Co- Founder of Inspire Legal Group, Natalie Foster is a former business manager at Barclays Bank who transitioned into the legal industry to work in business development. The Group includes Inspire Legal Academy, which will give lawyers and other legal professionals the skills they need to benefit from the world of blockchain, smart contracts and legal engineering, as well as Inspire Crypto, a company that will help develop products that enable property transactions to proceed via blockchain, are other ventures she has established. She says, it’s our intention to inspire lawyers to see that there are many different things they can do in practise and to find new ways of delivering legal services. We are a group of colleagues where everyone has a stake in the success of the business.”
Inspire Legal Group
The innovative virtual law firm from Inspire Legal Group, formerly Foster Clay, aims to give lawyers the tools they need to start their own practises and related businesses, such as technology solutions.
Inspire Legal Group currently employs 23 lawyers as consultants who are building their practises with complete back-office assistance. They aim to double the number of consultants by the end of 2022. They work with paralegals, licenced conveyancers, solicitors and legal entrepreneurs who require a support network to develop their own tech products and are enouraging other lawyers, at all levels to “join the movement” [one of the Group’s taglines]. 11 people are currently employed by Inspire in Scarborough to help the lawyers.
Natalie comes from a business, finance and lending background. She started a law degree when she had her children and she is still pursuing her SQE and LLM because being a solicitor would be sacrilege to her. She sees herself as a business leader who develops a team and garners support to bring about change. She works in the legal industry and is aware of the significant obstacles that must be removed before law and procedure can be applied to technology. Although the Law Commission is doing fantastic work in this area, a comprehensive solution is required. Inspire Legal Group and Vleppo (a Danish Blockchain Technology company) have forged a new alliance. She says, “We have the means to do what others are only consulting on at this stage. Being asked by Vleppo to work with them over other larger firms has been an honour and I cannot wait to let the public know what it is we have planned.”
Leading Legal Group
In the first lockdown, Inspire Legal Group was created. After hearing Boris on the TV say that the public were not permitted anywhere, Natalie sat in her bedroom with her laptop and felt a sudden wave of freedom being taken away from her. She knew that many lawyers would find it difficult to function alone at home. She had resigned from her previous partnership position in order to start a business that would “survive the times then flourish.” The objective was to establish a business that supported Web 3 and was entirely operationally digital. Regulatory compliance, lawyers’ education in terms of understanding and buy-in and the ultimate consumer client’s need to be aware of the advantages of blockchain in the legal sector, such as security and speed, are just a few of the difficulties Natalie mentions.
Consultants who are in their own right entrepreneurial and have project ideas of their own can join the firm to have the support of reserved legal activity insurance when they require it. Under the firm’s ABS (alternative business structure), they can offer niche services to their clients, retaining the majority of their fees. She asserts, “We’ve created personal brand workshops, lead gen support and back-office administration to support them. But what we’re doing goes beyond being part of a “firm”, it’s being part of a community. I don’t want to be in competition with high-street firms, we are not. I want to offer a different way of functioning in the sector by removing the issues many artists face when transferring property and support the legal sector in the journey to using block chain technology. This is what Inspire Legal Group is doing. “
Responsibilities at Inspire Legal Group
As CEO, Natalie is responsible for the strategy, progress, and implementation of all projects within the group and ensures the relevant leaders have all the tools they need to undertake the roles the firm expects them to work with.
Moreover, her job is to build the brand of the group and ensure people know she is here to listen to new ideas and be non-conformist. She states, “Not anarchy, this is a different thing. People think that disruption is an uncomfortable place to be. It isn’t if you have the education, support, and direction of leaders. That’s what I do.”
Sharing the Significance of Challenges
Natalie quotes Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more.” She finds that this saying, although simple, encapsulates the changes she has made to develop and bounce back after trusting in the wrong things and learning from failure. She asserts, “We all fail. We are all allowed one mess up. If we learn from it, it has not been a waste of time and energy.”
Natalie states that one should partner with people that share his or her values and ethics. She adds, “Distance, background, sector and all kinds of things can be a little obstacle in this digital age, but a gap in ethics or integrity can mess with the balance of a team. When implementing change, there are constant dynamics and relationship changes. These need to be managed and respected, and if one party isn’t working as hard as the rest, it causes upset in the ranks.” She has learnt from this and selects her partners based on attitude and conduct over anything these days. She thanks the challenges she has faced for allowing her to realise her value to others at darker times and suggests that you always have something to offer.
In and Out of Work
Natalie fits her work in “a little and often” around the needs of her two small children. Her hobbies are supporting her daughter in her dancing and she is often sat at the back of a hall or theatre emailing the HQ team.
Natalie shares that Inspire Legal Group has great respect for family. It has to be this way. Her team misses nothing. She says, “If we support employees’ personal journeys as well as their professional ones, the loyalty you receive and buy-in is unparalleled. The perception by some is that this is a weakness, it isn’t.”
Achieving all the Dreams
Natalie admits that while she feels content with what she has accomplished so far, she is unsure of her plans for the next 40 years. She thinks, “We are all working through life in chapters. We do not need pigeonholing, and so what I do now might be different from what I do in 10 years, but whatever it is, I will always love being in business, providing opportunities for others to develop and building success from the ground up.” She further adds, “Hard work doesn’t have to be a painful slog. If you have an amazing team and good, smart processes, you can do anything. For me, the process has been everything. I’m lucky to have a strong board who does not allow me to veer off. Energy is not enough; you need strategy and reasoning.”
Why are you doing this? is something Natalie asks herself regularly. She finds dreams are subjective. She initially started simply wanting to be able to take a holiday, knowing the team and business were sustainable. She asserts, “Trust gets you there and now I want to see that the projects we have are successful and we deliver the change the legal sector so desperately needs. Ask me again next year!”
Key to Success
Natalie has not experienced conventional or even convenient success. If anything, it has disrupted the market more than anything else because she entered the market with a critically constructive perspective. She initially intended to go to law school, become licenced as a solicitor and eventually join a partnership. This changed when she observed the extraordinary operational challenges that partners and lawyers in general face, which prevent them from working on future strategy but, more importantly, fire fight daily with out-dated views of how people should handle requests and restrict their opportunities for access to justice.
“Success to me now is to influence and construct positive change wherever possible using the gifts and control you have at your disposal,” says Natalie. For her, this is a strong network of partners who support her vision for a web3 solution for the legal industry. That is client-focused, justice-focused and complaint-driven and it gives lawyers and the regulator confidence to proceed without fear.
Future of Inspire Legal Group
Natalie’s goals for the future include expansion, senior leadership and a focus on the areas where clients currently lack access to justice. Also included are litigation, business and corporate, as well as crypto asset tracking. She says, “Anyone who isn’t getting where they need to be in the corporate pyramid and knows they have a value, talk to us. We set lawyers up to practise in their own way with their own clients and educate them in tech, so they remain relevant, supportive of their clients’ needs, and multi-skilled in an ever-changing landscape.”