Jodie Baker began her career as a lawyer, spending time in both private practice and then as in-house counsel, before becoming a financial and industry analyst. Jodie spent time living in the US where she was exposed to new business models in the legal industry, and was inspired to return to Australia in 2012, to begin her entrepreneurial journey. Jodie architected and launched Hive Legal, a company with a distinctly different approach to legal practice.
Throughout her career, she saw in-house legal teams struggling with burdensome administrative tasks where the technology solutions were unaffordable to most. That’s why in 2016 Jodie founded Xakia. Her passion to give in-house counsel greater visibility and control to their legal operations is the driving force behind Xakia.
As a LegalTech advocate, Jodie helped create the Australian Legal Technology Association (ALTA) and the Women of Australian Legal Technology Association (WALTA) – an offshoot of ALTA – and has been integral in the development and execution of a 2021 research paper that looks at diversity in LegalTech. As a key member of WALTA Jodie is helping to drive a new think-tank and working groups to change the diversity profile of LegalTech globally.
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Table of Contents
Before we begin, our readers are interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to be where you are today or was it something you were led to? Share with us your journey.
Jodie Baker: I began my career as a lawyer, spending time in both private practice and then as in-house counsel, before becoming a financial and industry analyst. I spent time living in the US where I was exposed to new business models in the legal industry, and was inspired to return to Australia in 2012, to begin my entrepreneurial journey. I architected and launched Hive Legal, a company with a distinctly different approach to legal practice. As Managing Director, I was responsible for building, managing and developing the firm’s unique business practices.
Throughout my career, I continually saw in-house legal teams struggling with burdensome administrative tasks where the technology solutions were unaffordable to most. They were wasting time with spreadsheets for manual reporting and they didn’t have visibility over what their team were working on. I saw a gap in the market and in 2016, I founded Xakia. I believe that all in-house legal teams, regardless of size and location, should have access to simple and cost-effective tools that can help them streamline and automate their legal processes and increase efficiency and productivity amid growing responsibilities.
In addition, I’m passionate about building a workforce that is balanced, but also focused on increasing female representation in the tech space.
Tell us a bit about your current focus. What is the most important thing that you’re working on and how do you plan on doing it?
Jodie Baker: I wear many hats in any single day, whether it’s PR, strategy, client success, product manager, or provider of coffee and chocolate. I love the variety and the detail, but I have vowed to put all the hats down except for one, so I can work on my business and not in my business and focus on the big picture.
The most important thing I’m working on now is moving away from being a Superhero to a Super Coach. My priority is to encourage and support women to pursue tech careers. I’m proud that about 70% of the executive team are women. They are encouraged to always challenge the status quo to ensure Xakia is always evolving and everything is built with the customer experience in mind.
The Xakia philosophy is that all staff are supported, included, and treated equally. Our team is diverse and experienced, and we actively hire people from different backgrounds, skills, perspectives and knowledge so that we maintain diversity of thought and foster innovation.
Some argue that punctuality is a strength. Others say punctuality is a weakness. How do you feel about it, please explain.
Jodie Baker: I have always been obsessive about punctuality (which can be personally gruelling to keep yourself on time). But as the business grows and transitions, this has become harder to achieve and now I find myself (oh, the horror!) running 3-5 minutes late for meetings on a semi-regular basis. It does grate on me and I’m keen to get back on track in 2022.
How important is having good timing in your line of work and in the industry that your organization operates in?
Jodie Baker: I think it’s important but not essential. The legal industry is undergoing a massive digital transformation, and as one of the last industries to do so, they are playing catch up and running fast. For LegalTech companies who moved too soon, they have been trying to get attention for a long while but have first mover advantage. For those who move too late, the ship will have (to some extent) already sailed. But anything within the last five years, or the five years in front of us will still be able to catch that wave.
Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, states “Timing is everything in life, and it’s particularly crucial in entrepreneurship. People often equate success with luck, but it usually comes down to impeccable (and carefully mapped out) timing”. Do you agree with this statement? Please answer in as much detail as necessary.
Jodie Baker: Timing is important, but I don’t think you can map it that carefully unless you have a crystal ball. As the past 2 years and a pandemic have shown, a pandemic can throw an entirely new curve ball into the best laid plans. Hard work is essential, but luck still plays a part, you just need to know when to capitalize on it.
That said, planning can save you many mistakes and missteps!
As a leader/entrepreneur/CEO, how do you decide when to put the pedal to the metal and when to take a break? How do you time the key moments in your career?
Jodie Baker: I was once advised that as a mother, the best time to push your career is in the window between your youngest starting elementary school and your eldest starting high school. For me, that window was magic, but I have found it hard to pull back once the momentum kicked in. I now have 2 kids in high school and a very full life!
