Rizwana McDonald, or Riz for short, is a disrupter. She’s been a lawyer for 16 years. Still, she doesn’t have an engraved brass shingle bearing her name hanging outside an office building anywhere. Her practice, Foundd Legal, is run 100% online. Riz and her team can work with people all over the country from the comfort of their home offices. No overheads, legalese or fancy jargon being thrown about by lawyers in dark suits here. Just great service, simplicity, transparency, a sense of curiosity and an understanding of what it’s like to be human and in need of a good lawyer.
As Riz tells it, she started “Foundd Legal as a way to make all of that boring, scary, overwhelming legal stuff both accessible and affordable to entrepreneurs, creatives and designers”. She’s on a mission to shake up the industry providing virtual legal services but also making sure the law is accessible for all. Foundd Legal has created a range of done-for-you templates for those that don’t necessarily need a lawyer. If you’re going into business and want to make sure you’re set up correctly and covered when working with contractors or online, using a template can give you peace of mind. Yep, roll-up Podcasters and Bloggers alike, Riz has got you covered.
Definitely not your run-of-the-mill lawyer, Riz also has her own Podcast Legals & Biz with Riz and has just launched a brand new e-course Build Your Empire. I sit down with Riz to talk about all things business and Foundd Legal. Love this woman! Not your average lawyer here folks, but definitely where I’m going if ever get into any trouble!
Flossi: Foundd Legal specialises in helping creatives start-ups, entrepreneurs, small business, and influencers navigate the legal obligations of their business. It’s unusual to find a lawyer who works primarily in these fields. Why did you decide to do this?
RM: “I also run an e-commerce business, pureman.com.au, and notwithstanding being a lawyer, I must admit I made quite a few mistakes over the years. I learnt a lot from those mistakes, but fortunately, I didn’t make the legal mistakes! That got me thinking about other small businesses out there and how the law was inaccessible to them. Not only due to the cost factor but also because they didn’t understand what they needed or why. Factor in my love of helping and sense of fair play, and not feeling fulfilled in my corporate role, and Foundd Legal was born.”
Flossi: Can you tell me a bit about your journey into law and starting your own business?
RM: “I started off as an office junior in Wales and my bosses there were these amazing women. One in particular totally inspired me to become a lawyer. She was kicking arse in a field usually dominated by men, was a single mum and had already done a degree in journalism.
“I spent a lot of time at night school and summer school before I got into law, I was told many times it wasn’t possible, girls don’t need an education, but I never gave up. I was the first in my family to go to university ever! The problem sometimes with a long-held dream is the reality can then be quite different. I didn’t feel as fulfilled as I thought I would, I didn’t feel like I was making a real difference. While I loved the helping people part, I didn’t really enjoy working with some of my colleagues.
“I would dream about setting up my own business to help those who truly needed it, but couldn’t afford the high costs of a traditional law firm. Life and responsibilities got in the way. Until eventually I thought, fuck it! I’m going to do this! Now here we are.”
Flossi: You run your law firm online. Love it! Why did you make that decision?
RM: “My decision to run Foundd Legal online was, in part for freedom and flexibility, and in part, my experience with the e-commerce business. I love being an entrepreneur and wanted to help all small businesses, not just those in Brisbane where I’m located. It made sense to run a virtual law firm with my experience and understanding of technology and how awesome it can be when used correctly.
“It has been the best experience both for my clients and for me. It gives my clients freedom and flexibility in the sense that they don’t have to dress up and get in a car, pay expensive parking costs and so on. Then pay me a higher fee because I have to pay rent (and overheads). The benefits of virtual means that I can pass on the cost savings to my clients by charging fixed or value-based fees.”
Flossi: One of the benefits must be the ability to work Australia wide. Are you able to work with clients all over the country?
RM: “I sure am! My clients are from all over Australia. I love the fact that we can connect through technology, and I’m able to support them in their dreams of starting up a business or scaling their business.”
Flossi: Finance, along with the legal stuff, always end up at the bottom of the to-do list whenever people want to start a business. What are the legal “MUST-DOS” for all start-ups, particularly creatives?
RM: “Make sure you have:
“The right structure, e.g. sole trade, company and the correct documents for the relevant structure. For example, if you set up a partnership or company with another person (regardless of the relationship) make sure you have the right agreement that documents who does what in the business. What happens if one of you wants to leave etc. Don’t think the worst won’t happen because you are best mates and it will all be fairy floss and flowers. I’ve seen too many times the fairy floss and flowers turn to turds and thorns;
“Insurance – Depending on the nature of your business go see an insurance broker and make sure you have the right insurance for your business;
“Protect your intellectual property. If you have spent a motza on your branding, you should have your business name trademarked – well before you even do all of that make sure you can own it. Do a Google search, search IP Australia’s website to make sure it’s available to use before spending all that money on a brand and then trademark it. Registering a business name is not enough.
