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How the fastest-growing female-led law firm in B.C. is shaking up family law

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Once pooh-poohed by the tired old legal establishment, ‘futurpreneur’ Leena Yousefi founded her own way of doing things, creating an ’empathic, non-aggressive, all-inclusive environment’ at YLaw Leena Yousefi at the YLaw office in downtown Vancouver with her daughter, Saoirse (Photograph by Alia Youssef) This past January, an image of Leena Yousefi outfitted in crisp white…

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Once pooh-poohed by the tired old legal establishment, ‘futurpreneur’ Leena Yousefi founded her own way of doing things, creating an ’empathic, non-aggressive, all-inclusive environment’ at YLaw

Leena Yousefi at the YLaw office in downtown Vancouver with her daughter, Saoirse (Photograph by Alia Youssef)

Leena Yousefi at the YLaw office in downtown Vancouver with her daughter, Saoirse (Photograph by Alia Youssef)

This past January, an image of Leena Yousefi outfitted in crisp white barrister bands, a thick document suitcase by her side and her then five-month-old daughter nestled between her arms went viral on LinkedIn, receiving over 43,000 likes. The short caption was heartfelt, ringing with a universal relatability that working parents know well: “One day I will tell you about all the sleepless nights and all the mornings I woke up and kissed you as I went to court, so you know if I can do it, you can, too.”

It’s illustrative of the ethos that Yousefi, founder, CEO and principal lawyer of YLaw, has woven into the fabric of her firm. Founded in 2013, YLaw is the fastest-growing female-led law firm in British Columbia, a powerhouse in the arena of Canadian family law. With a smart, darkly hilarious website whose opening page states, “When family life isn’t a box of chocolates, CALL US,” YLaw advocates for outcomes that prioritize the long-term well-being of clients. This modern approach aligns with a larger strategy focused on digital growth rather than traditional advertising; the strength of that website; disseminating knowledge (Yousefi has penned articles for the Lawyer’s Daily and Canadian Lawyer); and word-of-mouth referrals.

At YLaw (No. 149 on Growth 2020), she has created a compassionate, employee-focused workplace. In less than a decade, her staff—the oldest lawyer is 38 and the youngest is 26—has grown to fill two office spaces, with a third opening in Victoria and the purchase of a fourth under way in downtown Vancouver. Boasting a 90% success rate, Yousefi was voted one of Canada’s 25 Most Influential Lawyers by Canadian Lawyer in 2019.

Having made a name for mastering both client and company relations, YLaw’s new project is an ambitious, self-funded app. “It’s an interactive software application where somebody’s basically talking to a digital lawyer,” Yousefi explains. “Forty per cent of people are not represented in our legal system, so this would help people who can’t afford legal representation.” Scheduled to launch next year, the app will cost roughly $150,000 to develop.

Also, funds are often reallocated to the firm’s mission for social progress, which has included donations and pro bono work valued at upwards of $1 million. It’s just the tip of the iceberg for a firm that’s bucking conventions of family law’s historic boys’ club. We “are coming to understand that the female qualities that were looked at as a weakness are the recipe to our success, and to an empathic, non-aggressive, all-inclusive environment,” says Yousefi. Over the phone, she is clear-headed, direct and earnest, delving into the idiosyncrasies of her firm without neglecting to mention the soul work that went into its construction. “I’d like to consider myself as one of those people at the forefront of showing just what female leadership can do.”

Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1982, Yousefi emigrated to North Vancouver, B.C., in 1997 when she was 15 to escape the Persian Gulf War. Grappling with language barriers and culture shock, anxiety and depression, Yousefi failed out of the University of Victoria during her sophomore year. But she returned a year later, graduating with an A-plus average—then remained at UVic to complete her law degree. However, Yousefi became disillusioned in her early career at others’ firms by the inflexible traditions that lawyers weren’t interested in remedying: how could her age or choice to take maternity leave challenge her decision-making efficacy? Why were the client relationships she wanted—where she treated them like family and power divides were eradicated—deemed unfeasible? She flagged these concerns to bosses at one firm in the early 2010s. “I told them, ‘These things in your firm need to change.’ ”

“I was constantly laughed at by many lawyers and other professionals saying, ‘You’re just dreaming. The model you’re thinking about doesn’t exist.’ ” So Yousefi built her own. Starting with $10,000 in savings, she hired an assistant, purchased computers and set up in an office-share space on Howe Street in downtown Vancouver. “I wanted to create an environment where our staff and lawyers came from different cultural backgrounds and gender identifications . . . and where we gave to each other.”

