Leon Loganathan is Vice Chair of Lawyers Associated Worldwide, a partner of the Australian law firm Ward Keller, and recently launched a podcast called Boundless Possible. We have been connections on LinkedIn for years and I knew Leon would be an amazing resource for other attorneys in the way he approaches business development. After you read our interview, I’m confident you will agree.
Can you tell me about your legal practice and role at Ward Keller?
The Northern Territory of Australia represents about one sixth the land mass of Australia and is larger than Texas. However the population of the NT is only about 200,000. Almost one third are indigenous. The main population centre is located in the capital, Darwin, about 120,000 people.
Ward Keller is the oldest and largest law firm in the NT. Founded in 1963, the firm can trace its roots in various other forms to 1911. Many former Partners have gone on to become magistrates, judges and politicians. One of our main roads is named after one of our founding partners, Dick Ward.
Our firm has three offices in Darwin and one in Alice Springs, which is located close to the geographic centre of the country and about 450 kilometers from Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock (the biggest rock in the world). Alice Springs is surrounded by desert and is known as the red centre. Darwin itself is on the Northern coast of Australia about two and a half hours flying time from Bali, Indonesia. Darwin is a tropical city with a climate similar to Miami.
The firm is truly full service in the sense that we offer legal representation from conveyancing and criminal law right through to advice on native title, mining and infrastructure projects.
My primary areas of expertise are in residential property transactions, businesses transactions and state taxation. I am also responsible for the firm’s marketing initiatives.
I see that you used to work for EY. Is their entry into the legal services industry something you are concerned about?
I really enjoyed my time at EY. I was there from 1997 to 2003 and worked in both the Sydney and Brisbane offices. Back then was the first time the Big Four (Big Five at the time) made a foray into legal services. But that all came undone after Arthur Andersen collapsed following the Enron scandal. Over the past several years the accounting giants have been aggressively muscling in on lawyers’ turf and I think this time it’s likely to be permanent. I’m not too concerned about it because in my experience, the Big Four chase the big paying work; they’re not really interested in serving the SMEs. The other thing I always tell my colleagues when they worry about this is that nothing beats building client relationships. And that goes for AI as well. One day someone is going to do to the legal industry what Napster did to the music industry, Uber did to the taxi industry and Air BnB did to the hotel industry. To survive and thrive, we must be nimble, adaptable and always be relationship driven.
You recently started a podcast, “Boundless Possible”, about businesses and people in and around Darwin. Why did you decide to start a podcast?
I’ve been listening to podcasts since around 2007, before it was a ‘thing’. I love them. I realised that I’m much better at listening than I am at reading. Doing a podcast was an inevitability for me, it was just a question of when and about what. One thing I’ve learnt about marketing is that nothing beats a good story. If you can tell a story, you’ll get people engaged. Boundless Possible does that. Although it’s only new, we have a loyal following and people love that it’s about Darwin and the people who connect with it. I could have done a podcast about law, but how boring! Boundless Possible gives me the chance to connect with people and through those connections, opportunities will present themselves. It really is very exciting.
What has the experience been like?
It feels like I own a radio station. Everyone that has been on the podcast has loved the experience. It is a lot of fun.
How do you promote the podcast?
I generally send out a post on Saturday that promotes the upcoming episode which is then released on Wednesday. I post on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Was it hard to get started and do you outsource any parts like editing, production, etc…?
My co-host, Peter Gowers, put me onto Anchor. Anchor is a free app for anyone that wants to do a podcast. It is incredibly easy to use and all you need is a phone. Nothing is outsourced, I do it all by myself on my phone. The only piece of equipment I bought recently was a lapel microphone to try to improve the sound. But to be honest, it’s not too bad without it.
I know it’s early but has the podcast had any impact on your business development efforts?
I think so. As I say to my colleagues, ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing, but there’s a method to my madness!’ I think it has allowed me to introduce my firm to the guests who don’t know much about us and then naturally to their followers who listen to the podcast. It’s awesome to have it promoted by our guests.
Other than the podcast, how else do you go about business development?
I try and have lunch with clients and prospective clients as many times a week as my schedule allows. Lunch doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s about face time with people and they really appreciate being able to speak with a lawyer and not being on the clock. Another aspect of these lunches is to connect the dots for people. Sometimes, there’s nothing in it for us, in the sense that through our own connections, we’re able to help clients solve a problem by putting them in touch with someone without any legal work necessarily coming from it. For example, I recently connected a client with a commercial leasing specialist who was able to negotiate a lease for them. It was a win/win for both of them and they were both extremely grateful for my introduction. That’s what I mean by developing client relationships.
How does being a member of a law firm network impact you practice?
A lot! As Vice Chair of Lawyers Associated Worldwide I spend a lot of ‘non-billable’ time helping to develop the organisation but it truly is a labour of love. Our connections with 100 law firms around the world give us tremendous reach and the ability to pursue opportunities we couldn’t even dream about. For example, last year we were able to work with our member firm in Washington D.C., Cordatis LLP, to educate our local construction industry on how to bid and manage work with the US Department of Defense. This was an issue because the US and Australia are collaborating to build defence infrastructure in Darwin. By getting our local guys to understand the US Defense procurement process, it meant local contractors could compete against the multinationals. It was a game changer and was only possible because of our membership of LAW.
For attorneys outside of Australia, what would you want them to know about your firm, the Northern Territory, and how you work with people internationally?
Simply that if they have clients that are doing business in Australia, that they can reach out to us and we’d be happy to give them free insight into how business is done here. Any lawyer worth his/her salt can tell you the law, but if they’re after lawyers that understand the policy behind the law and have the contacts and nous (skill) to navigate deals from thought to finish, then we’re worth a call or email.
If an attorney is just starting their business development journey, what advice would you give them?
It’s an amazing time to be a lawyer. Pick an area or two that you like and then work your backside off to be the best at it. Do this by reading everything you can about it and find mentors to help you. Then get out there and run seminars on your chosen area and write articles and if possible influence policy on changes to those areas of law. In the process, build up your network of contacts through local organisations and LinkedIn. Look for ways to help people without thinking ‘what’s in it for me’. Finally, work on being super responsive. In our 24/7 world, people want answers fast. If you don’t have the answer, don’t be afraid to touch base and tell them you’re working on it and expect an answer within a specified period of time.
If you enjoyed this interview as much as I did, I would recommend you connect with Leon on LinkedIn. And if you are wanting to take your business development to the next level, contact me and we can schedule a call.