The Business of Law
ISSUE 35 ISSN 2050-5744
Mark Mayer Valentine Brown â€œIn a crowded market, the only thing that will truly differentiate you to your clients is the service you giveâ€?
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NOMINATE 12. 07. 2018
The Rum Warehouse, Liverpool
Editorial Contributors Adam Bullion
Head of Marketing InfoTrack
Financial Planning Manager Informed Financial Planning
Vice President Law Society of England and Wales
Senior Consultant and Costs Lawyer Burcher Jennings
Managing Director Blue Car Technologies Limited
Lead Advocacy Trainer and Certified Fraud Examiner Kaplan Altior
Director and Co-founder Legit Claims
Professor Hugh Koch
Clinical Psychologist and Director Hugh Koch Associates
Senior Ombudsman Legal Ombudsman
Jacqueline Harvey Underwriter AmTrust Law
Susan Fairbrass Marketing Manager Geodesys
Jane Malcolm Executive Director, External Affairs Solicitors Regualtion Authority (SRA)
Global CEO Perfect Portal
Managing Director Enlighten IC
Issue 35 ISSN 2050-5744 Editorial Assistant Poppy Green
Project Manager Martin Smith
Events Sales Kate McKittrick
This client had enshrined their core values on the walls of their offices so that the company was built around them, and each one fed into the other to create a defined culture. Those values haven’t changed during the company’s significant growth from just a couple of directors to a couple hundred employees. The result was a clear message that permeated each area of the business, and this in turn allowed the company to innovate and boost their growth, because the entire team knew how they had got to their current position and where they needed to go next. All too often values or culture can be conjured up by a few senior employees as a means of appearing more corporate or to give new talent a vague sense of direction, when these supposedly ‘core’ values are never communicated to or understood by the wider business or its clients. This means nobody knows where the business is heading, and the innovation that enables growth is either restricted or redundant; the company is more like a cart with a horse at each end than a shiny, streamlined sports car.
As for other news, it seems a week doesn’t go by without a solicitor being hauled before the SDT for some breach of conduct. Professor Richard Moorhead explained more about ethics in law when we interviewed him in this issue, but one would assume these badlybehaved lawyers had never taken firm values to heart. I’m not saying it’s so black and white that clear, consistent and well communicated company values are the difference between profitability and being struck off, but surely it can only be a good thing if everyone in your firm is on the same page, working together to steer the ship towards the bright horizon?
Modern Law Magazine is published by Charlton Grant Ltd ©2018
All material is copyrighted both written and illustrated. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly forbidden without the written permission of the publisher. All images and information is collated from extensive research and along with advertisements is published in good faith. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this publication was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.
ast month I spent a day at a client’s offices to conduct interviews for our sister publication, Modern Insurance Magazine. The interviews were about building a sustainable business, and a number of approaches towards how to do this were discussed, including diversifying product ranges, investing in new technology and anticipating market challenges. But far and away the biggest discussion point, and one that every conversation seemed to circle back to, was the role of culture in growing a business.
A lack of defined direction also develops a fear of failure, which in a profession as tightly regulated as law can be crippling to an employee and ultimately to growth. This is part of the reasoning behind the SRA’s Innovation Space, which Jane Malcolm discusses in her article later on. This month’s legal headlines have already seen HR consultancy Croner receive an SRA waiver to allow the provision of legal services, and more will surely follow.
Editor Brendan Gurrie
Brendan Gurrie, Editor, Modern Law Magazine. 01765 600909 | @ModernBrendan | email@example.com www.modernlawmagazine.com
Modern Law 3
07 Matthew Kay talks news
13 Mark Valentine
The lawyer is a very different entity to what it once was. Matthew Kay, Vario, explores the evolution of the lawyer and the factors that are shaping continued transformation.
Modern Law spoke to Mark Valentine, Mayer Brown, about how the firm is continuing to grow in a competitive market and the role that the culture, innovation and brand values play in aiding this.
17 Richard Moorhead
Technology is changing the legal sector, and legal education must also adapt in line with this, as Professor Richard Moorhead, UCL, told Modern Law when he discussed how to positively influence ethics in legal practice.
23 Innovation and growth in the legal sector – a regulator’s perspective
Jane Malcolm, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
25 Technological change is an opportunity to be seized
Christina Blacklaws, Law Society of England and Wales
27 Beyond price transparency Steven Pearson, Legal Ombudsman
27 Talkin’ chatbots Susan Fairbrass, Geodesys
29 The blockchain revolution Edna Hammami, Legit Claims
29 What does transparent pricing actually mean?
EDITORIAL BOARD contributors
Yvonne Hirons, Perfect Portal
31 What does your online presence say about your firm? Adam Bullion, InfoTrack
31 The power of blockchain
An AmTrust International Division
4 Modern Law
Colin Fowle, Blue Car Technologies Limited
32 Reuniting unclaimed assets
Yashvi Kahtri, Fraser and Fraser
33 Q. Can fees for more complex dispute resolution legal services be made clearer amid calls for improved transparency?
39 Regional Focus: Leeds
50 Why your law firm should invest in local PR
Jacqueline Harvey, AmTrust Law
33 A chat about chatbots Steve Hooper, LawSEO
35 Continued commoditisation
Richard Allen, Burcher Jennings
35 The cyber arms race
Roy Morgan, Kaplan Altior
Professor Hugh Koch, Hugh Koch Associates and Professor in Law & Psychology
51 Why law firms need to get flexible
46 Freelancing the future
The legal landscape will not stop changing anytime soon, Gun Judge, Addleshaw Goddard explains as she examines developing attitudes towards the legal freelancer and the solutions this new breed of workload flexibility can offer to legal professionals and clients.
48 Probate: choosing the right software to do the work effectively and profitably
37 What type of law firm are you?
Helen Campbell, Head of PR at The Ideal Marketing Company, explains the value of coverage in the local media.
Our resident Tech commentator Charles Christian writes…
Martin Fahy, Informed Financial Planning
37 Does your firm promote wellbeing?
This issue’s Regional Focus is all about Leeds, one of the fastest growing legal markets in the UK. Bill Barton, President of the Leeds Law Society, is excited for the future of the Leeds legal market and its solicitors, as he explained when he spoke to Modern Law.
43 Forget the tech, you’ll never have innovation if the culture is wrong
36 Growing relationships and retention
John Hogg, Enlighten IC
Choosing an effective solution for your probate work is essential in a growing and competitive market. Gregory van Dyk Watson, Isokon, explains what you should be looking out for when choosing the right supplier.
Legal recruitment and retaining talent is a big problem and continues to be a huge priority for most law firms. With such a chronic skills shortage behind the problem, it’s definitely a candidate’s market right now, writes Ian Partington, Simply Law Jobs.
53 Case Study – Eclipse Simply Complete Solicitors takes client service to the next level with Eclipse’s Proclaim and TouchPoint+ solutions.
53 Case Study - FCI
The rising number of flood risk cases.
10 MINUTES WITH 54 10 minutes with... Norman Kenvyn, VFS Legal Funding.
49 Conveyancing scams cost over 100K on average per case
Chris Taylor, SIRS Europe
49 Recognising the problems facing interpreters
Geoffrey Buckingham, Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI)
Modern Law 5
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Matthew Kay TALKS NEWS The lawyer is a very different entity to what it once was. Matthew Kay, Vario, explores the evolution of the lawyer and the factors that are shaping continued transformation. hink of the famous and often-used image to depict evolution – a hunched ape-like figure transforms through the series of pictures into a modern human, standing tall. Using the same series of images to think about the evolution of lawyers, we might have an advocate from Ancient Rome on the far left, draped in a toga. He may be followed by a notary from the Middle Ages in a cloth cap and brandishing a quill. A figure like Charles Pratt, the first Earl of Camden could follow, standing resplendent in his tricorn hat. From there you could have Ivy Williams, the first woman to be called to the Bar, in her small rounded glasses, and as we enter more modern times, a lawyer with wide shoulder pads, shouting into a flip phone with an aerial. But what does the lawyer of today look like? In many quarters, dress codes have been relaxed, and of course no lawyer would be without their smart phone, so technology would play a big part in this representation.
The legal profession has come a long way, and we’re continuing to see evolution on all fronts – the way lawyers work is changing, firms are structured in different ways and technology is taking over some aspects of the job - artificial intelligence systems like Pinsent Masons’ SmartDelivery, which uses process and reasoning rules to automate reviewing large numbers of documents, are being utilised. The suite of tools also gives the power to mine, extract and present meaningful insights from overwhelming levels of data that is otherwise locked away in seemingly endless pages.