That spirit imbues the YLaw office space, too, which stands in stark contrast to other firms. Designed by Rohe Studio, the interior is inspired by Japanese minimalism and illuminated by diffuse, warm lighting. Behind the office’s white 3D front desk is a backdrop of thin, intersecting lines arranged to promote tranquility. The environment supports a company culture where decisions on case strategy include input from the whole team. “People said, ‘If a client is paying you hundreds of dollars an hour they don’t want Kumbaya, they want somebody who’s gonna overpower them.’ I said, ‘No, when they come in here they need to feel like they’re at a spa. They don’t want to feel intimidated; they want a solution.’ ”

It’s a crucial branding tactic, with pragmatic roots. “We have maximized every corner of our available space and have six offices within 1,400 sq. feet. This allows us to have the maximum number of lawyers . . . and to generate more profits.” The firm has become profitable thanks to keen management, as well as the practice of trimming excess procedural fat.

“Lawyers were working hard [at other firms] but the firm did not have a proper collection policy,” she explains. Yousefi’s staff follows a strict billing process, where everyone has an eye on the flow of payment.

Most of YLaw’s lawyers are not on salary, unlike at many other firms, she says. This approach has helped clarify how each lawyer’s work is appraised. “It can be tough not having a standard income,” explains Quinn McRae, a well-respected family lawyer based in Vancouver. (She left the profession for a few years to start a healing practice, and admits that YLaw’s ethos convinced her to return.) “But I prefer this, because then I know all my work is being valued appropriately. This gives a huge incentive to work more, or even less, if the situation calls for it.”

In a report published on shifting rates of legal fees, based on a survey published by Canadian Lawyer in April 2019, 88% of firms still relied on the traditional billable-hours model, and 62.7% primarily used the flat-rate model. Though Yousefi’s personal hourly rate is $400 (comparable to other B.C.-based law firms), YLaw’s competitive advantage comes from the flexibility for account payment. “We love and urge unbundled, piecemeal and consultation-only services,” she says. This “innovative option” is a crucial alternative for individuals who can’t afford the full representation model.

Since its inception, YLaw has built a strategy to sell to under-served international clients navigating the Canadian legal system: 10% of their clients come from outside Canada, in countries such as China, India and Russia. Yousefi credits this international business to the firm’s online marketing and its diverse roster of lawyers. “Overseas clients tend to be some of our wealthiest clients because they have multiple properties—or sometimes wives and husbands!—all around the world,” and the only way to find a Canadian lawyer is through online search.

“What I admired about their firm’s website, and what good, young family lawyers are doing,” says Nick Bala, the former academic director of Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law School family law program, “is seeing the client as a whole person,” he says. “That has not traditionally been the view.”

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Asian Stocks Erase 2021 Gains on Concerns Over Inflation, Virus

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Author of the article: Bloomberg News Min Jeong Lee (Bloomberg) — Asian stocks dropped, with the regional benchmark briefly erasing its gains for the year, as mounting worries over inflation and a resurgence in Covid-19 cases soured investor sentiment. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid as much as 1% and was down 0.9% as of…

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Bloomberg News

Min Jeong Lee

(Bloomberg) — Asian stocks dropped, with the regional benchmark briefly erasing its gains for the year, as mounting worries over inflation and a resurgence in Covid-19 cases soured investor sentiment.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid as much as 1% and was down 0.9% as of 12:52 p.m. in Tokyo, tracking losses in American shares after data on Wednesday showed U.S. consumer prices climbed in April by the most since 2009. The Asian gauge has now fallen more than 9% from a Feb. 17 peak.