Branson also states “If you’re starting to feel like you’re just going through the motions and losing sight of why you started, it might be time to take a break”. But how do you decide when to take a break?
Jodie Baker: If I’m honest, I am not good at taking a break. For me, work is the space I turn to as a big puzzle that I’m working through, and I find that painting the big picture vision and the little corners of detail extremely satisfying. Walking away from that can sometimes be more stressful than staying in it, particularly if I feel as though I’m abandoning my team to sort through problems or major scaling challenges. To that end, I try to time my breaks for the quiet times of the year so I can recharge, or when I feel like things are settled and cruising on a straight path. But this is definitely an area of focus for 2022.
“Timing can be everything when starting up. It can be the difference between building a thriving business and not” How has good timing helped you achieve success in your career or business? Are there any particular examples from your career that you would like to share?
Jodie Baker: My career has been punctuated by jumping at opportunities the moment I saw them present themselves. Twice I was offered roles that – on paper – didn’t make a lot of sense, but I instinctively knew I should jump, and they both feature strongly in my story of gathering skills that set me up as an entrepreneur.
As an analyst in the financial markets (which accounts for a decade of my career), picking big structural shifts is critical to making good investment choices. Observing markets, stakeholders, political, social, cultural, regulatory and financial landscapes, identifying when things are shifting and why – all of these factor strongly into the notion of ‘timing’.
For my business ventures, both were carefully planned, both were at the front of a major structural shift and both have benefited from ‘timing’. The first, Hive Legal, capitalized on the idea of virtual working, value / fixed pricing and technology enabled legal services – this was in 2013 when such things were still very new.
With Xakia, we looked at the big structural shift from law firms to in-house that had been occurring since the late 1990s, the under-investment of these in-house legal teams in technology, equating to growing frustration around the solutions that were available to them. Add in the availability of cloud software and the fractionalizing of cost for all teams, and we were able to deliver solutions that democratized legal technology for legal teams – big AND small, and contribute to the wave of mass adoption we are seeing across the industry today.
“When you’re thinking of starting up, ask yourself: ‘Is the community I want to serve ready for this idea?’ It could make all the difference!” Would you like to add anything to this piece of advice for all the aspiring entrepreneurs?
Jodie Baker: When we launched Xakia in late 2016, the ‘Legal Operations’ wave had only just commenced in the U.S. and was still very foreign in other markets. In our launch market (Australia), the term was barely even in use. Nonetheless, the pain points were being felt, even though the community around these pain points had not yet really mobilized itself, and certainly not materially outside the U.S. and it was that pain that was the indicator that we needed. We feel as though we have positively contributed to the legal operations space, that we have helped with the education and the building of the community – had we waited for the community to already exist, we may have been too late with our timing.
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs would be to look for the pain points first and help to build the community. If you are there early, you can help shape the discussion, but also hear first-hand from your customer base what their pain points are and shape your response to it to fit perfectly.
COVID forced many businesses to adapt fast, some did so successfully, others failed, it was a lot due to good or poor timing. What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Jodie Baker: Big lesson: pandemics are long!
It was important for us to view the changes in our and our clients’ landscapes as being semi or totally permanent, so that the mindset could change and adapt quickly. We were also able to help our clients change their mindset to a more permanent state, and that aided implementation and adoption of our software as a tool that was perfect for managing both remote working and the avalanche of legal work that has been crashing through over the past 2 years.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Jodie Baker: Resilience. Everybody is exhausted by the current environment – employees, clients, suppliers, commentators. Finding fresh energy through the use of beautiful tools, being surrounded by people who are either low fuss or bring a burst of renewal to your landscape, or a new perspective or way of managing your day… whatever the solution, it is important that we don’t drain energy from each other but contribute positively to the landscape.
Sometimes, delivering seamless solutions takes more energy than just charging through, yelling loud into the market and demanding attention. The challenge for Xakia as an organization is to ensure that we look after our team, so that they can continue to provide that quality service to our community.
Your insight has been incredibly valuable and our readers thank you for your generosity. We do have a couple of other bold questions to ask. What fictional world would you want to start a business in and what would you sell?
Jodie Baker: This is applicable to almost any fictional world, but I love the concept of selling time. Time has different qualities – sleep, exercise, business, family, eating, drinking and so on. Perhaps you could forgo sleep time and sell it, but the reality is that would it then impair your ability to enjoy other parts of your day if you were sleep deprived? Or forgo eating time, but then you may be hungry for the day etc. The challenge (as it is in reality, but exemplified given the commerce overlay), is that balance is the key and you shouldn’t sell any time, but just make the most of what you have right out of the box.
Before we finish things off, we would love to know, when you have some time away from business, what is one hobby that you wish you could spend more time on?
Jodie Baker: Sleeping! Reading. Hiking – anything in nature, big wide-open spaces and the beach.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jodie Baker for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jodie Baker or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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