The female entrepreneur is on the rise, she’s not slowing down, and she knows how to run a successful business. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows women make up 34 per cent of all small business operators (668,670 women), representing a 46 per cent increase during the past two decades. Female start-ups in Australia are also getting to profitability faster than their male counterparts and they are more capital efficient.
Against this backdrop, it’s no surprise that Ian Aldridge, a lawyer and entrepreneur who set up a true NewLaw online firm, Progressive Legal – to challenge the DNA of the traditional legal firm to meet a new breed of business owners – has seen an exponential rise in smart, savvy and ambitious female business owners knocking on his door.
“It’s true; women have been flocking to us wanting to safe guard their start-up businesses legally right from the get-go. They’re not afraid to find out their legal obligations and establish requirements now, because they have the foresight to know it’ll save the heartache later. They have a ‘stitch-in-time, saves-nine’ approach, which means they’re far less likely to have issues down the line, while others play Russian Roulette with their business.”
To meet this demand, Ian created Legal Shield – an Australian-first initiative by Progressive Legal being snapped up by Aussie female entrepreneurs. Following the path of any great innovation, Legal Shield takes a problem and solves it.
What gap is Legal Shield looking to fill?
“The problem in this case is many start-up entrepreneurs and small business owners are leaving themselves vulnerable from a legal standpoint because they can’t afford or don’t understand what they need to protect their business”, says Ian. “The biggest problem with small business is cash-flow and we feel the current legal model is broken for the modern fast-paced business owner. Cost, communication and care are the biggest gripes; our new model solves all three”, says Ian.
Through Legal Shield, start-up/growth phase entrepreneurs and small business owners have ongoing access to specialist business lawyers that understand their business and provide affordable, plain-English legal services and advice on demand through a monthly subscription which spreads out the costs.
Grace Lever, a multi-million dollar female entrepreneur running her own business The Doing School, admits she’s found it really tough work with legal teams previously.
“I felt like they didn’t know relevant information about the current space, and it was really dry and really expensive! Ian and I started hanging out a lot together because there were some big things I needed to do around copyright, around trademarking, around protection for myself, the way it was set up and I had no idea what I was talking about from a legal perspective.”
Grace continues: “I also needed someone who a) didn’t cost a fortune and b) who would remember me. I felt like I had to explain about my business again and go back in through the basics and kind of explain where we were at with other lawyers. Ian listened.”
How is Legal Shield doing so far?
Kathryn Kavanagh is the Founder and Managing Director of Momentum Lab. She believes you shouldn’t start a business without the “legals” in place: “It may sound dramatic, but getting your legal requirements in order upfront could literally save your business in the long run. So far, I’ve used Progressive Legal’s Legal Shield for terms of business, privacy policies and trademarks. Knowing I have the support of Ian and his team honestly makes me sleep better at night.”
Louisa Nicola from Neuro Athletics says she approached Progressive Legal at the birth of her business to help with its set-up: “Ian and the Progressive Legal team have been lifesavers and it’s made such a massive difference having all of my legal representation under one roof. The biggest result we have seen from the team is the amount of emotional stress that has been elevated; we couldn’t have completed the first year of business without Ian and his team.”
Sabrina Jacquier Parr, Director of The New Natural which owns the Keeko brand, admits she’s not a fan of lawyers but Ian changed her view over coffee and conversation: “Ian and his team have restored my faith that there are decent lawyers out there. He has a genuine interest and talks to me like a real person. It sounds basic but my experience with lawyers is they just want your business and $500 an hour.”
Unlike most lawyers, Ian is usually found in a T-shirt and shorts in his Bondi Beach office. His unwavering focus on long-term relationships rather than single transactions, and being himself, is paying off.
Adds Grace Lever: “When I met Ian a year ago, I just remember him being so warm and so normal. And I was like, oh wow you happen to be a lawyer as well! We now have an incredible ongoing relationship.”
Ian concludes: “Most business owners and entrepreneurs would rather see a dentist than a lawyer. That’s quite frightening and it’s been enormously difficult to convince small business owners of the need to protect their business and view legal advice just like they would business insurance, financial advice or marketing – a necessary cost of doing business and ensuring a business’ long-term success.
“I started Progressive Legal out of pure frustration after working for a bunch of large corporates and big law firms that treated clients like a transaction and not as a long-term relationship. Influencing a change in law is impossible from within big firm structures, so to make a big difference, I had to build a new law firm with its own DNA – from scratch. That’s what Progressive Legal and products like Legal Shield and Law in a Box are all about.”