Changing structures The traditional lock-step partnership model is probably still one of the most popular amongst lawyers in the UK and for good reason, it helps create cohesion and loyalty. However, as time moves on, it becomes clear that this structure doesn’t always suit all types of legal businesses. For smaller firms, a monarch structure can work, where a senior or managing partner has ultimate control over strategic decisions and remuneration. Alternatively, a John Lewis style partnership model, where all staff members at the firm have a stake, can generate real buy-in and loyalty across a smaller firm. However, as the way people work continues to evolve and with the emergence of the gig economy, these structures don’t necessarily still meet the needs of all legal professionals. In a similar vein, contract lawyering has really grown in popularity over the past few years, with many firms setting up their own freelance lawyer hub. Established in 2013, Vario from Pinsent Masons has grown by 30-40 per cent annually over the last three years. The appeal of contract lawyering for modern professionals is clear; it enables an increased flexibility when it comes to choosing both the type and amount of work.
The gig economy for lawyers Ultimately, the gig economy has grown in popularity across the globe because of a desire for more flexibility; businesses want a scalable and adaptable workforce and consumers or clients want services that are delivered quickly and efficiently, but again with a large dose of flexibility.
The gig economy has grown in popularity across the globe because of a desire for more flexibility
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A healthy work/life balance remains a strong motivator behind why people choose to work as contract lawyers […] but the top motivator is actually a desire for more variety in their work For the legal services market this is no different and contract lawyering has been established as a solution to this desire for more flexible working from lawyers, but also a need from clients to have a dedicated legal resource, which sits in-house when it’s most needed. A healthy work/life balance remains a strong motivator behind why people choose to work as contract lawyers. A survey from Vario revealed that 42 per cent of lawyers expect their work/life balance to improve upon going freelance. But the top motivator is actually a desire for more variety in their work, with 45 per cent citing this reason. Perhaps this is why such a vast majority now see freelancing as a long-term career (84 per cent of Varios see legal freelancing as a long-term career path) and 51 per cent say they wish they’d made the change far earlier on in their career. The fact that 89 per cent believe their quality of life has improved since becoming a Vario speaks for itself. In this hectic world where people are working longer hours than ever, lawyers in evergrowing numbers are craving a more varied, quality workload that allows them to work flexibly and pursue other interests – a great number of Varios also run their own businesses or live abroad. That being said, contract lawyering isn’t for everyone. We have a broad range of lawyers on the books, from the newly qualified to very senior. What they all have in common is a great combination of soft and hard skills. Parachuting into a client’s business and being expected to perform from day one obviously requires solid technical expertise. But what we’ve also found very important are the softer skills – being able to connect with people quickly and showing emotional intelligence. Part of Vario’s recruitment process, which then feeds into how we place lawyers, is a rigorous personality testing process, developed by business psychologists. This ensures we’re not only recruiting the right type of people who will perform well under pressure, are flexible and have fantastic people skills, but also that we can match the right lawyer to the right client.
a huge number of documents, cutting costs and likewise, greater transparency on the status of ongoing litigation allows clients to monitor progress and manage budgets. The legal profession is not one which can usually claim to be leading the way when it comes to innovation, but looking at how contract lawyering, coupled with state-of-the-art technology, is progressing, it is fair to say that lawyers are moving in-step, if not ahead, of other industries. Commenting on evolution, Charles Darwin said: “Intelligence is based on how efficient a species became at doing the things they need to survive.” The legal profession has proved itself to be adaptable, shaping itself to suit clients’ and lawyers’ needs. And it would seem the evolution is far from over. Matthew Kay, Director for Vario at Pinsent Masons.
Transformational technology What really sits behind much of this freelance law revolution and the growing number of lawyers working remotely is the rise of technology. Cloud-based working means that a contract lawyer can live abroad, but still be working for UKbased clients (as a few of our Varios do). In 2015, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella stated that every business will be a software business, and for law it has been no different. At Pinsent Masons, for example, our team of computer scientists and legal engineers have devised SmartDelivery, a suite of tools which has brought AI to life for our lawyers and clients by driving efficiency, reducing billing time and fast-tracking decision making. The benefits AI provides to clients is clear – a more consistent approach to complex matters creates a more certain outcome. The systems are able to review
8 Modern Law
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Mark Valentine Modern Law spoke to Mark Valentine, Mayer Brown, about how the firm is continuing to grow in a competitive market and the role that the culture, innovation and brand values play in aiding this.
What are the main drivers of change in the legal sector currently, and what form are these changes taking?
I think there are six streams of disruption in the sector that law firms need to consider. The first of these is the growing number of small niche firms that are typically created with some of the best legal minds in the country. Whether the niche firm is made up of sports lawyers or international arbitrators, they are making a real dent in the ability of full service firms to win work. Secondly, trend is the â€œclient as the competitorâ€?. As in-house legal teams seek to professionalise their operations, with the help of organisations such as Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), we will see more of the complex work that is usually farmed out to panel firms being dealt with in-house. Seeing this as an opportunity and collaborating with clients and competitors more closely is key to not allowing this to become a major challenge. Next is the rise of technology as a substitute. Increased computing power and the ability to interpret data like never before has seen the rise of the automated lawyer.
The fourth stream is the war for talent. Law firms need to work so hard to both attract and retain talent â€” lawyers and business services professionals. Increasingly our lawyers need to be great business people, as well as excellent lawyers, and our business services teams need to have the skills that allow them to interact directly with clients. Those who possess the right blend of skills are in high demand, which is making both recruiting and retaining talent more difficult than ever.
In a crowded market, the only thing that will truly differentiate you to your clients is the service you give
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Having clarity of vision from right out the outset is critical to success Maybe surprisingly, globalisation presents a challenge to firms. With all mergers, the expectation is that revenues will increase, leverage will improve and penetration across practices and geographies will be amplified. What generally happens is a conglomerate of firms comes together, all with national portfolios, and they struggle to ruthlessly focus on the clients that are best served by the newly enlarged platform. This inevitably leads to silos and a slow undermining of the original intent of coming together. Having clarity of vision from right at the outset is critical to success. Finally, and in contrast to my first point, I see the lack of diversification as something that will slow “Big Law” in their ambitions to grow market share. The accountancy firms have been quick to recognise when market challenges will damage their competitive advantage and diversify into areas that are non traditional. Law firms would do well to follow suit.
How are economic and other influences on the wider London market affecting its legal sector, and how is Mayer Brown responding to these?
There are still those preaching doom and gloom around Brexit. I’m personally more optimistic. The past twelve months have seen an increase in deal activity, and inward investment from some of our key markets remains strong. We are, and will continue to be, a financial services powerhouse serving the sectors that seek to build and finance great businesses. Our presence in the key financial centres of New York, London and Hong Kong give us the ability to service our clients with some of the best talent available within what is probably the most collegiate of partnerships serving this market.
In your experience, how does the pace of change and innovation in the London legal market differ from other regions, and are City firms keeping up with this pace?
Pace of change is generally not dictated by the development of new technology or the introduction of new competitive pressures but more so by an organisation’s or sector’s appetite for change. If you think about the competitive pressures bearing down on all segments of the legal sector, it is easy to see why innovation is critical. Yes, it’s a growing area, but I fear there is a lot of “not seeing the wood for the trees” at the moment. Often the simple things done well can create exponential outcomes. Take my area, business development, and in particular key account management. The concept of focusing on those clients that add the most value to your firm and giving them the best service, time and time again, is a simple one. If done well, those clients remain with the firm for many years. Getting this right is innovative in our sector, and it is pleasing to see a number of firms recognising the value of investing in relationship management. Firms in the UK in particular have recognised this and are, in my opinion, ahead of the rest of the world. As regards innovation generally, I do believe, and you might say I am biased, that London and the UK have a unique mix of high quality lawyers, commercial nous, creative thinkers and pragmatic leaders, which when combined provide a real platform for innovation.
14 Modern Law
What role can brand play in helping a law firm stand out from competitors, and how would you define the Mayer Brown ‘brand’?
