Alex Doig is a commercial lawyer and founder of Atticus Lawyers & Advisors. She never in a million years dreamed she’d become a lawyer, but here she is. We find out how she got there and why she’s purposefully created a law firm with personality. She’s made waves in the industry with her neon sign in her office with a quote famous from the cult movie The Castle.
You have a neon sign in your reception that reads “It’s the vibe, it’s Mabo”. How does that reflect your business?
Lawyers take themselves so seriously and I think that’s a bit antiquated. We’re all human beings and if you’ve got a personality, why should you pretend that you don’t?
When I started Atticus in 2013, I’d been working in a big litigation team in Melbourne, and I loved the work but I found the whole approach very clinical. So, I thought, I may as well go and do it by myself.
I wanted to work with people who share the same values. So, with the sign if people don’t like it or don’t get it, that’s fine, there’s a million other serious, suited lawyers who will happily take their work. And we probably won’t really connect with on a values level anyway.
Do you think law firms should focus more on people than business?
There’s this whole thing in the law around not being emotional. It’s all very transactional. But that’s crap because you’re dealing with people. People run businesses. And people have feelings and dreams and hopes and wishes and all those kinds of things.
How have you found being a young woman in the legal profession?
When I started my first law job, I remember walking around the office and meeting everybody. I was really shocked by how many young women there were. It was a really big litigation team with maybe ten partners and only one of them was female, even with all the women working at entry level. So, I thought “what does that tell me about law career progression for someone like me?”
In the years since I started out, things have changed for the better. Firms are recognising that female partners have a lot to offer and they’re working harder to accommodate women in leadership positions. Because I now have my own business, if people have attitudes about women in law, that’s their issue and it doesn’t affect me because I have amazing clients and colleagues who don’t share those attitudes.
Does your dress code reflect your workplace? Corporate or casual?
Very casual. I’m in jeans pretty much every day. I’d rather be comfortable and I think it’s more approachable. But if we’re in court, I have to suit up. I like to think that by dressing casually in the office you’re able to think more creatively but when you’re in court, you’re ‘on’, and a more formal outfit changes the way you feel about yourself,your power and your confidence. It’s easy for the guys, they just wear suits, right?
Right! What are your favourite brands for corporate fashion?
Oh, I am gonna pass on that… My favourite brands are totally different now, so I’m not sure where I’d go for workwear. Next question!
Stepping away from work, what do you like to do?
It’s hard when people ask my hobbies and I think “I work all the time!”
I’ve got a three-year old Australian bulldog—Winnie—she comes to work. I take her for walks, go to the beach, catch up with friends. I drink a lot of coffee before noon and a lot of wine after noon. And I love shopping for things I can’t afford to put in my house. I like reading trashy celebrity gossip in The Daily Mail too. I hate myself a little bit for doing it but I just can’t stop.
What kind of podcasts and business people do you follow?
I listen to Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman, who started LinkedIn. I find it really interesting, the mentality around start-ups and how founders pivot. It’s a lot of tech stuff and I’m not techy but I think we can all learn from what other people are doing in business. I also love Big Ideas on the ABC. I try to listen to things that can teach me something. Maybe it’s not that helpful for my business, but it’s really important, to think creatively and challenge your thinking. It’s helping you in life, so it’s helping you in business. Children do it all the time; learning new things—it strengthens your brain.
Tell me about your typical day?
Every day is different. As a small business owner, I’m so close to my clients. In the legal industry, there’s a lot of emotion in every day, it can be tiring. I work hard and put in the hours because I love my work, I care about my clients deeply.
However, I know I need to look after myself in order to give them the best possible representation. An exhausted, burned-out lawyer is no help to anyone. So, I leave the office most days at 5.30pm. It’s really important not to hang around unnecessarily.
I do my best thinking at night. Whenever I have a good idea, it’s 11 or 12 o’clock and I’m getting ready for bed, so I’ve got a notebook next to my bed.