Mario L. McCartney, Managing Partner, Lex Justis Chambers about their belief in the power of collaboration with an open and approachable style.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mario L. McCartney: Thank you for asking. My family and I are doing well and grateful to be in good health despite the hardships experienced in the global pandemic. As a family, we’ve had to make a number of lifestyle changes, from enrolling our children in a homeschool program and creating a home gym in order to remain safe.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Lex Justis chambers.
Mario L. McCartney: This year will make some 14 years as a legal practitioner in The Bahamas, and I must say that time goes by fast, but the first day of business of my beloved Lex Justis Chambers will remain a cherished milestone. Opening my own legal practice was a well-thought-out plan that was put into motion years before I completed my law degree.
At the time, I had spent a number of years studying abroad and was well versed in travel, so it was always my intention to start a practice that would attract clients from around the world to do business in The Bahamas and was well aware of the critical role the internet would play in the way we do business in the future. So it was only natural that my firm would find its niche in corporate and commercial law, which would also include an element of wealth management and private client services that relied heavily on The Bahamas’ status as a well-known destination for tourists and seasoned travelers.
I am glad to see such plans materialize into the striving law firm that stands this present day. However, it was a decision that involved a tremendous amount of sacrifice and challenges that would convince even the best of us to simply give up and seek employment. Yet my intuition would always convince me to keep going, believing that the following day could bring endless possibilities, which only required me to demonstrate my knowledge and professional skills to the world at large and present the commercial opportunities that The Bahamas has to offer.
How does Lex Justis Chambers innovate?
Mario L. McCartney: Throughout the years, our firm has maintained a culture that emphasized building long-term interpersonal relationships with our clients with a problem-solving approach, which calls for the provision of honest and comprehensible legal advice and to complete our matters within a reasonable time. With the COVID pandemic, we have introduced video conferencing services for our prospective clients and have extended our contact hours up to 10 pm Eastern Standard Time and remaining open on the weekends. We have also increased our email response time within an average of 12 hours and have also enabled our telephone numbers to be added to Whatsapp to further accommodate inquiries from prospective clients.
But our innovation is demonstrated in our online presence, being one of the first law firms in the country to host a legal blog on developments in Bahamian law immediately after our inception in the 2008 year. And I am proud to say that we have taken a step further by producing video presentations on various legal topics while further demonstrating how our laws integrate with the very traditions found in Bahamian culture. So far, we are the only law firm in The Bahamas that has taken this approach, and we have had positive results with this approach.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Mario L. McCartney: Similar to circumstances experienced throughout most parts of the world, we felt the economic pinch at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with various closures of government agencies and judicial courts shutting down in accordance with the Emergency Orders imposed by the Bahamas Government, which involved the closure of schools, businesses, and the imposition of curfews and weekend lockdown.
It was a humbling experience, being made to adjust personal and business lifestyles as the government ordered all legal professionals to work from home. Even with the lifting of these restrictions and with the slow return of normalcy, improvement in business activity is slow to mend, although we are seeing an increase in corporate restructuring efforts and inquiries relating to resident permits and The Bahamas’ Extended Access Travel Stay Visa, a program that allows non-residents to live in the Bahamas for a period of one year while working or studying remotely.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Mario L. McCartney: I’ve found that through this experience, we were able to adapt our lifestyles even under the most vulnerable conditions, and our office was no different in having to create a self-contained ‘bubble’ at our office with minimal staff in attendance for no more than five hours per day while minimizing cash payments and exchange of physical documents, not to mention the daily sanitization of office space. Ultimately our business goals now evolved into a balance between generating revenue while preserving lives through the adoption of high sanitization and social distancing measures until we find a way to overcome the pandemic.
On the other hand, the COVID pandemic has presented an opportunity to go beyond the expectations of a traditional brick and mortar law firm by increasing our accessibility in extending our remote office hours
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Mario L McCartney: I find the advancement in technology to greatly assist our customer relationship management with prospective and current clients being able to mitigate the cost of communicating with us through the use of applications such as Whatsapp, Skype, and Zoom. This technology plays a role in maintaining a trusting relationship with our clients as we remain available and ready to work.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Mario L. McCartney: The Bahamas Government has provided small business grants and capitalization support that are facilitated in its Small Business Development Centre initiative, which has supported a number of small businesses here in The Bahamas. Under the circumstances, however, we have not taken advantage of this opportunity due mainly to the amount of effort required in both the application process, not to mention the potential exposure of our client relationships.
Your final thoughts?
Mario L. McCartney: If there is anything to learn under present circumstances is to make the best of the opportunities of life, cherish your achievements, and stay healthy!
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