Carly Fielding is disrupting the legal profession with her startup Resolution123. Her innovative new business is all about using technology to match employees that need simple, quick and affordable legal advice with experienced workplace lawyers.
Carly has spent 12 years acting for employers and employees in private practice, as well as volunteering as an employment lawyer at the Inner City Legal Centre in Sydney, and at the Marrickville Legal Centre.
“Legal Centres are critical to the community as they offer access to justice for those groups that simply couldn’t get it without them. At the peak of my private practice experience I was promoted to Partner and was named a Lawyer’s Weekly Workplace Relations Partner of the Year Finalist 2016,” Carly said.
Her motivation was to start Resolution123 was to aid access to justice for what she calls ‘the missing middle’ – employees that don’t qualify for legal aid but can’t afford traditional practice.
She also wanted to find a way to provide truly flexible and meaningful work to lawyers that for whatever reason (in Carly’s case, returning to work after her second baby) no longer want to work in traditional legal practice.
“In 2014, while on maternity leave, I took part in a ‘Create-a-thon’ for women with an app idea. For years, people had come to me asking if they had a work claim and I had often thought about how an app could answer that question, so I decided to pitch it at the Create-a-thon,” Carly said.
“My pitch got voted in and I worked with an amazing team of women, mentors, app developers and my eight-week-old daughter. My bully claim app won the competition and I was encouraged to launch it,” Carly said.
However, Carly was quite scared. She’d been promised a promotion to Partner on her return from maternity leave. She and her husband had hoped to buy a house in Sydney, she had a new baby, and no idea how to launch a startup…so they parked the idea.
“But it lurked in the back of my mind and I kept an ideas board up at home where I noted down thoughts I had about it as they popped up. We bought a house, I returned to work, got the promotion and fell pregnant again. I decided continuing as Partner wasn’t going to give our family the balance I wanted, so I resigned and started the job application process,” Carly said.
“It was a bit like house hunting. I started with the wishlist, ASX 100, employer of choice for women, an equal opportunity employer and slowly I had to compromise away. I consistently got feedback that an obstacle to my recruitment was my requirement for flexible work, and I found it infuriating. It’s 2017, if we are serious about having females in senior leadership roles we have to get serious about flexible work.”
Then in March this year the flip report was handed down. Commissioned by the Law Society, the report looks into the future of innovation in the legal profession and makes a number of key findings, including the fact that consumers of legal services are seeking value and competition is increasing. This report validated Carly’s idea for Resolution123.
“My web app uses intuitive technology to identify if an employee is eligible to make an unfair dismissal, general protections or a workplace bullying claim; helps them build their case and then matches them with experienced freelance employment lawyers,” Carly said.
“Resolution123 seeks to tackle two problems in law, aiding access to justice for employees that could not otherwise afford it and providing meaningful work to experienced employment lawyers that aren’t getting what they need from private practice. Lawyers can choose when they work, how much they work and where they work. The lawyers are freelance so clients aren’t paying for fancy offices and law firm profits, while the lawyers can continue to earn the same take-home pay.”
The biggest challenge in the beginning for Carly was time, finances and fear.
“But I’m inspired by a question Sheryl Sandberg poses in her book ‘Lean In’. She asks “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” and for me, Resolution123 is it. I also had the benefit of Blue Chilli’s 99 days to launch program, which guided me through the journey,” Carly said.
“Our landing page is up and the technology is being tested with the aim to launch very soon. My goals are to aid access to justice for all employees who have employment law claims. My first step is to service 10 per cent of the 200,000 employees that took the Commission’s eligibility quiz, but did not commence any action,” Carly said.
“I also aim to scale up using technology, including artificial intelligence and mobile apps, to diversify our services with other areas of law that the ‘missing middle’ commonly experience problems in, including consumer law.”
What advice can you please give to any woman starting her own business?
- Identify the problem you are seeking to solve, be clear about the solution and validate it.
- Be prepared to pivot and iterate along the way.
- Believe in yourself, because if you don’t, who will?
- Lean in – it’s our turn.