Tech stocks have been at the forefront of a selloff in global equities this week as an explosive rally in commodity prices threatens to push up inflation. Asia’s tech shares, which are contending with higher U.S. bond yields and stretched valuations just like their global peers, have also been hurt by regulatory tightening in China. Further, a fresh surge in infections in several countries including India, Japan and parts of Southeast Asia is weighing on regional stocks.

“We need to kind of price in a more normal interest-rate environment, more normal inflation environment,” said Ken Peng, head of Asia investment strategy at Citigroup Inc.’s private-banking arm. “The shake up could last a while longer. But I’m still not too worried because, growth will comeback to be the most important element once interest rates normalize.”

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Technology and communication services were the worst-performing sectors on the Asian gauge Thursday.

Japanese shares declined for a third day on Thursday, while stocks in China snapped a two-day winning run. Markets in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines were shut for a holiday. In Taiwan, the benchmark stock index extended losses after slumping the most since March last year on Wednesday partly due to concern over tightening of virus-linked restrictions.

SECTORS TO WATCH

Stocks linked to cryptocurrencies fell in line with the slump in Bitcoin, after Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk expressed concerns over its energy usageTraditional Chinese medicine firms advanced as President Xi Jinping called for the development of the treatments after experience gained from COVID-19

MARKETS AT A GLANCE

Japan’s Topix index down 0.6%; Nikkei 225 down 1.8%Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index down 1%; Hang Seng China Enterprises down 1.2%; Shanghai Composite down 0.7%; CSI 300 down 0.8%Taiwan’s Taiex index down 0.7%South Korea’s Kospi index down 0.5%; Kospi 200 down 0.7%Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 down 0.6%; New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 down 1.1%Thailand’s SET down 1.4%; Vietnam’s VN Index down 0.2%

ADVANCERS

Seven & i Holdings jumped as much as 7.4% in Tokyo as ValueAct Capital disclosed the acquisition of a 4.3% stake in the operator of convenience storesKirin rose as much as 4.3%, the most since Nov. 16, after the Japanese beer maker beat quarterly profit expectationsChina Mengniu Dairy jumped as much as 5.4% after Danone finalized its HK$15.4 billion ($1.98 billion) sale of approximately 9.8% stake in MengniuGrainCorp added as much as 8.3%, the most since Nov. 13, after the Australian agricultural company raised its FY earnings forecastHanwha Life Insurance surged as much as 8.7% after its 1Q report showed earnings jumped nearly four foldNTT climbed as much as 2.8% after the telecom giant’s quarterly profit and forecast for the current fiscal year beat analyst estimates

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DECLINERS

SoftBank Group declined as much as 6.7% as its record quarterly profit failed to impress a market reeling from a global selloff in tech stocksGongniu Group dropped as much as 9.7% in Shanghai after the company said it was under investigations by local authorities for monopolistic behaviorPerenti Global tumbled as much as 28%, the most since March 2020, after the Australian mining services company cut its guidanceChina Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group sank 8.7% in Hong Kong after its parent sold 260m shares at HK$40.92 apiece, a 20% discount to last closeNexon slid as much as 17% after the game developer forecast as much as a 19% y/y decline in operating profit in 1H

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bloomberg.com

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Gold up on hopes for continued low rates, firm yields cap gains

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Author of the article: Gold edged up on Thursday on hopes that the U.S. Federal Reserve would not raise interest rates anytime soon, although a jump in U.S. Treasury yields following a strong rise in April consumer prices capped gains. Spot gold was up 0.2% at $1,818.22 per ounce by 0318 GMT, after falling more…

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Reuters

Gold edged up on Thursday on hopes that

the U.S. Federal Reserve would not raise interest rates anytime

soon, although a jump in U.S. Treasury yields following a strong

rise in April consumer prices capped gains.

Spot gold was up 0.2% at $1,818.22 per ounce by 0318

GMT, after falling more than 1% in the previous session.

U.S. gold futures eased 0.2% to $1,818.80.

“We’re still getting on the aftershock of that consumer

price index release and the expectations now from the market

that the Fed will be forced to do something about inflation,” IG

Market analyst Kyle Rodda said.

