The Founder – Electra Japonas (The Law Boutique)
Hi, I’m Electra and I’m the Founder of The Law Boutique. I started the business in summer of 2017 after spending over ten years in various large organisations in commercial legal roles. I realised there was a gap in the market for a legal company that took a more holistic approach to legal support, beyond just the law.
Through my experience, I came to realise that lawyers were trained to be lawyers and rarely felt comfortable doing anything outside it. Ways of working were largely the same as they used to be 20 or 30 years ago, technology was hardly used to create efficiencies and most importantly, lawyers often didn’t get under the skin of a business and instead took an arms-length approach.
Although I am a dual qualified solicitor and Cyprus barrister, the jobs I had were never purely legal. In all organisations I worked for, I was always the conduit between Legal and the business. I believe this gave me a unique insight into the fact that the two functions didn’t speak the same language. Arguably, if they did, my role would have been obsolete!
How did I get here?
I studied law in the UK and then went back to Cyprus, where I was born and raised, to qualify as a Cyprus barrister. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in Cyprus but since it was my home, it made sense that I qualified there first. After two years at home, I decided it was just a little too small for me. I moved back to the UK and did a Masters in International Business Law at the University of Exeter.
I’d moved right in the middle of recession so finding a job was hard. I was already qualified in a foreign jurisdiction so I didn’t really want to take on a training contract – plus, there was a two year waiting for any training contract to commence so it wasn’t very practical at the time. I was also not very attracted to the traditional legal career trajectory (training contract, private practice, partner or in-house route instead) and I knew I wanted to be at the heart of a business from the outset.
I was therefore delighted when I got a graduate role at the European Space Agency (ESA) in the Netherlands. My job was to negotiate, draft and manage agreements between ESA, an international organisation that funded space projects, and companies in the space industry that were building satellites, other deep tech solutions and delivering research projects. I staying in the space industry for four years, working as a Contract Manager, Commercial Manager or Legal Manager. My role was very much to bring together Legal and the business so that the two could talk to each other in a meaningful way.
My last role working for one of the largest global FMCG companies, we negotiated a huge IT project with a technology company that was going to deliver it. We engaged a highly reputable law firm to support our negotiations and they invited us to use their beautiful offices to undergo negotiations with the supplier and their legal representation which comprised of their in-house team only. We had six to eight lawyers in the room at any one time, half external and half were employed by the business as in-house counsel.
One of my biggest frustrations was having to spend a good chunk of my time explaining to our lawyers why the contract needed to be written in plain English and structured in a way that will allow me to train people within the business on their obligations.
That’s when I decided that I needed to start my own business, offering legal support to businesses in a pragmatic, commercial way.
The Law Boutique now supports other in-house lawyers with their ways of working and overflow. We help them build scalable legal functions that can respond to the pace of growth that their business is experiencing. We also help them implement design thinking into the processes, documents and training materials. Our objective is to help lawyers provide legal support in a way that the rest of the business wants to engage with. This helps reduce lawyers’ workload, reduce the time it takes to go through a legal process (e.g. contract review) and get the rest of the business to relate to Legal like any other part of the business, instead of seeing them as a function that sits in another world altogether. This in turn, allows lawyers to influence the business in a more meaningful way so that they can input into strategy, growth and innovation, making their own jobs more varied and purposeful. It’s a win-win!
Advice on this route
In all honesty, I have never been happier in my life. Having said that, there have been times where I have never felt so challenged and outside my comfort zone – I’ve thought about quitting hundreds of times! Leaving what is a traditional route to an almost guaranteed healthy income and starting something that is set to disrupt an archaic industry, is not an easy task. But it’s without a doubt, the most rewarding thing I’ve done.
Having said that, I do not wish I’d started any earlier. Spending 10+ years within businesses has given me the insight, knowledge and general life experience that I needed to build a successful business.
It also goes to show that there are more routes a law grad can take than the traditional one.
The Law Boutique