trying to do everything simultaneously, which can get really overwhelming as a business owner.
We were sold on Smokeball within two minutes of the demo. We can't rave highly enough about Smokeball. We had a previous practice management system that was really inferior. We felt like we were working in the Dark Ages! Now we've switched to Smokeball; we feel like we've only just scratched the surface of what the platform can do, and we're excited about implementing it more across the firm.
As a team, we have really embraced using the Communicate secure messaging and file sharing platform. We now use it to communicate with each other on a file to allocate tasks and review cases. The great thing about that is it is all there. You can quickly refresh your memory rather than trying to open various email chains. We really like that it sits within the matters, and all your correspondence is in the same communication chain.
We also use the Communicate platform to text our clients with messages and appointment reminders. It's so valuable because we don't need a third-party platform and all the client's information is easily accessible and in one place. Smokeball is amazing, and particularly when we all shifted to working remotely — Communicate was a godsend.
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