Since being admitted as a solicitor in 2010, Cassandra Banks’ career has been on an upwards trajectory. She joined Susan Green Legal Practice in Coffs Harbour in 2013 and succeeded Susan Green as Principal in 2018. In May 2021, Cassandra incorporated the firm and rebranded it as CB Legal. Employing two lawyers and support staff, the firm specialises in Family Law, Wills and Estates, Care and Protection, Criminal Law, and Guardianship and Financial Management. 

Adapting to digital change

As the research found, law firms adapted well to working remotely and delivering services digitally, and CB Legal is no exception. Cassandra says that family law is always busy, and she often travels hours for court appearances. She therefore welcomes the recent widespread acceptance of video court appearances. An advocate for technology, Cassandra loves the convenience of her digital notebook and the firm’s cloud-based legal software. “It centralises everything. It does all we need to do from storing electronic files to searching for precedents and managing accounts,” says Cassandra. However, at a time of elevated demand for their services, including conveyancing amid the state’s property boom, she is mindful that the team is too busy to ensure they are optimally using the software. Nor is there time to research other technologies that would further streamline their work.

Connectivity is key

Another reason why Cassandra embraces technology is that it greatly improves access to services and resources. She says this is one of the biggest challenges regional firms face compared to their metropolitan peers. Being located on New South Wales’ Mid North Coast, Cassandra must sometimes travel as far as Sydney, 530 kilometres away, to access what they need. Where the regional areas are similar to metropolitan firms is that neither are immune to the current talent shortages. “Recruitment in regional areas is really hard, whether it be legal or support,” says Cassandra. Given the stage of her career and frequent travel, Cassandra needs experienced and dependable staff who can hit the ground running. 

Developing talent

In response to the scarcity of talent and to retain her people, Cassandra is focused on cultivating the skills and capabilities of the existing team. This is in line with the research finding that most firms use mentoring or internal learning and development to engage, retain and develop staff. Much of Cassandra’s management time is spent on informal and formal staff catch-ups and feedback sessions, “listening to staff and taking action”. Believing it is important to constantly learn and share it with each other, Cassandra also ensures there is always budget allocation for staff training. Cassandra’s own efforts have helped her “legal and personal development training enormously”. Since 2013 she has held the positions of President and Co-President of the Clarence River and Coffs Harbour Regional Law Society. In late October, Cassandra stood for re-election for a third term as a Councillor (Director) of the Law Society of New South Wales and is currently the Junior Vice President. Cassandra says these additional roles will help build CB Legal’s reputation and engender trust in the young team.

Next generation brand building

Like many firms surveyed in the research, Cassandra is focused on driving marketing and business development activities. CB Legal uses social media and marketing to expand its client base and build the profiles of her team of under-35s among locals. Activities include daily social media postings, a website with a colourful family tree logo, and distributing “edgy” brochures into community centres “to get the word out there”, says Cassandra. “The former owner didn’t need to focus on these activities, but I am younger and need to forge my own brand.” She says a big issue for time-poor lawyers is “finding affordable and reputable business development opportunities. To take us to the next level, I will have to invest time and money.” Cassandra exudes confidence in the firm’s future, saying, “you can kick big city goals from the country.” As her positions in the Law Society attest, “you can do it from anywhere. That’s my motto.”

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