“Financials – Make sure to have a business account and if you are running a website and taking payments link them up via a third party gateway like Eway or Stripe.”
Flossi: I love that you sell templates – would never have thought about getting a Podcast guest release template. How foolproof are they? Can those people that “don’t do legal” complete them and have confidence that they’ve done it correctly?
RM: “Well if you remember to use them, be clear about expectations and communicate effectively (as it’s not just about the legal terms), then the templates can be foolproof. Without the right contract in place, you’ll be wasting time and energy trying to fix a problem. One that could have been avoided by simply having the right contract in place and proper communication between the parties about boundaries and expectations beforehand.
“Our template agreements are basically fill in the blanks, but they also come with a user guide which explains what the key terms are in language that the user can understand. It’s important to me that my client actually understands their contract. As an added bonus, you can book in a free consultation with me too!”
Flossi: The temptation for a new business would be to just grab a load of templates and get going, but how important is it to have a consultation with someone like yourself when starting out?
RM: “Look, I appreciate, that thanks to Google, you can go find templates. It’s easy to then just copy and paste, but will that template actually protect the type of business you run? The risk is not having appropriate protections and measures that suit your business.”
Flossi: Simplicity, Human, Transparency, Curiosity are your brand values. How important are your values, and how do you encourage your staff and clients to embrace them?
RM: “These values are super important to me, and I live by them whether it’s through my socials, my website, working with clients or working with my team. I encourage my team to embrace them, heck I encourage my kids!
“I love to learn, I like to keep things simple, life is complicated enough. I have a terrible poker face, so people know what I’m feeling. Like, is this a good idea? My face clearly indicated no it bloody isn’t.”
Flossi: I’ve been looking for a lawyer to interview for almost a year. I reached out to you because your website wasn’t dark and serious, and you weren’t in a power suit. You’ve got such a fun, calm but trusting tone and presence online and on social media, was this a conscious decision or more a reflection of your authentic self?
RM: “Haha, thanks for that, I truly appreciate it! I really wanted my brand, my voice, my website, everything to reflect who I am. I’m cheeky, can be funny (terrible at telling a joke though), love a laugh and a drink (at the same time too)!
“Over the years, I’ve worked in a mostly corporate environment. While my personality always shone through, I had to contain it, and it didn’t make me feel good when I had to do that. To be honest, I wasn’t that good at containing it, and as I mentioned, I don’t have a poker face. I also knew that if I wanted a seat at the table, I had to build my own, so here I am. Now I have a big arse table that can fit anyone. I also have a retractable glass ceiling.”
Flossi: Due to Covid-19, businesses have had to embrace alternative ways to sell and survive. What advice would you give to someone with no real online presence who needs to make a quick start in the digital space, or someone with a website who now wants to jump into e-commerce?
RM: “I would say that it’s super important to get themselves online pronto irrespective of COVID (that word ugh). You own your website, you don’t own your social media channels. Now is the time to showcase who you are, think outside the box. If you are an e-commerce business, you can be online within 24 hours using sites like Shopify; you don’t have to spend a fortune to be online quickly. I do think it’s super important to have some foundations in place such as understanding your why or purpose, brand voice and tone and who your market is.
“I have beauty biz clients who have had to close their salons, and I’ve helped them pivot online. They now provide video tutorials and package up home facials, home eyebrow kits etc. I love that I was able to help them, and I love even more that they were willing to give it a go. They now have a second income stream once the dust settles and life gets back to normal.”
Flossi: What advice would you give to someone who has an idea, a side-hustle or wants to pivot into something new and has no clue where to start?
RM: “There is so much information out there, it becomes a little like information overload. Having said that, look at what makes you zing. Also, it’s important to love what you do, money should not be the main factor. Once you understand your why then research!
“Taking e-commerce as an example, if you wish to start up an e-commerce business go check out Shopify, Wix or Woocommerce, get familiar with them.
“Join a few Facebook groups that are in the niche you are interested in.
“Go network – I know it’s not physically possible right now, but you can join online networks and functions via zoom.
“Be consistent. Provide value.
“Build up an email list by giving away a freebie – it’s cheaper than Facebook and Google ads!
“You can start a business on a shoestring budget, but you have to be smart about it. You need to have done the groundwork and the research first.
“Make sure you have the right legals!”
Flossi: I hear you’re a speed reader – how did you learn that skill?
RM: “I absolutely adore reading, I lose myself in a story every time and combine that with my impatience to know what happens at the end! I read every single Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, Stephen King (I know naughty starting young) books several times over as a child. Thank god for Kindle and e-books otherwise my house would look like a library.”
Follow Riz on Instagram