The Fed, however, has been reiterating that inflation will

be so transitory that it won’t have to worry about adjusting

interest rates, he added.

Data on Wednesday showed U.S. consumer prices increased by

the most in nearly 12 years in April, intensifying concerns over

rising inflation.

Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida said the twin surprises of

weak jobs growth and strong inflation in April has not dented

the U.S. central bank’s plans to keep its support for the

economy wide open.

Lower U.S. interest rates put pressure on the dollar and

bond yields, increasing the appeal of non-yielding bullion.

However, worries over rising inflation lifted benchmark U.S.

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10-year Treasury yields to their highest in more

than a month, while the dollar held firm.

“The stronger dollar and higher U.S. rates punished the

precious metals group (yesterday),” ED&F Man Capital Markets

analyst Edward Meir said in a note.

“Although we suspect that this weakness will prove to be

short-lived given rising inflationary expectations and a Fed

that at least for now, does not seem to be too eager to raise

rates.”

Palladium gained 0.9% to $2,882.69 per ounce. Silver

was steady at $27.04 per ounce, while platinum was

up 0.6% at $1,217.01.

(Reporting by Shreyansi Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi

Aich and Vinay Dwivedi)

In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.

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Tesla’s Musk halts use of bitcoin for car purchases

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Author of the article: Reuters Hyunjoo Jin and Kanishka Singh Tesla Inc will no longer accept bitcoin for car purchases, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Wednesday, citing long-brewing environmental concerns for a swift reversal in the company’s position on the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin fell more than 10% after Musk tweeted his decision to suspend its…

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Hyunjoo Jin and Kanishka Singh

Tesla Inc will no longer accept bitcoin for car purchases, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Wednesday, citing long-brewing environmental concerns for a swift reversal in the company’s position on the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin fell more than 10% after Musk tweeted his decision to suspend its use, less than two months after Tesla began accepting the world’s biggest digital currency for payment. Other cryptocurrencies, including ethereum, also fell before regaining some ground in Asia trade.

The use of bitcoin to buy Tesla’s electric vehicles had highlighted a dichotomy between Musk’s reputation as an environmentalist and the use of his popularity and stature as one of the world’s richest people to back cryptocurrencies.

Some Tesla investors, along with environmentalists, have been increasingly critical about the way bitcoin is “mined” using vast amounts of electricity generated with fossil fuels.

Musk said on Wednesday he backed that concern, especially the use of “coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.”

“Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment,” he tweeted. Tesla shares fell 1.25% after hours.

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Tesla revealed in February it had bought $1.5 billion of bitcoin, before accepting it as payment for cars in March, driving a roughly 20% surge in the cryptocurrency.

Tesla would retain its bitcoin holdings with the plan to use the cryptocurrency as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy sources, Musk said.

Bitcoin is created when high-powered computers compete against other machines to solve complex mathematical puzzles, an energy-intensive process that currently often relies on electricity generated with fossil fuels, particularly coal.

At current rates, such bitcoin “mining” devours about the same amount of energy annually as the Netherlands did in 2019, the latest available data from the University of Cambridge and the International Energy Agency shows.

Analysts said Musk’s about-face was inevitable.

“The environmental impact from mining bitcoins was one of the biggest risks for the entire crypto market,” said Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at currency trading firm OANDA.

Meltem Demirors, chief strategy officer at digital asset manager CoinShares Group, said Tesla was unlikely to have sold many, if any, cars using bitcoin and the backflip generated positive publicity while simplifying payment processes.

“Elon was getting a lot of questions and criticisms and this statement allows him to appease critics while still keeping bitcoin on his balance sheet,” Demirors said.

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Mark Humphery-Jenner, an associate professor of finance at the University of New South Wales, said he was more concerned about Tesla management’s “very hasty and precipitous” decision-making.

Musk did not say in his Twitter comments whether any vehicles had been purchased with bitcoin and Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CRYPTOCURRENCY SUPPORT

Some bitcoin proponents note that the existing financial system – with its millions of employees and computers in air-conditioned offices – uses large amounts of energy too.

Musk reiterated he remained a strong believer in cryptocurrencies.

“We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use

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