When the time came to make the leap from the security of a high-flying corporate career to the uncertainty of her own start-up, Lawcadia Co-Founder Sacha Kirk discovered a nugget of comfort in her goldfields upbringing.
Charters Towers is not the quintessential postcard of tropical North Queensland. Arid and baking hot, the historic gold rush town is 130 kilometres from a coastline dotted with picturesque bays and swaying coconut palms.
A further 130 kilometres inland from “The Towers” is the cattle property where Sacha Kirk (Class of 1997) grew up. It was a lifestyle that rose and fell on the whims of climate. A wet season soaking might mean a good year or floods. No rain at all guaranteed a bad year or many in succession.
“I think that’s why I’m quite at ease in this (entrepreneurial) space because I was brought up being comfortable with uncertainty and not necessarily knowing what the future holds,” the Co-Founder of legal technology company Lawcadia says.
“A grazier is always trying to be positive and resilient but planning for reality. My husband says you can take the girl out of the bush but you can’t take the bush out of the girl and even yesterday I was inspecting carpet snakes in our backyard.”
Like a handful of the miners who flocked to the North Queensland goldfields in the late 1800s, Ms Kirk struck gold with Lawcadia, though luck had nothing to do with it. She studied a Bachelor of Communication (Business) on a scholarship to Bond University in 1997.
“I somehow fell into marketing even though my background was science and maths,” Ms Kirk says. “But then I went on to some graduate roles with large global companies and in those positions with Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive I was able to find my niche which is being able to combine my analytical thinking with the creativity of marketing. That gave me the foundation for starting our own company five years ago.”
Ms Kirk was working as a consultant in the legal industry after stints overseas when she and Founder and fellow Bondy Warwick Walsh (Class of 1997) hit on the idea for Lawcadia.
“Some of the practices in the legal industry floored me. Warwick is quite visionary and looking to disrupt some of those norms and together we came up with the idea for Lawcadia which is really about transforming the way in-house legal teams and law firms collaborate.”
Back-ended by cloud-based software, Lawcadia upends the legal norm of billable hours and discounted hourly rates to focus on an agreed price for a scope of work, bringing transparency and predictability to the way legal matters are run and priced.
The Gold Coast City Council was one of Brisbane-based Lawcadia’s first clients. They have since been joined by other corporate and government legal teams including Westpac, Ausgrid, NSW Treasury, Metcash and Virgin Australia, along with more than 150 law firms around the world. But initially, many in the notoriously conservative legal industry were not amused, Ms Kirk says.
“Every day there would be roadblocks and we faced continual conversations about, ‘What are you doing? This is not what we want or need’. It takes a lot of perseverance and resilience to keep getting up and doing it but we had belief in the problem we were solving and that it was a real problem.”
Multiple awards later including Australian Young Entrepreneur 2019 (Legal) - and more in the pipeline – the business partners have been vindicated. Many of Ms Kirk’s fellow Bondies have been along for the ride.
“My closest friends today are from my time at Bond University,” she says. “When you are creating your own business you need people to push you forward and lift you up and it’s that cohort that have really been there for me. Some of the people who have come out of Bond, especially during my era, are very entrepreneurial.”
Ms Kirk says that with 72 percent revenue growth in the 2019/20 financial year, she began the calendar year expecting it to be Lawcadia’s best yet - and in some ways it has been.
“That’s because the pandemic has allowed us to focus on our people and product like our new Lawcadia Intelligence engine which is powered by machine learning. It’s also allowed us to focus on our clients and do everything we can to be successful for them.”