Q&A: The entrepreneurial lawyer bringing strata of expertise to help apartment owners

This week we speak to property lawyer Amanda Farmer. Fed up with the traditional ‘time-for-money’ legal services model, Amanda built a world-first online membership community where apartment owners are accessing the information and resources they need to live more peacefully in their homes.

ISB: Please tell us about the background of your business, when you founded it and your specialisation.

AF: After 10 years employed in a small suburban legal practice, I started my own practice, Lawyers Chambers, in 2013 and chose to focus solely on strata / body corporate law – a challenging and ever-evolving area of property law. Since then, I’ve narrowed the focus even further to position myself as a fierce advocate for apartment owners.

ISB: What is the ultimate aim of that advocacy?

AF: More than 10 per cent of Australians now live in apartments. This figure will continue to grow as our housing stock inevitably expands upwards rather than outwards.

Most apartment owners don’t realise just how vulnerable they are when they buy in to a building. It is the owners who must deal with defective building work, poor financial management, non-existent building maintenance and personality clashes. That’s tough but, when these owners have an understanding of how the relevant legal frameworks operate, they can more easily protect themselves, solve these problems with less expense and make better decisions for themselves and their communities.

As an apartment owner myself, I understand how empowering this type of access to expertise can be. I want to share that feeling of empowerment with as many other owners as possible.

ISB: What prompted you to look outside your own industry to “shake up” your service model, and what was the result of that?

AF: After three years running my own business, I could see that the traditional legal services model of trading time for money was only leverageable if I was prepared to manage a team of lawyers (which I wasn’t). Nor was that model sustainable if I wanted the freedom to travel, time to spend with my young family and time to explore new interests. I saw how business owners in other industries were using technology to deliver education services online and recognised that my client base of apartment owners and property managers were the perfect audience for that kind of service. In 2016 I started the Your Strata Property Podcast to reach more people and test their appetite for online education.

ISB: What was the outcome of your shift?

AF: Six years on and I have just published episode number 322 of the podcast. It has connected me with thought leaders in our sector and, over time, positioned me as one, too. I’ve partnered with local councils to deliver education to apartment residents on a broad scale. The popularity of the education offering pushed me to build an online membership community where I now provide support and resources to apartment owners and property managers, helping them to better navigate the legal complexities of apartment living.

I am not aware of any other lawyer providing services to apartment owners in this way anywhere in the world. The income from my online education services now represents at least 50 per cent of my total revenue and will soon become my primary business focus, with the traditional time-for-money legal work being a ‘nice-to-have’ and not a necessity.

ISB: How do you go about running a thriving legal business in Sydney from the regional town of Mudgee?

AF: Online presence is everything. I have a big profile with a small business because I consistently show up for my audience via the podcast, live videos, webinars and in the media. I invest in the technology and the personal education needed to ensure that all runs smoothly, in addition to investing in the team of people who support me. I never hide the fact that I live in a regional location and most people find it an inspiring point of difference.

ISB: And, finally, what is the #1 piece of advice you’d give to aspiring entrepreneurs after almost a decade of successfully running your own business?

AF: You don’t always have to begin with the end in mind: just begin. I certainly didn’t have it all planned out this way when I first started! I did have a vision for what I wanted my life as a business owner to look like and who I wanted to help, and I’ve maintained enough momentum to consistently steer in that direction. But I certainly didn’t have the last six years clearly mapped out from the beginning. Don’t let that stop you from taking the first step toward your dream business, even if that business might look a little different to the norm.