In professional services, brand comes from within. Having a set of values that guide behaviour and a clear business strategy that focuses on those clients and markets best served by your firm’s areas of expertise will drive brand value. In a crowded market, the only thing that will truly differentiate you to your clients is the service you give. One of the oddities that I observed when entering the sector six years ago was that there seemed to be little turnover in clients. I concluded that buyers had developed such fantastic relationships with their lawyers that they simply didn’t need to look elsewhere. However, this is starting to change as in-house procurement teams, who rely on rankings and data rather than personal experiences, become more involved in the process of buying legal services. As to Mayer Brown, we have established a unique reputation as a financial powerhouse, driving success and dynamic change in the banking and financial services world. We are recognised as the goto commercial advisor for any business where our financial knowhow and can-do attitude makes all the difference.
How can technology be leveraged to differentiate a law firm, and what technologies is Mayer Brown utilising to stay ahead of the competition?
I don’t believe technology can differentiate a law firm per se. Clients are interested in outcomes, whether that outcome is arrived at by individual lawyer’s judgement or the assessment of some form of computing wizardry. The technology itself is merely an enabler. The reality is the market is maturing and adopting tools that are fit for purpose. Did e-mail give firms a competitive advantage? Did the introduction of a ballpoint pen give advantage over those using an ink well? I think we will look back on this period in legal history and reflect on the amount of time wasted chasing down blind allies. Technology is a tool that allows our lawyers to be more efficient, better informed and gives greater choice in how to engage our clients.
How is Mayer Brown improving its efficiency amid pressures on costs and ongoing market changes?
The firm has some excellent managers and is a great example of a well-managed partnership. Just like any other firm, we keep an eye on costs and adopt appropriate models to allow for greater leverage and maintained margins. All lawyers, whether in private practice or in-house, are learning to commercialise their business and Mayer Brown is no different in this respect. I just like to think we are running faster than most!
How important is company culture for the growth and development of a firm? How does Mayer Brown maintain consistency in its culture across its numerous departments and offices?
I think one of the main reasons Mayer Brown has succeeded with its mergers has been the close alignment of culture across the various continents. A strong sense of collegiality exists at Mayer Brown, and no one office is seen as stronger than any other. We are often referred to as a US firm, but I think that belittles the strong sense of purpose and teamwork that exists at Mayer Brown. Our values are clearly set out, and we hire with cultural fit in mind. Living by those values comes naturally to most who work at the firm. We don’t need to try too hard to ensure one culture exists across the firm; an achievement that is often overlooked and rarely seen in the sector.
Are there challenges in recruiting and retaining staff in the London legal sector, and if so, how does Mayer Brown’s approach to gaining and growing talent address these?
How else do you predict the London legal market to change over the next few years, and how is Mayer Brown preparing for this?
There will be a number of major tie-ups to create the equivalent of the Big 4 in the accountancy sector. For all the reasons that I stated above, those firms need to deliver considerable scale to create real competitive advantage. At the moment, the market is saturated with law firms that have unique strengths but lack the scale to make any significant shifts in market share. Only with scale can firms make any serious investment that allows them to address many of the challenges the sector faces.
I’m often told by partners who join the firm that what attracted them to Mayer Brown was the global platform and the truly collegiate attitude of the partners here. We work hard to maintain both of these to ensure that our focus on large multinational clients provides opportunity for all. We also have a fantastic group of associates who are keen to make a difference. Our new London senior partner, Sally Davies, has created a series of programmes that look to harness this energy and deliver it out into the market place. Interestingly, they didn’t need much direction. Our Next Gen programme supports our associates in giving them the skills to grow to partnership. This, alongside other developmental and legal skills training, should set us up well for the next twenty years.
How can embracing diversity and inclusion promote innovation within a law firm? How do the legal sector’s attitudes towards diversity compare to attitudes in other professions or industries?
The lack of diversity within the legal profession is well documented, and I think this needs to be addressed. Diverse teams are more creative and deliver better results, and therefore embracing diversity is critical to the future success of all businesses, particularly given the ongoing war for talent. Why recruit and promote from a narrow talent pool? I am not sure if the legal sector’s attitudes differ from other industries, but there is certainly frustration that change is slow despite all the programmes, targets and initiatives that exist. However, client scrutiny on diversity data and their demands for diverse teams will, I think, accelerate change.
Our values are clearly set out, and we hire with cultural fit in mind. Living by those values comes naturally to most who work at the firm Issue 34
Mark Valentine joined Mayer Brown as London Head of Business Development and Marketing in 2011. He is also Global Head of Business Development for the firm’s sector programme. Prior to joining Mayer Brown, Mark had various leadership roles at accountancy firms PwC and BDO. He made the move to sales and marketing 20 years ago, having held several fee earning roles at Barclays Bank Trust Company, where, he says, the professional and personal development was the best he’s ever seen. A Geordie by birth, Mark believes everyone should visit his hometown at least once in their life.
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Technology is changing the legal sector, and legal education must also adapt in line with this, as Professor Richard Moorhead, UCL, told Modern Law when he discussed how to positively influence ethics in legal practice.
How have attitudes towards new ways of working and thinking in the legal sector evolved in recent years, and what are the main drivers of any changes?
Hype, hype is the main driver of change! There is quite a bit of wearing AI as a badge going on in law firms, but some are taking it seriously. And the biggest factor is probably the realisation that certain tasks cannot be solved by throwing expensive labour at them â€“ especially not if there are technology centred solutions. So when a discovery exercise becomes overwhelming, or very electronic in nature, or contract analysis is too big to reasonably be done by teams of assistants and paralegals, then the better
legal tech providers are stepping into the breach and firms are beginning to learn new skills and provide better services. Perhaps of more long-term impact is the potential for a datadriven approach to practice to take hold. Some firms are starting to think seriously about the data they hold, what it can tell them and how it will enable them to provide a better service. Law will start looking more like a social science than it does now. Although currently firms are rather distracted by computer science, design, psychology, and sociological knowledge and techniques will become more important.
Whether one sees oneâ€™s role as being to exploit uncertainty in the law for the clientâ€™s benefit or not is significantly related to how ethically inclined one is
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Good legal decision-making is about the desire to take decisions that will withstand medium and long-term pressures rather than simply meet short-term goals
How is legal education responding to the requirements of a modern legal sector, and how is this affecting the content and delivery of legal education?
There’s quite a bit of interest but not a great deal of very concrete activity specifically around legal tech. This is partly because of the firmer divide between universities and practice engendered by having an undergrad and vocational postgrad system. Ulster are doing interesting things, Swansea is developing a Centre, I teach a course on the Future of Legal Practice at UCL, where we also have Blockchain Centre. There’s quite a bit of interest in things like blockchain and fintech more generally. The regulation of algorithms and the Internet is also a growing area. There is much less interest in what I call the science of lawyering. I think that’s a shame and something I’d like to see much more of.
How do the ethical challenges presented to legal professionals differ between those in law firms and those inhouse, and do approaches to tackling these take the same form?
I don’t take the view that one is better than the other. In-house lawyers are more embedded in the worlds of their business; that provides greater opportunities for proactive ethicality. It can also lead to greater pressure and risks. The research we did on Mapping the Moral Compass showed some in-house lawyers responded very well to such pressure, while others were less minded to carefully protect their independence. Interestingly, in-housers told us they often left private practice because they saw it as ethically challenged (timesheets and the pressure to sell compromising professionalism). Private practitioners also often have narrower mandates, which means they have less influence over the key decisions but greater theoretical independence. Sometimes they use those narrow mandates as excuses for less than excellent conduct.
what the right thing to do is, and take responsibility for such leadership appears to be important (even where it is the Board that will ultimately be deciding, not the lawyer). How much one regards being independent and being perceived as independent is crucial. And lawyers who had ethical infrastructure (training in discussions around ethics) were also more ethically inclined. Other work suggests incentives are important; there is evidence that bonuses that align pay with the bottom line encourage risk-taking with law for instance. One US study showed dramatic increases in enforcement actions against companies who paid their GCs substantial bonuses through equity-based remuneration schemes.
In addition to the regulatory requirements on legal professionals, how can businesses modify their culture to encourage constant ethical practice among their employees?
Empower and respect their independence. Encourage conversations about what good legal advice and assistance is, when it should be given and how it should be given. Regular discussion and training around these points is important. Understand that the in-house legal role is both to help and to challenge where appropriate. Ensure in-house legal teams are properly led, with the right relationships across the company and the board. In-house teams should have relationships with the executive and non-executive teams, for example.
How might regulation of the legal sector need to adapt to enable law firms to be more flexible and innovative within their services?
