Life Lessons: Nicole Garton-Jones

Founder and managing partner of Heritage Law. Business basics are key to paying the bills

Heritage Law, B.C.'s first exclusively online law firm, allows its employees to work flexible hours to let them spend time with their families – a workplace culture that's considered cutting-edge in the often traditional and conservative legal field.

Despite this, founder and managing partner Nicole Garton-Jones has discovered that innovation, in and of itself, is not necessarily all it's cracked up to be.

A self-confessed "innovation contrarian," Garton-Jones said she's not against innovation as a concept but that she takes a measured view of its value. She pointed out that, while many businesspeople these days think they must be completely original and inventive to be successful in today's competitive climate, that's not the case.

"There's something to be said for precedent, tried-and-true principles. What's worked in the past works today."

Garton-Jones added that, in particular, the idea of solving business issues using new technologies doesn't always make sense. She gave an example of a Heritage Law initiative that didn't pan out: a web portal that would allow clients to create a will completely online.

"There was almost no uptake. It was innovative, but it made no money."

Because so few people were using it, the will portal was shut down.

She doesn't regret all of the innovations Heritage Law has implemented, however.

"We have a virtual server, we're paperless, we have VoIP phones. All those things have worked."

She emphasized that the business is successful because of business fundamentals, not technological initiatives.

"We have conscientious, hard-working people combined with a proper marketing message and give good service to our clients. We're not successful because we're virtual. It enhances the fundamentals that any law firm has to be successful." •

On originality not necessarily leading to financial reward | "Particularly in the new economy with a lot of these new technology companies, a lot of what is innovative and wins the sexy awards is not profitable. It's the hot thing to say, but there are a lot of innovative companies that aren't making any money, and I find it's not the be-all, end-all it's necessarily made to be."

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