How the fastest-growing female-led law firm in B.C. is shaking up family law

Leena Yousefi at the YLaw office in downtown Vancouver with her daughter, Saoirse (Photograph by Alia Youssef)

Leena Yousefi on the YLaw workplace in downtown Vancouver along with her daughter, Saoirse ({Photograph} by Alia Youssef)

This previous January, a picture of Leena Yousefi outfitted in crisp white barrister bands, a thick doc suitcase by her facet and her then five-month-old daughter nestled between her arms went viral on LinkedIn, receiving over 43,000 likes. The quick caption was heartfelt, ringing with a common relatability that working mother and father know properly: “Sooner or later I’ll let you know about all of the sleepless nights and all of the mornings I awoke and kissed you as I went to courtroom, so if I can do it, you may, too.”

It’s illustrative of the ethos that Yousefi, founder, CEO and principal lawyer of YLaw, has woven into the material of her agency. Based in 2013, YLaw is the fastest-growing female-led regulation agency in British Columbia, a powerhouse within the area of Canadian household regulation. With a sensible, darkly hilarious web site whose opening web page states, “When household life isn’t a field of goodies, CALL US,” YLaw advocates for outcomes that prioritize the long-term well-being of shoppers. This contemporary method aligns with a bigger technique centered on digital progress moderately than conventional promoting; the power of that web site; disseminating information (Yousefi has penned articles for the Lawyer’s Every day and Canadian Lawyer); and word-of-mouth referrals.

At YLaw (No. 149 on Development 2020), she has created a compassionate, employee-focused office. In lower than a decade, her employees—the oldest lawyer is 38 and the youngest is 26—has grown to fill two workplace areas, with a 3rd opening in Victoria and the acquisition of a fourth below manner in downtown Vancouver. Boasting a 90% success price, Yousefi was voted certainly one of Canada’s 25 Most Influential Legal professionals by Canadian Lawyer in 2019.

Having made a reputation for mastering each consumer and firm relations, YLaw’s new mission is an formidable, self-funded app. “It’s an interactive software program software the place any individual’s mainly speaking to a digital lawyer,” Yousefi explains. “Forty per cent of individuals are not represented in our authorized system, so this may assist individuals who can’t afford authorized illustration.” Scheduled to launch subsequent yr, the app will price roughly $150,000 to develop.

Additionally, funds are sometimes reallocated to the agency’s mission for social progress, which has included donations and professional bono work valued at upwards of $1 million. It’s simply the tip of the iceberg for a agency that’s bucking conventions of household regulation’s historic boys’ membership. We “are coming to know that the feminine qualities that had been checked out as a weak spot are the recipe to our success, and to an empathic, non-aggressive, all-inclusive surroundings,” says Yousefi. Over the telephone, she is clear-headed, direct and earnest, delving into the idiosyncrasies of her agency with out neglecting to say the soul work that went into its development. “I’d like to contemplate myself as a type of individuals on the forefront of displaying simply what feminine management can do.”

Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1982, Yousefi emigrated to North Vancouver, B.C., in 1997 when she was 15 to flee the Persian Gulf Battle. Grappling with language obstacles and tradition shock, nervousness and melancholy, Yousefi failed out of the College of Victoria throughout her sophomore yr. However she returned a yr later, graduating with an A-plus common—then remained at UVic to finish her regulation diploma. Nonetheless, Yousefi grew to become disillusioned in her early profession at others’ companies by the rigid traditions that legal professionals weren’t curious about remedying: how may her age or option to take maternity depart problem her decision-making efficacy? Why had been the consumer relationships she needed—the place she handled them like household and energy divides had been eradicated—deemed unfeasible? She flagged these considerations to bosses at one agency within the early 2010s. “I instructed them, ‘This stuff in your agency want to alter.’ ”

“I used to be continuously laughed at by many legal professionals and different professionals saying, ‘You’re simply dreaming. The mannequin you’re desirous about doesn’t exist.’ ” So Yousefi constructed her personal. Beginning with $10,000 in financial savings, she employed an assistant, bought computer systems and arrange in an office-share area on Howe Avenue in downtown Vancouver. “I needed to create an surroundings the place our employees and legal professionals got here from totally different cultural backgrounds and gender identifications . . . and the place we gave to one another.”

That spirit imbues the YLaw workplace area, too, which stands in stark distinction to different companies. Designed by Rohe Studio, the inside is impressed by Japanese minimalism and illuminated by diffuse, heat lighting. Behind the workplace’s white 3D entrance desk is a backdrop of skinny, intersecting traces organized to advertise tranquility. The surroundings helps an organization tradition the place choices on case technique embody enter from the entire group. “Folks stated, ‘If a consumer is paying you a whole lot of {dollars} an hour they don’t need Kumbaya, they need any individual who’s gonna overpower them.’ I stated, ‘No, after they are available right here they should really feel like they’re at a spa. They don’t wish to really feel intimidated; they need an answer.’ ”

It’s an important branding tactic, with pragmatic roots. “We have now maximized each nook of our out there area and have six places of work inside 1,400 sq. ft. This permits us to have the utmost variety of legal professionals . . . and to generate extra earnings.” The agency has turn out to be worthwhile due to eager administration, in addition to the observe of trimming extra procedural fats.

“Legal professionals had been working laborious [at other firms] however the agency didn’t have a correct assortment coverage,” she explains. Yousefi’s employees follows a strict billing course of, the place everybody has a watch on the circulation of cost.

Most of YLaw’s legal professionals usually are not on wage, in contrast to at many different companies, she says. This method has helped make clear how every lawyer’s work is appraised. “It may be robust not having a normal revenue,” explains Quinn McRae, a well-respected household lawyer based mostly in Vancouver. (She left the career for just a few years to begin a therapeutic observe, and admits that YLaw’s ethos satisfied her to return.) “However I desire this, as a result of then I do know all my work is being valued appropriately. This offers an enormous incentive to work extra, and even much less, if the state of affairs requires it.”

In a report printed on shifting charges of authorized charges, based mostly on a survey printed by Canadian Lawyer in April 2019, 88% of companies nonetheless relied on the standard billable-hours mannequin, and 62.7% primarily used the flat-rate mannequin. Although Yousefi’s private hourly price is $400 (corresponding to different B.C.-based regulation companies), YLaw’s aggressive benefit comes from the flexibleness for account cost. “We love and urge unbundled, piecemeal and consultation-only companies,” she says. This “revolutionary possibility” is an important different for people who can’t afford the total illustration mannequin.

Since its inception, YLaw has constructed a technique to promote to under-served worldwide shoppers navigating the Canadian authorized system: 10% of their shoppers come from outdoors Canada, in nations akin to China, India and Russia. Yousefi credit this worldwide enterprise to the agency’s on-line advertising and its various roster of legal professionals. “Abroad shoppers are usually a few of our wealthiest shoppers as a result of they’ve a number of properties—or generally wives and husbands!—all all over the world,” and the one strategy to discover a Canadian lawyer is thru on-line search.

“What I admired about their agency’s web site, and what good, younger household legal professionals are doing,” says Nick Bala, the previous educational director of Toronto’s Osgoode Corridor Regulation College household regulation program, “is seeing the consumer as an entire individual,” he says. “That has not historically been the view.”


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