I am not sure I see regulation as a significant barrier to innovation: investment, skills, knowledge and patience are the key barriers to my mind.
Are there new ethical issues being created by advances in technology or new working processes, and how can legal professionals take these into consideration when investing in a new product or system?
Yes. The first is competence: do I know what tech I need to use, do I know how to use it, do I know what questions to ask the providers of that technology, do I know how to test it and check it is working when I apply it in practice? It’s really about their ability to do their best for the client. There are really interesting issues around the impact of technology on decisionmaking: does it make practitioners lazy? Does it import biases that are not already there? How does one cope with those? And, where practitioners are designing a system that is (say) providing legal advice, is that practitioner responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their design? If I design a chatbot that encourages people to cheat the system, is that professional? What safety valves should I build in? When should I not release the system because the harms outweigh the benefits?
When ethical issues do occur within a practice, what have you identified as the primary influences or causes for these?
We’ve done quite a lot of work on in-house lawyers. So, for instance, whether one sees one’s role as being to exploit uncertainty in the law for the client’s benefit or not is significantly related to how ethically inclined one is. Conversely, how prepared one is to lead on issues of legal uncertainty, say
18 Modern Law
What role does effective communication play in creating positive approaches to ethical challenges among legal professionals, and how can businesses achieve this level of communication?
Everyone has to feel able to speak up about ethical challenges. They have to feel that they will be discussed and thought about. They have to be encouraged to see it as part of their everyday decision-making in the same way as being commercial, or delivering values is part of the conversation. Ensuring that decisions are taken in accordance both with the letter and the spirit of the law is important and not to be sneered at. Good legal decision-making is about the desire to take decisions that will withstand medium and long-term pressures rather than simply meet short-term goals.
Is more of an onus being placed on employee wellbeing within the legal sector, and if so, do you feel this is something being influenced by younger legal professionals and in wider society?
I don’t really know very much about this. I worry about the extent to which resilience is seen as the “answer” to employee wellbeing. It throws the emphasis back on the individual to manage themselves, when sometimes the pressures of work and the way they are managed are a bigger part of the problem. I know when I was chair of the Young Solicitors’ Group back in the mid-1990s, we were campaigning on this issue and it hasn’t gone away. So for all that it may be talked about more now, it’s clearly not been resolved. It’s like diversity; the appearance of action, however well intentioned, is not enough. There need to be results.
How do you predict future advancements and innovations in the legal sector will necessitate evolution in legal education in the years to come?
In the short term, I think we can see the way legal research is done changing; clinical and pro-bono programmes will have more law tech options. I also think the study of law will emphasise social science alongside its more analytical and philosophical traditions. We’ll know and teach more about legal needs, problem solving strategies, and design-thinking. Behavioural approaches to law will be more important. For a long time, many legal educators have been talking about the importance of understanding law in context. Practice is about to understand the practical significance of that basic point of view. There is a great deal of research to be done and teaching to engage with how rules, the design of rules, and the application of the lawyer’s armoury of skills influences the behaviour of businesses, individuals, dispute resolution systems, and tribunals and courts.
RICHARD MOORHEAD Richard Moorhead is Professor of Law and Professional Ethics and Vice Dean Research, UCL Faculty of Laws. His research work covers lawyers’ professionalism and regulation, legal services and access to justice. He teaches Lawyers: Practice and Ethics and the Future of Legal Practice to UCL law students. Richard is also a member of the Data Evidence and Science Board at the Ministry of Justice. He blogs at: http://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com
Encourage conversations about what good legal advice and assistance is, when it should be given and how it should be given. Regular discussion and training around these points is important Issue 35
Modern Law 19
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Innovation and growth in the legal sector – a regulator’s perspective e live in an age where customers constantly expect more. A better service, a faster service, a more efficient service, and a more accessible service.
getting rid of unnecessary bureaucracy that has the potential to create a barrier to innovation, drives up costs or restricts potential access to services
No matter how successfully a company has performed in the past, simply continuing to do business as it has always done is no longer an option. Everyone has to keep thinking about their place in their respective markets to make sure that they do not become the next Kodak.
improving the information available to help people make better choices about the legal services they need.
So what does innovation mean for legal services? There’s no doubt that technological advances of recent years present huge opportunities for how we work, both behind-the-scenes and at the point of interaction with others. While the innovations we develop may not be as headline grabbing as the latest next generation phone systems, nanotechnology or hybrid fuels, that does not mean they don’t have the potential to revolutionise our sector and benefit society and the profession alike. In the consumer sector, artificial intelligence (AI) is already driving significant change and has enabled the emergence of automated ‘chat bots’, which provide legal services/advice without the need for professional human input. One such service, DoNotPay, has been used by 160,000 motorists to successfully appeal over $4 million-worth of parking tickets across London and New York. In-house too, AI is already proving to be a game changer at places like Royal Mail, while we are also looking closely at how we can work with the Government and others. Technology is not the only driver for potential in-house innovation. Firms are looking at new ownership models away from the traditional partnership set-up so that employees have a greater influence over the future of their company. For us as regulator, we need to make sure that we are not a barrier to innovation, and that we create an environment where public protection, regulatory oversight and accountability co-exist with the freedom of the profession to be creative.
The spirit of our proposed Handbook reforms is very much about removing unnecessary bureaucracy and over-prescription. That is freeing firms up to develop more streamlined and effective infrastructure and management. Many firms are rightly looking at their back-office systems as a platform for future change in front-end delivery. It’s early days but we know that there is lots of creative and fresh thinking in the sector, as firms consider their competitive position. Another area of great potential comes from in-house solicitors being able to offer non-reserved legal services, such as legal advice, to customers of their employers. If delivered effectively with the appropriate checks and measures in place, such innovation would not only remove the bureaucracy and cost to the public of having to deal with a third-party gobetween, but also see the most qualified experts managing all aspects of a given transaction. Our Handbook reforms are still a little way off, so in the meantime, those looking to innovate will find it a easier to obtain waivers to rules that slow down their developments but do nothing to protect the public. We have adopted a new waivers policy, with a simplified process designed to further reduce unnecessary bureaucratic barriers to offering new services in new ways. And those who believe they have new ideas but are unsure whether or not they would be in breach of the regulations can use our SRA Innovate service launched in November 2015. This includes our Innovation Space, which allows fresh thinking likely to benefit the public to be piloted in a controlled and safe environment.
This is one of the driving principles behind the changes we are proposing to our Handbook. We can help create a landscape where innovation is the norm, encouraging further development.
Law firms are evolving and there are lots of opportunities for all. The speed of that development is gathering pace all the time. As a regulator, we have a responsibility to make sure we do not get in the way of changes that will help the public to access high quality legal services.
The changes we are proposing for our Handbook will help do this by:
Authority (SRA). Information on how we support innovation can be found on
simplifying our regulations so they are clear on the high professional standards we expect, but do not burden firms with prescriptive detail
Jane Malcolm, Executive Director, External Affairs, Solicitors Regulation our website at www.sra.org.uk/innovate.
Modern Law 23
Technological change is an opportunity to be seized he disruptive nature of technology is already being felt in the legal sector. From the introduction of new ways of working, to the legal implications of new technology such as driverless cars, and the ethical challenges posed by predictive software and machine learning, legislation is playing catch up and the debate continues as to what the law of the future will look like. What is certain is that there will be significant change in the market.
Last year, the Law Society released research which projected, based on current growth, that 67,000 legal jobs will be eliminated by 2038 due to the increasing impact of technology on the sector. Fortunately, much of this will be offset by growing demand in legal services, but it indicates the potential scope of disruption. Today, law firms face the challenge of harnessing technological developments to improve both the service they offer clients and their efficiency to remain competitive. This is essential, particularly as new competitors, such as app-based or online legal services, are already entering the market. Those that find and fill a perceived unmet need may find success, possibly at the expense of existing legal businesses. Firms may be prompted to consider whether their current business model is fit for purpose in a more challenging legal market. Will the traditional partnership model continue to dominate over the next few years? The jury is still out. There are already a number of virtual or dispersed firms where the lawyers work independently and are serviced by a small central hub. There is also an important question about what skills, knowledge or aptitudes are needed for new recruits or trainees, regardless of area of law. In addition to the traditional professional qualification, proficiency in social media, communications and even coding may be real assets for firms when directly coupled with expert legal advice. An understanding of statistics and algorithms may change
the way legal issues are considered in the future. Several innovative universities are already adjusting their study modules to ensure their students are given a leg up in recruitment. What is true, without doubt, is that technology will also continue to improve the efficiency of processes in firms, with some legal work involving tasks that could be better performed by computer algorithms and mechanisms than by the human mind. Changing market conditions and ways of delivering our services are not new, and I am confident solicitors’ businesses will be successful as they embrace new technologies and tackle the new world order. I see it as a vital role at the Law Society to support the profession in this. A focus for my presidential year will be to support solicitors to consider the impact of and opportunities to use technology within the profession. We will be conducting roadshows across England and Wales to provide guidance, information and advice, as well as seeking to ensure solicitors have access to new technologies. We want to empower solicitors to make fully informed decisions about technology and their business. It is unlikely there will be a ‘one size fits all’ solution, but technology can be a game-changing leveller and enabler, even for the smallest of law firms. As we look forward, we must take a positive approach and see the evolution of technology not as a disruptive influence, but as an opportunity to be seized. The profession will continue to learn, to evolve and to reinvent itself, and the Law Society will be actively supporting solicitors to do so. Christina Blacklaws, Vice President, Law Society of England and Wales. She will take office as President in July 2018.
