24 August 2023

Lawbox Design's Natalie Murray shares her story

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Solicitor and legal-design obsessive Natalie Murray chats about juggling summer holidays, founding Lawbox Design, and why showing your true self can make life easier for everyone – including clients.

“I’m from a large family, so I’m used to lots of noise,” says Natalie Murray, explaining why she often prefers to work from cafés than Lawbox Design’s shared workspace in Oxford. “Those places can just feel a bit generic, you know, that art on the walls… Obviously, you have to choose carefully and it’s not suitable if you have confidential client calls, but I generally feel more creative in a coffee shop.”

You won’t always hear a solicitor with 15 years’ qualified experience talking about being creative, but for Nat it’s a non-negotiable in the way she works. “My mum was a seamstress, so I grew up surrounded by all these amazing fabrics, and at school I studied food technology and textiles,” she explains. Founding her company, which she runs alongside husband and co-founder Jamie Murray and Lancashire-based Director Graham Hansen, has already allowed her to blend her personal passion for design with her professional expertise as a lawyer – she’s never happier than when she’s sketching out a new #legaldesign process for a start-up or finding the most user-friendly way to layout a document. But she still hasn’t totally nailed her work-life balance. Far from it.

“The Flexible Working Bill should have always been there” – Natalie Murray, Lawbox Design

It’s a relatable feeling and one that makes the advent of the Flexible Working Bill – which grants the right for all employees to ask to work flexibly from day one – so important. We’ll be going into more detail on it in a future post with our Lawbox Design buddies, MLM Legal, but for now Nat says “it’s one of those things that should have always been there.” Employers shouldn’t be scared, explains Nat: “Maybe you feel like you can control your employees and their efficiency because you can see them at desks every day from 9 to 5, but I know from the early days of my legal career that it doesn’t always work like that…”.

“If you have an honest conversation with your client and say you can’t do that evening, for example, it often fits in better with their own working pattern as well” – Natalie Murray, Lawbox Design

Indeed, the years Nat spent “suited and booted” in corporate law – regularly missing mealtimes and bedtimes – are a stark contrast to her Lawbox life. “In traditional firms, the client always has to come first so if they want a call at 9pm or 10pm, you jump on it. If they want something read last-minute, you’ll do it. And we do have that culture at Lawbox too – the client does come first, and whatever they need, we’ll help them – but when you open yourself up and say ‘we are people and we have a family, or maybe we don’t but we just have plans for tonight’, it turns out that they’re also people and they have a life too! There are exceptions when something is urgent, but quite often if you have that frank and honest conversation and say you can’t do that evening, for example, it fits in better with their own working pattern as well.” Now she also has more time for collaboratively sketching out processes and ideas, something she used to do at every opportunity on her work’s whiteboards.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a legal consultancy that prides itself on making legals understandable and even likeable, Nat keeps returning to themes of humanity and authenticity. “People work with people,” she reflects, adding that Lawbox Design loves finding likeminded clients (innovative, creative and sustainable companies, since you asked). Their team of Lawboxers, who span a range of disciplines and skills, including UX, design and – of course – law, can choose how and when they work. But whether you’re tied to a desk or doodling up some design-driven contracts in a café, remember to be yourself – it might just make life easier for you, your clients and your team.

3 ways to unbox a better work-life balance, according to a mum/founder/solicitor!

1. Have honest conversations – “Graham [a fellow solicitor and Director] and I manage different teams of lawyers, who are able to choose their projects. We start the week by being open about what our work and personal schedules look like, and we’ll keep that communication going.”

2. Embrace the lows – “Christmas and August are traditionally quite chill, but it can go the other way too. As a small business owner, it’s easy to panic when it does go quiet – but I say ‘embrace the lows’. Then when it does all kick off again you’re relaxed and ready to deal with it.”

3. Maximise short time slots. “When you’re dashing around dropping the kids off at various summer clubs, you can end up with just a few hours to focus at home. So I set a half-hour timer and try to get a particular contract or article done. Even if I don’t finish it, I know I’ve smashed out a good chunk of work!”

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