Since graduating from a Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of Business in 2006, QUT alumnus Katie Richards has worked as Legal Counsel for a number of large companies and started her own law firm, Virtual Legal.
Katie was motivated to start Virtual Legal in 2013 after discovering 85% of the world is unable to afford basic legal assistance. The firm uses offshoring, specialised technology and a wholly online system to minimise costs and provide affordable legal services for clients in the areas of commercial, property, wills and family law. Legal costs for clients have been cut by 40-60% through the use of DISC behavioural profiling, a technology that adapts to the behavioural and communication patterns of each individual.
Despite Katie’s efforts, she says access to legal assistance is still too expensive for many Australians who live week to week. In an attempt to improve access, Katie is launching Law On Earth, a public self-service legal platform, in early 2019. Law On Earth aims to revolutionise the way the public connects with lawyers and professional advisors by using artificial intelligence and algorithms to create tailored documents and agreements across a range of legal areas. The system uses innovative technology such as geotagging to apply the correct laws depending on the client’s location, electronic management of payment to reduce the advisor’s administration work and recording and encryption of online advice sessions to increase transparency.
Katie says that her experiences at QUT provided her with the necessary skills to pursue her passion and start her own businesses.
“QUT prepares you for what to expect in the real world. I now try to employ from QUT where possible because graduates give more practical solutions to problems rather than giving me the history of legislation,” she said.
QUT’s recorded lectures, night time tutorials and summer classes meant that Katie was able to work as a paralegal at Gadens prior to graduating, an experience which lead to her being offered the role of Legal Counsel for Domino’s Pizza after her admittance. She later headed the Global Legal Counsel for Ecowash Mobile, a waterless car detailing franchise. During this role, Katie travelled extensively between Sydney, the Middle East, Monaco, Ireland, the USA, New Zealand, Greece and France, where she managed transactions, drafted franchise documentation and negotiated with government divisions.
When asked about her advice for law students, Katie emphasised the importance of getting experience before graduating and selling yourself to future employers.
“If you have an additional set of skills, such as psychology, tech or marketing, you need to show that so that you can add more value. These days, we’re finding ways to cover lower level work, which means lawyers are less likely to train juniors up. If you bring something to the table they need, you could trade some of those skills and in return, they can teach you the legal ropes.”
While Katie’s typical day of work involves pitching to investors overseas, speaking at events or drafting Founder’s Agreements for tech start-ups, she is currently about to take her final law exams in the United Kingdom so she can launch her business there in 2019.
The Faculty wishes Katie luck and looks forward to following her work in this emerging area of law.
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Katie Richards, QUT Alumnus and CEO and Founder of Virtual Legal