Changing market conditions and ways of delivering our services are not new, and I am confident solicitors’ businesses will be successful as they embrace new technologies and tackle the new world order
Modern Law 25
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Beyond price transparency P
rice transparency is one of the hot topics of debate
following the CMA report. At the Legal Ombudsman, we think it is important to be transparent - costs continue to be one of the top five complaints for consumers. Beginning an instruction with a clear understanding of costs on both sides is always going to be positive. But price transparency should not just be a tool to get consumers through the door. It has to continue throughout the instruction. When our Ombudsmen consider costs complaints, they are always looking to see whether you have given customers the information that they need to make an informed choice and that this information is clear and timely. Here are a few things to keep in mind: l Be clear about your charging structure: Information about your costs and charging structure may be on your website, but make sure this is carried through into your client care letter. If it is a fixed fee, be clear what work or situations are not included in this. If it is an hourly rate, make sure you have provided an overall estimate for the work (which is realistic based on the information you have at the time), and explained how often you will send invoices or provide a cost update. l Manage changing costs: We know that situations change; work becomes more complex and unforeseen issues arise. But we always expect that the customer is told about the cost impact of this. If the ongoing costs are likely to exceed the original estimate, tell your customer in good time and give a new realistic estimate. Telling them when you are already overbudget is likely to be considered poor service. If a customer requests extra work, make sure they know the impact it will have on their budget, or if it takes them outside a fixed fee agreement. l Billing: Make sure your invoices are clear to the customer. They should be clear enough so they know the different elements they are paying for. So, as you think about price transparency and the approach you might take, we would encourage you to review how you manage costs and update your customers throughout the transaction. Follow our points above and make sure you avoid these pitfalls as well as the ombudsman! Steven Pearson, Senior Ombudsman, Legal Ombudsman.
Talkin’ chatbots arlier this year, tech research giant Gartner predicted chatbots were set to be integrated across a quarter of all customer service and support operations by 2020. In today’s 24/7 economy and with customers’ high service expectations, can this technology be used by law firms to improve the service they offer?
Chatbots are computer programmes that are currently opening up a new era of business-customer interaction, by responding to text or verbal communication in the place of a human staff member. They’re great for directing customers towards relevant information and services on a company website as they can help when a member of staff is unavailable. However, can they really help law firms where more complex enquiries are the norm? One of our conveyancing clients, Chattertons, is currently trialling a chatbot for six months on their website – the snappily-named, Chatty! Emily Baker-Gaunt, Marketing Manager for Chattertons comments: “Despite a chatbot not being the traditional way that our clients would think of contacting us, we have definitely seen an increase and improvement in interactions with our customers. The enquiries received are mixed, but a member of the marketing team can jump in at any moment to help with a particular query. If no-one in the team is available or, out of hours, the chatbot encourages the customer to fill out the enquiry form or will direct them to relevant information on the website.” At Geodesys we offer property searches and services to conveyancing solicitors. Excellent customer service is at the core of our business. We haven’t yet entered the world of chatbots, but will shortly be introducing online chat. Mark Phillips, our recentlyappointed Customer Services Manager explains why: “Online chat will provide our clients with another channel to interact with us, in a way that’s often more convenient for them. But, in order to make it as effective as possible, we are putting in place some guidelines for when the interaction needs to be moved to phone.” For time-poor lawyers, a chatbot appears to be a logical solution to providing a simple yet effective medium for responding to customers. It does however need to be considered as only one contact channel within an ever-growing raft of options. To be most effective, we would suggest combining chatbot technology with human interaction, whether online or in person. This really gives legal firms an opportunity to provide information quickly, in line with customers’ expectations. SUSAN FAIRBRASS, Marketing Manager, Geodesys.
Modern Law 27
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The blockchain revolution What role could cryptocurrencies play in the legal sector as we start to see blockchain/bitcoin technologies impacting on other professions? he legal industry has always been slow in adapting to change and innovation. Some changes are inevitable, and smart contracts are one of them. Smart contracts are written by code and obligations due under them will trigger and be performed automatically.
Use of case smart contracts can be even a basic document notarisation. Most ownership records are stored in paper ledgers. These can be tampered with, but the data in smart contracts and blockchain cannot be altered. A very debatable discussion is the role that cryptocurrencies could play in the UK legal sector. Currently, cryptocurrencies in the EU and UK are under criticism because of the possibility of money laundering and terror financing. The entire legal system is currently a sandbox environment, testing the implications of crypto currency usage. Globally, some law firms have started to accept payments in bitcoins, and some are advising not to jump on board. Digital information is divided into blocks, linked together and sits inside multiple computers as a chain of blocks. Each block has something called a hash. A hash is a set of characters driven from the information contained in the block, so it is unique every time. Every successive block will contain the previous block’s hash; this is what binds them together. If someone tampers with the first block, the new hash does not match or does not carry the previous information completely, so it will break the sequence and any tampering will get exposed. Let’s dig a bit more into smart contracts. As a practical example, property buying and selling involves numerous manual steps. Each property has existing IDs in Land Registry systems, which would be migrated to a blockchain. A blockchain ecosystem will have predefined authorisation triggered upon meeting certain conditions between the owner, lender, and government etc. Buying and selling steps along with required checks will be defined as sale rules and decisions will be automated. In conclusion, there is no doubt that blockchain technology will revolutionise and disrupt the legal sector. Blockchain technology will align law firms, clients and technology companies to transform the business of law. The question is to see how the law firms manage this critical angle change.
What does transparent pricing actually mean? few years ago, our bathroom was renovated by a builder. I chose to use them after being provided a quote of £2,500 to get the project completed. The final bill came in at almost £3,800. Upon challenging his final invoice, he retorted with a short sniff and said, “Ah, yes, that was just an estimate”.
Considering this, I now have measured expectations of costs supplied to me by tradespeople. Despite a good job, I was annoyed the work cost me more than I expected, not anticipating the final invoice would be so far from the initial quote. I felt somewhat deceived and the relationship with the builder was tarnished, simply because my expectations were not managed throughout the process. I learnt a valuable lesson from this experience about transparency of costs. So, when the SRA talk about the need for ‘transparency’ as the outcome of their research, I fear interpretation has led to believing this means whatever you place in the initial quote and publishing all prices. However, it is my opinion that some evidence can be misconstrued. With so much research focused on findings from quantitative data, the importance of qualitative data is lost, giving a misguided interpretation of the conclusions. Here’s what I believe transparency is and what your clients are looking for. According to a recent Home Moving in the age of the Consumer study, clients’ expectations have changed, whilst the meaning of service has evolved. Over 55% of home movers highlighted their frustration with the method and lack of communication from their conveyancer. Clients’ preference in receiving online communication is growing fast compared with traditional methods of face-to-face and phone calls. In fact, 79% prefer to receive updates about their transactions via online methods, such as emails, online portals or instant messaging. This demonstrates clients’ real perception of transparency but more so, how law firms should be thinking. Ultimately, law firms need to consider a transparent service throughout and not just on receipt of the initial quote and the final invoice. Transparency is not just about publishing what you charge but managing client expectations. Similar to my building situation, the relationship with the builder would have been much improved had I received an understanding of costs at the beginning, middle and end of the process. Conveyancing is no different, so my advice is to consider how you can continuously communicate the value of your conveyancing service. YVONNE HIRONS, Global CEO, Perfect Portal.
