Earlier this month, we purported to launch iCRAWL Junior Suits Academy. A lawyer training academy where under-fives could hone their skills, get real industry training, and start building their careers.

It was bold and outrageous, but most important to note; it was all an April Fool’s joke.

However, what was not a joke was the intention behind it. We wanted to celebrate our iCLAW team as people, not just lawyers, in our own iCLAW way. We did this by showing our support for the Mums, Dads, aunties, uncles, brothers, and sisters who juggle family life with work every day.

We sat down with Sam Douglas, iCLAW partner, to find out why a law firm would go so far with an April Fool’s joke (aren’t we supposed to be serious lawyers?).

Where did the iCRAWL Junior Suits Academy concept come from?

Many of us in the office are parents already, and we recently had six of our team members head off on parental leave (which is an April Fool’s joke itself when you have a team of twenty!). There have been plenty of jokes about opening an in-house daycare, so this was a spinoff of that.

Why did you do it?

In a very iCLAW way, we wanted to honour our people. As partners, we all feel privileged to be part of our team’s lives. Those currently on parental leave trusted us with their news early, which speaks to our culture. Unfortunately, there are still firms in our industry who see parental leave as a negative, but that is just not us.

Still, six people on parental leave simultaneously is a challenge. How have you dealt with this as a firm?

We have accepted that this is one of those years where business must give way to the people within the business. Sure, profit has taken a hit, but Covid helped there too and if there was a year to draw a line under and move on from; this was it for many reasons. Ultimately, we have plenty to get on with and plenty of wonderful plans for the future. For now, we are just proud of the current season of growth, different growth albeit.

We didn’t get into this business ownership game (setting up iCLAW) for the short-term gains in any case. We just wanted to work with and for good people. Good people are worth investing in and waiting ­­­for.

What is your parental leave policy?

Any policy is going to get a bit of a sideways glance when it is tested as ours has been lately. We have a few policies that need a review after growing by 20 staff in about 4 years and we look forward having the time to undertake that review.

What was the response to iCRAWL from the team?

The response has been fantastic. The team was onboard and willing to get involved from the moment we shared the concept. An unintended benefit of the whole thing has been the team bonding that has come of it. Feedback from the team was that they enjoyed bringing the kids into the office for filming. And with the media coverage on Today FM, Radio New Zealand and Newshub, plus a lot of social media attention, there was a real buzz in the office on the day we launched this.

Would you do it again?

Absolutely! It won’t necessarily be an April Fool’s prank but doing something a little differently to tell the story of our culture and brand is not something we would shy away from. We aren’t your typical law firm, and we like to find ways to communicate that.

Ultimately, we plan to grow our team and as a smaller progressive firm that challenges the status quo, we might seem like a gamble to some ideal candidates. We want to show our future staff why we’re worth the punt.

Haven’t seen the iCRAWL video yet? Check it out on YouTube here.