Growing a Nationwide Business: Ian Perkins’ Journey with Lawlab

By PeopleLeaders | People Leaders Podcast

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In 2014 we began working with Ian Perkins, CEO of lawlab, which, at the time, was a small and growing conveyancing firm.

We’ve worked with him every year since, and have helped him expand the business to 50 staff nationwide. Ian was kind enough to jump on a call with me to discuss their growth, and the role People Leaders has had in building his team over the years.

We discussed the focus on team leadership, cultural change, and the importance of staff retention and effective leadership.

We hope it gives you some insights into what might be possible if we were to work with you and your team. Whether you have two staff, two hundred staff, or two thousand staff, the principles that we apply are universal, and we’d love the opportunity to discuss what your needs might be.

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NB: This transcript has been AI generated and may contain some slight errors. Please judge our efforts accordingly 🙂

Jan Terkelsen: [00:00:00] Hi, Jan here. I just wanted to share with you a discussion I had with one of our clients, Ian Perkins, who runs a national conveyancing business and they operate nationwide and we started working with them about 10 years ago and they only had a couple of staff and now they have over 50 and he was kind enough to share a bit of his journey and we're just hoping that you might get some insights.

into what he did and how he did it, and perhaps how we could work with you if you've got a small to medium sized business and you'd like to have similar experience to Ian. You can get in touch with us and we can see how we can support you, your team, and your business to grow. Hope you enjoy the episode.

Ian Perkins:

My name is Ian Perkins. I'm the Managing Director at lawlab,one of Australia's leading national conveyancing property law firms.

We currently have a team of about 50 people working between Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne and Nyngan in Western New South Wales, as well as a range of people working remotely from home. As a business, we operate in every state and territory, doing commercial and property law.

I n terms of residential conveyancing, which is our bread and butter, we've probably serviced about 100,000 customers since we launched the brand in 2014, having transacted nearly 30 billion dollars worth of property.

it's a business that started out with two staff and $100,000 turnover, and that's transitioned to being a national mid-sized business.

Since we launched our brand, our retail conveyancing service in 2014, we've been working with Jan and she's been an integral part of our journey from a micro business, a business with two or three staff, to a business that has 50 staff across the country.

I think Jan has played a critical part in mentoring me in the change from being [00:02:00] a person who does to being a person who manages. It's like many small business people, you achieve success in a small business by being good at what you do

but any kind of transition from that small business space into a medium business space requires a complete restructuring of the business.

And a restructuring of the way that you work. And I don't think I would have been able to as easily transition from a doer to a manager without the ability to rely on some of the structure that Jan has provided for both me and my team to make that transition.

lawlab, as a business has been out on a limb since 2014, we very much were a traditional law firm in a traditional structure.

And what we've done is we've changed the governance structure of the business, we've changed our engagement with technology, and we've changed the very processes that we follow in delivering services.

Our industry is very much characterised by being a cottage industry. 93 percent of service providers in the conveyancing space do up to a hundred files a year. and we do a hundred plus files a week.

So as a business, what that meant was not just we had to do more of a what we used to do, we had to completely change the way that we delivered services to ensure quality, but to also be responsive to what our customers want.

Jan's input's been, there's kind of been like a, two tiers. I think Jan's engaged more regularly and very effectively with our leadership team, from its nascent stages where we didn't have a leadership team, we had a range of people who had part of their role focused on the broader business rather than just their core job description.

And from those couple of people who had a [00:04:00] slightly wider focus, we've grown those people and added new people in to create a leadership team that focus on the business as a whole. They have their areas such as finance and operations and quality and training. but it's been a shift from people who did to people who also managed parts of the business.

Then I guess in that space what we really needed was structure and confidence, and the structure came about by team-based leadership training and working, creating ways to work together, so that each of the individuals could have responsibility, and accountability, but do in a way where we're working towards the same goals, but also confidence in that there was someone that we could pull in when we felt like we were hitting a wall, or just needed a friendly person to talk to.

Confidence is one of those things that's critical when you're engaged in change, and sometimes that's simply having a calm voice in your ear.

Jan Terkelsen:

Ian Perkins: Started out with the view that teams were better than individuals. And I mean three people is not three times better than one, but it's this magical number more than that and that's a strong belief from team projects, both at university and in previous jobs.

But how to leverage that, it doesn't happen by accident.

Learning who is in your team, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, understanding how to communicate with them, understanding how to create an environment for them to thrive in their role, has meant that, as a business, we've been able to consistently change, but maintain a positive culture.

It's very much about working together and understanding how to do that. efficiently, but also kind of happily. [00:06:00] And I think that's a key thing that we as a business have received from working with Jan, is we've brought everyone on the journey.

And then, more importantly, I guess, it hasn't stopped in the leadership team.