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Modern Law 29
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What does your online presence say about your firm? e’ve long been taught not to judge a book by its cover. But in the digital age, that is exactly what consumers are doing, using the internet as their first port of call for research. As an increasing number of services become available online, where does the conveyancing industry stand?
A recent study, “Home Moving in the Age of the Consumer” (2017), looked at attitudes towards the home moving process in the digital era. The results found almost a quarter (23%) of 18-34 year olds considered the offer of online conveyancing as pivotal to choosing a firm, and as a growing generation of home movers, this is a particular demographic to be conscious of. Conveyancing isn’t immune to the shifts that most other industries have felt in recent years. Having an online presence is vital, and it’s the first impression a potential client will have of your business. Consumers are looking for convenience, which means shopping around for a solicitor or conveyancer at a time that suits them. Whether it’s on their lunch break or late at night, your firm needs to ensure it can provide the information needed, when the consumer wants it. So how can you do this? Consumers want to self-serve information at their convenience, so providing them with digital solutions to access the details they need to make a decision, or about the progress of their transaction, is key. In the research, 64% of respondents considered communication highly important, and technology has made ways of connecting with clients far easier. With many consumers no longer looking to visit firms face-to-face, offering a variety of communication methods such as online and a self-serve portal can provide a point of difference and increased satisfaction with the service level. Consumer expectations have changed with the services and technology available, and to stay at the forefront you need to be present online and make the most of these expectations around the immediacy and transparency of information. Modernising your communication methods doesn’t have to be complicated, and looking at how potential clients can communicate via a range of digital means will help you win over the next generation of home movers and grow your business.
The power of blockchain 017 will be known as the year that cryptocurrencies went mainstream. The dramatic rise of Bitcoin (its value increasing by a dramatic 2000% at one point) led the breakout. But to many, the world of cryptocurrencies remains shrouded in mystery. We tend to hear a lot about ‘scams’ and the supposed ‘bubble’ in the cryptocurrency market, but too often we overlook the technologies on which these coins are based. There are undoubtedly dodgy currencies (aptly named ‘s**t coins’ by the cryptocurrency community), but this should not distract from the power of the blockchain, the technology on which all cryptocurrencies are built.
The blockchain is a public and highly decentralised network of computers, which relies on peer to peer validation of both the user and their data. The resulting ledger ensures that its data remains secure because no single entity owns all the data and the computer power needed to overwhelm and corrupt the network is immense. The power of blockchain lies in the security it gives its data. The technology is affecting industries as diverse as the insurance and whisky industries. Blockchain aims to provide an effective tool in combating fraud and protecting customer data. For example, the whisky industry is using blockchain to provide their customers with assurances of the product’s quality from grain to bottle. Another area of blockchain that threatens to revolutionise the legal sector is that of ‘smart contracts’. Smart contracts are contracts written in code that execute when one or more conditions are met. The parties themselves remain anonymous but the contract is placed onto the decentralised public ledger. The whole process lessens the involvement of third parties and makes for simpler, more efficient contracts. Law firms must be proactive about keeping their staff up to date with the implications of blockchain technology on their clients’ businesses. Colin Fowle, Managing Director, Blue Car Technologies Limited.
Adam Bullion, General Manager of Marketing, InfoTrack. The report “Home Moving in the Age of the Consumer” is available at www.infotrack.co.uk/future-conveyancing-report/
Modern Law 31
EDITORIAL BOARD Editorial Advertorial
Reuniting unclaimed Additional £2 Billion from dormant accounts can be assets
reunited with customers and to fund good causes W W ithin the UK there is a large amount of money that remains unclaimed by its true owners, and this issue was first addressed in 2008, ledamount to the ‘Dormant Bankthat ithin the UK there is which a large of money and Building Society Accounts Act’. Under this Act, werewas remains unclaimed by its true owners and banks this issue required to trace in account holdersled whotohad been in contact first addressed 2008 which thenot ‘Dormant Bank and for severalSociety years. InAccounts instances where they were to find the Building Act’. Under thisunable Act, banks were account holder, the money holders would bewho declared dormant would required to trace account had not beenand in contact be used for years. alternate for several In causes. instances where they were unable to find
the account holder, the money would be declared dormant and would be2015, used for alternate causes. In December the Commission on Dormant Assets was formed to help with this initiative and said the dormant asset
In December 2015 the bonds Commission on which Dormant was schemes should include and shares, couldAssets potentially formed to help with this initiative and said the dormant unlock up to £2 billion. In February 2018, the Commission on asset schemes should include bonds and shares which Dormant Assets published a report where the government will could potentially unlock up to £2 billion. In February 2018, consider legislation to expand dormant account schemes to the Commission on Dormant Assets published a report include other assets and financial instruments. where the government will consider legislation to expand dormant accounts schemes to include other assets and One of their core principles state that firms should prioritise financial instruments. reuniting customers with their assets before the money is
transferred goodprinciples causes, and customers should be able to One of theirtocore state that firms should prioritise reclaim dormant moneywith at anytheir time.assets Assets before should only reuniting customers the be money is transferred after appropriate reunification efforts have been transferred to good causes and customers should bemade. able In 2011, the Co-operative Banking Group (CBG) established theonly to reclaim dormant money at any time. Assets should be transferred after Fund appropriate reunification efforts country’s first Reclaim (RF). Both the CBG and RF have have been made.
been working with the government in establishing the scheme, and since inception, the RF received over £1 billion from several participating banks and building societies. In 2011 the co-operative Banking Group (CBG) established the
country’s first Reclaim Fund (RF). Both the CBG and RF have been working with the government in establishing the fifteen scheme, Accounts are considered dormant if they have been open and since the RFbeing received over £1and billion from several years withinception no transactions carried out the holder is participating banks and building societies. not contactable. A bank may deem an account as dormant after a period of prolonged inactivity. At this point, they may send out
Fraser Fraser arestill one of the the account few firms within genealogy lettersand to verify you hold - and wishthe to keep it industry who are regulated by APR (Association of Probate open. If they receive no response, or the letter has been ‘returned Researchers). arethe well known beneficiary to sender’, it isWe likely account will for be archived until tracing further and deceased notice. estate distribution but now we have branched out into the world of asset reunification, helping ensure that the unclaimed assets is reunited with the asset holder. The unclaimed asset can We are one financial of the few industry who be anything orfirms also within knownthe as genealogy liquid assets. For example, are regulated by APR (Association of Probate Researchers). stocks, bonds, dormant bank accounts or monies held by a We are well known for physical beneficiary tracing deceasedestates. estate custodian, and not just items fromand unclaimed
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www.fraserandfraser.co.uk YASHVI KHATRI, Marketing Manager, Fraser and Fraser. firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. Can fees for more complex dispute resolution legal services be made clearer amid calls for improved transparency? A. Yes, and an early ‘joined up’ numbers based approach from all ‘stakeholders’ is likely to provide clarity on case economics.
inancing of modern litigation can be many faceted. Those interested in the ‘result’ might include various ‘stakeholders’ in addition to the claimant, being typically:
solicitors and counsel (e.g. when ‘success’ triggers liability for fees or additional fees under a CFA or fees from damages if there is a DBA)
third party funders where liability for returns will arise on success; and
legal expenses insurers who will charge a premium for cover, where premium options are likely to include premiums payable or partially payable on success.
There will be bespoke terms for each stakeholder, and agreements are often put in place on a staggered basis without reference to other necessary arrangements. The ultimate outcome of any claim and the time and cost involved in getting there are unknown at the outset. The unknown elements, the range and timing of outcomes and charges and charge points can cause issues down the line if not thought through early on. What can be determined from the outset is: •
the range of likely achievable quantum; and
how each element of the costs (own/adverse) will be dealt with, at what overall price and at what potentially lower price given stakeholder trigger points.
Once terms are proposed, it should be relatively straightforward to prepare a spreadsheet of outcomes at any given point. Stepping back and ‘plugging in the numbers’ can provide the claimant not only with clarity on fees/cost, but also on: •
overall case economics
proportionality and whether that continues as the case runs
the relative value of potential offers
whether there is a tipping point beyond which a claimant might start to lose commercial interest; and
a picture of ‘who gets what and when’.
It may also flag up practical issues such as helpful staging points, which could be adopted across the board and potentially provide input for settlement decisions etc. Reviewing information early, and on a joined up basis, can provide more clarity on fees, enable a high level overview and assist with strategy and expectations.
