A survival guide: Juggling a newborn and the launch of a legal tech project

[Australasian Law Management Journal,General Management,Marketing & Business Development,Strategy & Leadership,Technology] July 10, 2019

In this case study, Catherine Brooks explains how she managed to keep the rollout of a new legal platform on track despite disruptions caused by being in the last stages of pregnancy in the early development phase, and then having a newborn to manage around launch time.

The ideas stage 

I remember that first meeting, unloading our ideas and everything inside our heads and watching the reactions on the faces of the product developers and our colleagues.

It was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. We kept testing our ideas and trying to assess what could be realised from a technology and usability perspective. The baby kicked in my stomach, no longer being able to turn as I was nearly due.

Law Squared’s project management team, including my brother Andy, laid out the key points and expectations of the product and then we left to let the developers come back to us with a plan. With that, the wheels were in motion for our firm’s second big legal tech project (the first was Cubed, a lawyer and bot-driven platform which provides essential legal documents to Australian start-ups and entrepreneurs) and the first one for Andy and me.

Ready for kick-off

After negotiating the terms and scope of the project, we had our first sprint meeting. Using an agile project-management system, we all logged into Asana and set about creating our to-do boards and assigning tasks. The second step was a weekend meeting to come up with a financial plan (for what we wanted the product to deliver) and relatedly – a marketing plan to help us get there. We ran the numbers by our COO and head of marketing and sent it all off to our leader and founder of the firm, Demetrio Zema, who finessed it and gave sign-off. Now for the build of what would become known as Employment by Law Squared.

The hard part – development 

It’s a strange thing, especially for first timers, seeing something come alive that was once just a small idea in your head. Our product – a website to service employers and help them hire, manage and fire their employees – collared a number of ideas into one platform.

One of those ideas – the development of a legal health check – wasn’t so much a new one but an innovation and improvement on something we had been doing for years. As part of our onboarding process of a new client, Andy and I had been carrying out legal health checks in hard copy for years. When we explained the process to the developers, you could see their eyes light up. Here was something that could be taken online and made schmick, as well as fit in with our content marketing plans.

What we learnt

Learnings around this part of the development are numerous. First, we had to work hard to make sure that this one element – an element that looks amazing from a design and useability perspective – didn’t take over the whole platform.

Another key component of Employment by Law Squared was a curated library of content for business owners and managers (not as sexy, but full of value for our clients). We soon found that we had to keep checking in with the development team to make sure that what was in our heads was aligned to their understanding to keep the development stage on track.

One other thing we learnt was the importance of a staggered delivery process. Every time testing happened, and updates and improvements were implemented, we had to iron out further bugs and issues. It’s all part of the process, but it can be time-consuming, so it’s important that there’s some buffer in your delivery timeline.

We also had to take into account some personal timelines, including the delivery of my second son, little Ray. We have photos from the ‘war room’ of a heavily pregnant me, and then at the next meeting with a little bundle in my arms! It was a privilege to not have to miss out on all the meetings, but there were a lot that I couldn’t attend and it took incredible teamwork to keep everything on track and deliver all those tasks on the Asana boards.

Being able to swap in team members when necessary, and utilising technology to ensure the right people were at the right meetings, was crucial to getting our project delivered.

The end goal

On the day of launch our developers were pushing through another tranche of changes to the website. It was incredibly stressful having to sit around and not be able to do anything while we waited for the site to be rebooted again.

On that same day, my amazing nanny was really sick and I had to force her to stay in bed to rest. I got the kids ready for the day and at lunch time dropped the oldest one (Remy, who is three) at his Dad’s work and headed into work with the newborn. When I got to the office in my active wear the team laughed – “Nice outfit for the launch event,” they remarked!

After feeding bub and collecting our banners and marketing collateral, the whole project-management team walked together to the launch venue. To say that we were a bundle of nerves is an understatement, but we were pumped with energy as well and so excited to show our clients, referrers and supporters our new platform.

I changed at the venue to limit the amount of baby spew on my outfit and scraped my hair into a high ponytail. High hopes of getting a blow-wave had gone out the door with the nanny getting sick, and my speech needed finessing. Catering arrived, the whole Law Squared team arrived from Sydney and Brisbane, and guests started streaming in. Game time.

[Click here for a video of the launch]

Beyond the launch 

Since we launched in April, we have continued to finesse the useability of the Legal Health Check and have uploaded our first set of videos. Our e-books, guides and factsheets have been downloaded time and time again and we have already been able to help many businesses improve how they operate thanks to the personalised report that gets generated upon completion of the Legal Health Check.

We are so proud of the platform, Employment by Law Squared, and the team for developing and delivering on such a massive project.

Some helpful advice

My top tips for those wanting to embark on a similar innovation include:

  • Use a project-management system and tool to keep everyone on track and stick to weekly sprint meetings to keep everyone accountable.
  • Consider what tech-tools you’ll need to get the job done and weigh up the associated costs with the end-goal projections.
  • Ensure that you have the right team in place and plan for staff movements and leave (you should have extras to step in and up during unplanned absences).
  • Leave fat in the timeline for development changes and improvements.
  • Hold an internal launch for Beta testing as it’s a great way to get buy-in from the broader team and receive useful feedback
  • Plan your formal launch early and communicate well with your existing clients as it’s great if they can understand that you’re working hard to create additional value for them and they will feel in the loop when you make public announcements.

Good luck with your project!

Catherine Brooks is an Associate Director at Law Squared and an accredited specialist in workplace relations. She is also the author of Let’s Make It Work, Baby!