#6: YLaw

One law firm is upending the hustle culture of its industry
(Photograph by Margeaux Walter)

While starting up her firm, YLaw, in 2013, Leena Yousefi—seasoned family lawyer, mediator, and now CEO—hired experts to research how she could best meet the needs of clients. “What is the first thing your clients think when they come through your door?” she was asked. Yousefi thought they’d want information about the divorce process or strategies to win their case. Wrong, she was told. The first thought clients have when coming into a family law office is less practical and more emotional: “How did I get here?”

These five simple words, Yousefi says, inspired how she thought about running her business. She could practice law differently. The human needs of clients could be a priority. And so could the human needs of her team. Having worked in larger firms herself, Yousefi knew the industry was a breeding ground for burnout. “Firms were rewarding workaholism and leaving very, very little space for women to excel, thrive or, sometimes, even exist.”

That’s not the case at YLaw. Yousefi has created a team that includes people of colour, pregnant women, people on parental leave, and single mothers. (Eighty-seven per cent of the staff are women.) All are rare on the rosters of major firms. “A single mother, or any parent, has already proven to me that they’re able to multitask,” says Yousefi. “They’re able to be productive, efficient, empathetic, loving and understanding. When they come into the workplace, that’s the attitude that they bring in.”

As is the case in many industries, racial- and gender-based inequities in the legal field can make hiring from underrepresented groups more time-consuming and difficult than tapping traditional—and often biased—recruitment funnels. But for Yousefi, building a diverse team was not just a matter of equity; it provides a strategic advantage too. “If I want to serve clients from different cultures who are immigrating here or going through a separation or a marriage, I want lawyers who can speak their language, who can understand the cultural issues and be sensitive to their needs,” she says. “Because that’s going to result in happy clients.”

Family law can be gruelling, and YLaw is investing to ensure the longevity of its people. It offers employees a four-day workweek and provides all partner-track lawyers with support to ensure a successful transition. For Yousefi, measures like these are all about reciprocity. “For my business to succeed, I need good energy and good faith,” she says. “That doesn’t come just from people who are paying.”

Read more from the 2022 New Innovators List