A chat about chatbots How can law firms utilise chatbots to improve client services, and how do you see the profile of this technology changing in the legal sector? t some point in the past year there is a strong possibility that you have come into contact with artificial intelligence in one way or another. It could be anything from asking Amazon Alexa to order you an Uber through to the phone system that asked you to press a button to choose an option. These are simple examples, and there are hundreds more, but let’s dive in to see how you can use them for your law firm.
As the legal industry adapts to the fast paced digital age we find ourselves propelled into, the need to be available is essential through all mediums possible. The use of chatbots is not just for sales and marketing but can be worked into recruitment, client management, internal intranet and a whole host of other areas. Chatbots give you the opportunity to offer vital information to clients before they even come in contact with you. Offering an FAQ section on your website is great, and you can then introduce that FAQ to artificial intelligence on your website or on social media so that clients can answer questions without the need to ask you directly. People are not looking for War and Peace in an answer, and most people know that they are speaking with a bot, so an answer based on a question asked is never a bad thing, especially when you would email them that answer anyway! Delving deeper into AI, certain areas of the banking industry have created bots that allow you to check your balance and your recent transactions. With this in mind, the high level of security that banking requires can then be used when accessing documents via chatbot on current legal cases through case management software. As technology becomes increasingly more intelligent and we rely even more heavily on our mobile devices for quick answers, being available 24/7 for clients is essential. Chatbots allow you to put questions to a potential client that qualifies them as a lead and puts them in touch with the right department. Simply by introducing a chatbot that fits into your sales funnel, you will start to adjust how you work with website and social media visitors on a day-to-day basis. Steve Hooper, Founder, LawSEO.
Take a good (and comprehensive) ‘look before you leap’. Jacqueline Harvey, Underwriter, AmTrust Law. Check out AmTrust Law via their LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/2747378/
Modern Law 33
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The cyber arms race
How might law firms need to reassess their fee structures to meet the needs of the modern consumer, particularly with the possibility of mandatory price publishing on the horizon?
Despite the warnings, why are some businesses failing to counter the threat of fraud?
here is no doubt that solicitors’ work is becoming increasingly commoditised, driving the call for price transparency and publication. Frankly, rather than protecting consumers (as we now have to call clients!), this jeopardises the quality of the service they will receive.
n the last two years, half of UK businesses have succumbed to the threat of fraud or economic crime, with nearly a quarter of victims suffering losses of more than £720,000. These figures come from the PwC biennial Global Economic Crime & Fraud Survey, which highlights the influence of advanced technology on criminal behaviour.
Whilst the Legal Services Board drive consumer protection, the pressure to get solicitors to ‘go public’ with their fees propagates commoditisation and puts price above everything else. If every lawyer competes on price, service will undoubtedly be the victim, as too will the lawyers’ bottom lines!
In line with the UK, the report revealed that 49% of global organisations had experienced fraud in the last 24 months, with 55% of these cases committed by external perpetrators. While the survey proves the damage that fraud can do, it also demonstrates our vulnerability to new methods of cybercrime.
Too many firms operate loss leading, low-end fixed fee work merely to compete in the hope they will get probate work from cheap will drafting or bigger residential conveyancing from low-end conveyancing transactions offered to purchasers referred by estate agents.
Given the continuing rise in fraud, 50% of UK organisations surveyed had not carried out a general fraud risk assessment in the last two years, a figure which was not dissimilar to the global position.
I readily accept that fixed fees for straightforward commoditised work has its place. However, ultimately, many firms are making no money or providing a sub-standard service. Technology increasingly provides a solution, increasing productivity, with work done by low-grade staff. This can reduce overheads and can turn a profit. However, technology should complement what we do, not be the beginning, middle and end, simply to help us fight a price war! Where do we want to be in the marketplace? Are we a fast-food drive thru, or a restaurant? The ingredients, those preparing the food, and how it is served, will be very different. Commoditised pricing requires considerable skill in resourcing and implementation to make it work if we wish to compete in this world.
As major fraud cases hit the headlines and the deadline for GDPR compliance draws ever-closer, these figures demonstrate a worrying attitude amongst UK businesses in regards to cyberattacks and economic crime. So why have so many done so little to combat it? According to Fran Marwood, forensics partner at PwC, the lack of action stems directly from a lack of awareness. “Over half of respondents reported suffering phishing attacks, which are done on a large scale to play the odds. But ultimately, cyber defence relies on people understanding the threat, and therefore training, awareness and escalation routes are just as important as defensive technology,” she said.
Clients deserve a price, combined with a level of service, that gives them confidence. How can they be confident by deciding on price alone? Fixed fees give certainty but if set badly it means lost profits. Pricing needs a conversation and offering the best options for the client while enabling profitability. Failure leaves us with write-offs, having that difficult discussion with the client at the end of the job, or both!
Although UK organisations are reportedly spending more than ever on methods of compliance, there still exists a tremendous lack of understanding of how vulnerable we are to cyber-criminals. While the digital revolution has simplified a number of operational processes, innovative technology has inadvertently made it easier for individuals or groups to gain access to our networks. While business leaders have been wise to adopt and integrate new systems into their organisations to increase efficiency, failure to implement the necessary security provisions alongside has increased their vulnerability, leaving them open to external fraud and cybercrime.
We should resist the pressure to publish prices. Perhaps we can compromise by saying that “Our prices start from…” and offer clients bespoke pricing that aligns with the job in hand and their individual needs. This will give us happier clients and more referrals that cost us nothing.
As technology continues to evolve at such speed, so too do the capabilities of cyber-criminals. In this cyber arms race, businesses must recognise the true nature of the threat, and invest in the people, technology and essential courses, to prevent acts of cybercrime and fraud.
Richard Allen, Senior Consultant and Costs Lawyer, Burcher Jennings.
Roy Morgan, Lead Advocacy Trainer and Certified Fraud Examiner, Kaplan Altior.
Modern Law 35
Growing relationships and retention Are there client retention techniques being used in other professions that could be adopted by legal professionals?
s part of the changes brought about by the Retail Distribution Review (RDR), many advisory firms moved from a business model based upon a transactional basis to one of having an ongoing relationship with their clients.
The transactional model could be one that describes the majority of law firms and the work that they carry out now. A change to providing a more holistic service to clients may be what’s needed to ensure that law firms do have a greater success rate in retaining clients. It’s fair to say that clients only come to a solicitor initially when they have need of them, such as for house purchases, making a will or for when they are in times of marital difficulty. Obviously the core work of a financial planning firm is one of providing ongoing service and putting the needs of clients first - a goal shared by both professions. Financial planners tend to remind clients that they are available for them and the service provided isn’t just those face to face review meetings, it’s being there whenever the client needs you to be there at the end of a phone line.
So how do we in the world of financial planning retain our clients? We ensure that the service provided is second to none. We do this by regularly holding seminars and presentations to our clients on subjects and issues we feel are relevant for them. We’re able to ascertain the relevance for the client by making sure that we get to know our clients’ goals, wants and desires from the first time we meet them. We also hold regular client appreciation events, keep social media updated on a daily basis and ensure that our clients are receiving bulletins from us, which are always of a topical nature. All of which helps us as a firm maintain and nurture those quality client relationships, which have been based upon the trust that has been built up when the client has been through the financial planning process. The aim of this is to ensure that clients always have us in mind for when they need advice. If law firms are not already taking this approach, they should consider doing so as it would certainly stand them in good stead for the future. Martin Fahy, Financial Planning Manager, Informed Financial Planning.
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Does your firm promote wellbeing?
What type of law firm are you?
orking as a lawyer has many demands and pressures. Lawyers find innovative solutions to legal problems in individual cases and managing and prioritising their workload. In his excellent book, A Lawyer’s Guide To Wellbeing and Managing Stress, Angus Lyon suggests that lawyers tend to avoid thinking about and talking about their mental health issues due to working in a non-therapeutic culture with time and regulation pressures, and ever-present customer interface. He suggests law firms should develop and promote a culture of recognising unhelpful or negative patterns of thinking, reducing stigma about workplace stress through discussion and promotion of healthy work practices, adopting mentoring for positive support, alongside positive leadership.
orking with so many law firms over the years, I have often thought about the types of firm I tend to come across. Based on this, I have outlined below the four main types of firm I’ve met. Have a read and let me know about your own experiences.