And so our business has chosen to invest in a national retreat. Because we have people that work from home and in offices across four states it's critical for us to come together and make sure that the broader business, everybody including juniors and admin staff and our technology team are all on point and going on the same journey with the leadership team.

It's about everyone being together. I think some of our, our our, graduates and more junior staff have been absolutely shocked and excited at the same time to understand that, how they think, and how they think compared to others, and how they can communicate with others, and that's been something that I've gotten used to over the 10 years, but every time we run, that kind of training, the level of engagement genuinely surprises me.

Jan Terkelsen:

Ian Perkins: Change management is one of the most difficult things to do in a business. It's very easy to keep doing what you've done before.

But if you're in an innovation business where you're looking at changing the way services are being delivered or products are being provided in your space, that change is where you can lose all your team, and that change can be very damaging.

So what we've been able to do is to change the business by leveraging a culture of responsibility and a culture of where our staff are informed. And a critical examples of that are staff retention. In our industry, coming out of COVID, I think the, industry wide metrics were 50 or 60 percent. turn over in our, in law firms, and what we've been able to do is keep almost all of our leadership team, and most of our senior staff, which enables us to, [00:08:00] continue to change in a positive way and not take too many steps backwards. Obviously, staff retention is a critical one.

the other big change that I've noticed from our business is that, the pace of change has picked up.

Now that we are an effective,

team with diverging responsibilities, but operating within a structure, I'm no longer delegating tasks.

People are now escalating issues to me and that has,

intrinsically changed the pace of change.

And I don't mean change at all costs, I mean change that occurs

within a positive culture.

We have worked with Jan every year since 2014 and have just rebooked her again for 2024. what, what has changed for us, is that Jan is a facilitator. And we don't need to get her back to do on repeat the same things every time. She's enabled us to grow as leaders in our own business.

And so we use Jan's learnings and teachings, often. We structure meetings, we structure leadership retreats now, without her because we've learnt the tools to do that.

What we do now is we bring Jan in for large changes or issues where we're looking at making significant alterations to either how we work together or what we're working on, and very much want to bring her back annually for the whole business retreat, which, requires,an expert facilitator when you have that many people in a room.

The investment is huge and it doesn't make sense to invest that much. time and money in bringing your people together and not making the most of the opportunity and I believe that's, it's critical to have, an expert facilitator for that kind of


Jan Terkelsen: Beautiful.

Thank you, Ian. I really appreciate that.

That's made my day.

Ian Perkins: Oh, it's

Ian Perkins Testimonial lawlab 231219: That's

Ian Perkins: all true.

Jan Terkelsen: And the other thing [00:10:00] because I've just been, putting some presentations together talking about culture is that the biggest


Is the leader and that you have been such a,

Ian Perkins Testimonial lawlab 231219: a a

Jan Terkelsen: a steady leader in making those changes and walking your talk and being vulnerable, like saying when you don't know something and then like redirecting and that's just gold because it really instills

Ian Perkins: Well, that, from that meeting, from that, that, that session we had, Well, the leadership team session we've been rolling out change projects with quarterly targets and doing all sorts of things ever since. So the pace of change has been quite

significant. It all moves a lot faster now, and because I'm not critical to it.

I'm now a, occasionally a blocker, but that's a very minor part because I'm signing off on something or, having to be sold on a expenditure. So we're a significantly different business now. I mean, there are, we're on

to that

next level where we we need to mentor our


on working with each other,

as much as with me.

So there, there's some of the things that I want to

do with you in March, is that

day which is the leaders day is not so much straight out planning because we're following a lot of the


we've learnt from you.

That's very much what I want to focus on there is, how we work. Together.

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah, and I think also it's tapping in to their, I suppose their, leadership, not just style,


legacy. Like who do they need to be and, instead of


their success is now

not just on the task, it's actually who they're bringing


That's the key. That's the real shift. Yeah.

Ian Perkins: Yeah. And it's also the

shift from being doers to managers as well. And look, some of them have to stay doers, because that's their role. Their role is to be their uber doer.

So they're not all of them have management functions, but it's about [00:12:00] understanding what your core role is.

But you know, managers still need


do some things and doers still need to manage some things at a leadership level.

Jan Terkelsen: Thank you so much Ian I'll let you go and

Ian Perkins: Cool.

Ian Perkins Testimonial lawlab 231219:

Jan Terkelsen: Sounds good.

Ian Perkins: mate.

Jan Terkelsen: Okay. Thank

Ian Perkins: See ya.

Ian Perkins Testimonial lawlab 231219: Bye.

Jan Terkelsen: Hi, I hope you enjoyed the episode and we look forward to being able to produce similar results for you, your team and your business. So if that episode resonates with you, please get in touch with us and let's just see if we can make some magic.