Lara Quie is a Singapore-based legal business development and marketing professional. Originally a corporate lawyer in London, she heads business development for Asia Pacific at Twenty Essex, a leading international barristers’ chambers. She also coaches lawyers in getting to the next level and building their book of business.
She discovered the power of coaching during a serious illness and is passionate about helping professionals, especially women, live their best lives now.
Lara is also the host of “The Legal Genie” and “The Coach Potatoes” podcasts, which are focused on the legal industry and coaching respectively. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, she details what inspired her to purse her current career path, her thoughts on how lawyers can avoid stress and burnout, the future of legal services in the Asia-Pacific region, and how lawyers can best achieve business development success.
You specialize in legal business development and marketing based in Singapore. What led you to this career focus?
I qualified as a corporate lawyer specialising in European Competition Law back in London at global law firms but got burnt out and realised that law was not the career for me. I retrained as a Montessori nursery teacher and then fell into starting a bespoke Swedish kitchen company with a fellow lawyer. We grew it from a chalet in my garden to the high street. It is called Sola Kitchens if you live in the UK and need a new kitchen…
After four years at Sola, my husband got transferred to Hong Kong with his law firm and I discovered from my neighbour that her friend had a job in legal marketing and business development. This was the first time I had heard such a job existed. I put my CV together and landed a 6-month contract with Winston & Strawn LLP. Then my husband, Jonathan, got transferred again to Singapore and I got another role in marketing and BD and the rest is history. I am pretty much self-taught when it comes to marketing and sales, but I learnt so much from being an entrepreneur and being in retail where sales and customer service are key.
What are some of the biggest challenges to law firms and legal chambers adopting advanced business development and marketing initiatives?
Most lawyers are risk averse and traditional in their view of how to market their firm. Most firms do not allocate a sufficiently high budget to cover these kinds of expenses and the cost of speaking at conferences etc. is very high. Individual lawyers are not so keen to put themselves out there and experiment with social media, SEO, video and podcasting. It is hard to get buy-in from law firm management when so many sceptical stakeholders are involved. Most firms are sticking to their usual forms of marketing such as their website, writing articles, speaking at conferences and hosting webinars as the main forms of marketing.
How powerful is a social media presence for a lawyer seeking to build a solo practice or a practice group in a larger law firm?
Leveraging social media is the best way for smaller law firms to make an impact for free. LinkedIn in particular, is a very powerful platform for solo practitioners and individuals who wish to grow their personal brand. Once lawyers understand how to use the platform properly, it can be a very effective way to demonstrate thought leadership in a particular niche. Lawyers can grow a very curated network and use it as a gateway to real life meetings and deeper relationships. One can build a strong reputation as an authority in a certain area by using LinkedIn and Twitter effectively.
How can lawyers achieve business development and marketing success without becoming burned out?
The key to social media is understanding that you have to play the long game and be very consistent and intentional. Spending 20 minutes two or three days a week to post on LinkedIn is a good way to establish a presence. But lawyers need to engage in real conversations and share their opinions. They need to build a network of good quality connections. The algorithm needs to be fed constantly, you cannot just dip in and out whenever it suits you if you want good results. Other platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and ClubHouse can also work to some degree, but it is better to choose one platform and do it well rather than dabbling in an amateurish fashion in multiple platforms. There’s no need to go over the top and get burned out. Building a daily or weekly habit will reap far more rewards over time.
What is the present and future of legal services firms in the Asia-Pacific region?
The Asia-Pacific region is a highly competitive space with more providers entering constantly. What I am noticing after the pandemic, is a new breed of nimble virtual boutique firms in Singapore focused on specific niches such as shipping and international arbitration. They keep overheads low by not paying for permanent office space. They are able to tap into extra brain power on demand by hiring barristers from chambers like Twenty Essex to help with legal opinions, drafting submissions and doing their international arbitration advocacy. Padding out their teams on an ad hoc basis means they can stay lean and mean while delivering a high-quality service to their clients whilst avoiding committing to permanent overheads. Small boutique firms which do a certain niche well are sought after by foreign firms who fear losing their clients. They are often formed by partners from big brand names who are fed up of missing out on opportunities due to conflicts and who want to have more control over their pricing.
What additional initiatives are you involved with within the legal community in Singapore and in the Asia-Pacific region in general?
I like to build communities and I have three that I am involved with currently. Firstly, I have created a strong brand and network on LinkedIn. I post nearly every weekday and have had incredible opportunities as a result of engaging with others on it. The second is a podcast called “The Legal Genie Podcast”. It is designed to give lawyers an insight into the careers of movers and shakers in the legal industry. It is a sort of virtual mentor. I have met some amazing people and had some insightful conversations, which I hope will benefit young lawyers in particular and help them feel less stuck or isolated. The third community I have built is a “Lean In” Circle for Powerful Women in Law in Singapore. It is a group of 30 women lawyers, who meet on a monthly basis to share challenges and offer support to each other. It is a good place to connect with others and learn and grow together as a group.
What is your current role and what do you enjoy most about it?
I am the Head of Business Development for Asia Pacific for a leading international barristers’ chambers called Twenty Essex. It has been in Singapore since 2010, when the Ministry of Law invited the Chambers to open in the Maxwell Chambers Annex. This role involves promoting our Members to the international and local law firms. Every day I focus on our APAC strategy and nurturing relationships. I find ways to remain front of mind so that our barristers get new instructions. I do a lot of networking and organising events and since I am very much a people person, I enjoy this client-facing role.
I understand that you run your own consulting business on Fridays. Tell us about that
On Fridays I run Lara Q Associates, a boutique BD and executive coaching consultancy. I coach lawyers on building their book of business, finding their purpose, getting clarity on where they want to go from here, and on personal branding. Recently, I have seen high demand for training in LinkedIn mastery and networking skills. I love being able to work with my colleagues at Twenty Essex from Monday to Thursday, while still being able to be an entrepreneur one day a week and have a genuine impact on the lives of individual lawyers.
The advent of social media platforms provides such a golden opportunity for lawyers who want to become a well-known legal personality. It’s a question of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and committing to producing valuable original content on a consistent basis. We are moving away from the big firm brands to a new focus on individual brands. Lawyers who build their own brand will be highly sought after with a portable business. It will give individuals more power and visibility than ever before. Young lawyers who understand digital marketing will soon outperform their seniors in their ability to attract new business. Lawyers in general need to invest time and effort into learning how to use the new techniques to remain relevant. It is an exciting time to be in the legal space and watching it evolve. I will be delivering a number of LinkedIn workshops for the Law Society of Singapore later in the year, so please check their events page for the upcoming sessions.