So what makes our working hours pleasurable and sustaining? Successful and happy firms seem to have a clear and positive culture that promotes three major factors: clear work processes that ‘continuously improve’, staff support and empowerment for work and personal issues, and a customer responsiveness expectation and display by all, including senior management. A fourth factor is the overall management and coordination of these processes, starting at the top.
An interesting bunch who trundle along minding their own business and then all of a sudden, BOOM! “ACME law firm has just placed an advertisement in ABC magazine so we must do it too”. They are reactive rather than visionary, and when they do something it is usually in response to somebody else. They have a website but unfortunately nothing ever changes and it is just a list of bullet points. The main purpose is to showcase CVs and prove they’re qualified to do what they’re doing.
Before writing this editorial at 8:15am one morning, I asked six of my ‘early bird’ staff to give me their brainstorming ideas on how HKA achieved a happy workplace. Their top five ideas were: open door to manager/team leader, facility to share personal and professional stresses, relaxed working environment (albeit with clear work goals), high social interaction despite working hard and clean and tidy working spaces.
Have a modern website, blog often and regularly post on social media. There’s just one thing missing: they aren’t getting a return. The problem is there is no conversion path and no leads are being generated. The good news is that all is not lost. A few changes and the ‘Almost Theres’ could elevate their marketing from a cost to an investment with a quantifiable return.
Within a healthy workplace, many social, psychological and operational factors are clearly at play. Top of my personal list today is to encourage good practice in any of the issues mentioned above and allow mistakes, if made, to be discussed and learnt from. We all make mistakes at work as well as at home, so promote this discussion without fear of retribution. We learn from both successes and failures. Wellbeing at work involves feeling confident, warts and all. As Angus Lyon’s last sentence states “Healthy Justice depends on healthy Lawyers”.
The ‘Uninterested’ Whilst difficult to accept, there is still a group of firms staunchly set against all things marketing. “We receive our new instructions from referrals. We don’t need to waste money on marketing”. Perhaps business development is viewed positively, yet marketing is the poor relation responsible for ‘simple things’ like the Christmas Drinks Reception? The ‘Me-Toos’
The ‘Almost Theres’
The ‘Enlightened’ A much smaller group who ‘get’ marketing and understand that if they take a strategic approach, set out a plan of attack and implement a series of marketing tactics they can generate quality leads for their firm. Our mission is to help more firms get to this ‘enlightened’ stage and generate high quality leads from their marketing and help their firms to grow. Whilst these categories may appear stereotypical, we have met each and every one of them. So, where does your firm fit in and what are they going to do about it? John Hogg, Managing Director, Enlighten IC. To find out more, please get in touch, or download a free copy of our ‘Definitive Guide To Legal Services Marketing’ on www.enlighten-ic.com.
Professor Hugh Koch, Clinical Psychologist and Director, Hugh Koch Associates and Professor in Law & Psychology, Birmingham City University.
Modern Law 37
This issueâ€™s Regional Focus is all about Leeds, one of the fastest growing legal markets in the UK. Bill Barton, President of the Leeds Law Society, is excited for the future of the Leeds legal market and its solicitors, as he explained when he spoke to Modern Law.
What are the main challenges that legal professionals in Leeds are facing at the moment, and how are they tackling these?
Competition in Leeds and competition outside Leeds. However, these help to drive up standards of excellence and combine to make Leeds the Centre of legal excellence outside London. Brexit was not what Leeds as a city voted for, but itâ€™s going to happen, so I think that it now has to be regarded as an opportunity. Manchester has its own mayor, and the pressure from foreign jurisdictions on English law means we must demonstrate not just to English clients, but to those prospective clients abroad, that Leeds is the legal destination of choice.
What has been the key positive or negative area of change in the Leeds legal market in the past decade, and how have professionals in the area responded to this?
Thatâ€™s far too big a question for any interview with too many answers.
Leeds has had to find its identity and decide how it wants to be regarded by the UK and abroad. It has chosen quality and not quantity, a young and diverse work force, vibrant opportunities and greater connections between law firms and the broader economic economy, including the centers of learning and local authorities.
Leeds has had to find its identity and decide how it wants to be regarded by the UK and abroad. It has chosen quality and not quantity
What are your core aims as a President of the Leeds Law Society?
It is difficult to distill into just a few words or some snappy phrase what I wanted to achieve. However, I think that increased and improved communication and collaboration, not just between law firms but also between the profession and the rest of the Leeds economy is essential. I have tried to encourage law firms to learn more about their competition and to understand that selling your firm, your brand and just the work that you do is generally a turn off for clients and companies. It is now the norm for companies to use a range of legal providers, and for those providers to range in size and location. Accordingly, a law firm needs to be selling Leeds as a legal destination. It is after all better that a company uses a range of law firms from Leeds rather than a number of law firms from a number of cities.
Modern Law 39
Brexit was not what Leeds as a city voted for, but itâ€™s going to happen, so I think that it now has to be regarded as an opportunity
How have the needs of legal professionals in Leeds changed in the last five years?
Generally, law firms are more sophisticated and organised and no longer want the Law Society to provide training. I tend to think of law firms as being divided into a number of different parts, each wanting something slightly different from the Law Society. Junior solicitors are more interested in what social events we can provide and how we can help them with basic networking events where they can meet other lawyers and people from different professions. Their firms provide their educational needs in-house, and so interest will also focus on the more bespoke courses, such as those on women in law or mental health. These are courses that need a diverse range of participants to be of interest and effective, hence in-house provision does not really work. As solicitors become more qualified, the spare time available to them reduces and they have probably built up strong social networks, so at this stage provision has to be to specific areas, such as the court liaison groups we hold, workshops on millennials and perhaps networking events that concern their chosen area of expertise. At the more senior level of law firms, we are expected to provide liaison with the regulatory bodies such as the SRA and LSB, with the local council and perhaps MPs. Senior partners have shown that, given the opportunity, they are interested in meeting and being able to exchange ideas and opinions with other managing partners, and we hold regular managing partnersâ€™ dinners to facilitate this.
Have client expectations changed in Leeds, and to what do you attribute any such changes?
Clients expect every solicitor or every law firm to be excellent. Clients do not expect or accept a lower standard.
Clients have greater access to information and law firms are becoming more open about their performance and more representative of their clients in terms or diversity of the workforce.
40 Modern Law
How do you feel the pace of innovation differs in the Leeds legal market compared to other regions?
Obviously I think that Leeds is ahead of other regions, both in terms of the quality of legal services in the city and in what the Leeds Law Society does and provides. This is because we have been very conscious of going out and speaking to managing partners and other solicitors, asking them what they do and do not like about the Society and acting on those views. Leeds is not as big a legal hub as say Manchester or Birmingham, but I believe our concentration on quality and not quantity is paying off. We have one of the leading universities in the country in the University of Leeds, and they are supported by Becket University and the University of Law. Together they offer a fantastic range of law courses, transfer and law final courses, which means as a city we attract a huge number of not just pure law students but those who have decided to switch to law following their first degree in another subject. Talented young solicitors demand more from the firms they work for, who in turn must place greater effort into their provision for and care of their solicitors to ensure retention. This pushes innovation and change, and then you get new firms such as Shoosmiths, who have set up a new office. This is a significant benefit because it creates churn in the market place. Firms must once again focus on what they are doing for their staff and clients if they are not to lose them to such new competition. New law firms create competition and that makes firms constantly review and improve what they do.
How do you think the legal profession is perceived by the public? Does the Leeds Law Society have a part to play in building relationships on this level?
Over recent years I do believe that there was a period where the profession allowed the public to lose faith and confidence in what they offer. They allowed the government to denigrate and undermine their status. Some of this was because we lacked leadership, and to some extent we lacked confidence and direction in what we should be saying. However, nearly every person who has had direct engagement
with solicitors has nothing but the highest regard for the profession. So, a contradiction, borne partly of the crowd approach that it is easier to say something is rubbish and not be questioned than to say actually I think my solicitor/law firm is brilliant.
Leeds is a powerful part of the Joint Five, the collection of the main regional law societies along with Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol, with whom we are able to apply more pressure and increase connections with our regulatory friends at the SRA and LSB.
It is our job to reengage with the public, to show that solicitors and law firms give a huge amount to the community, that they create jobs and wealth and that this is not all hoarded by partners but dissipated through staff, through support companies and the spending by their staff in local companies and organisations.
Leeds Law Society can assist in this by engaging with the wider business community and by ensuring that incredibly important questions such a mental health, the living wage and apprenticeships are part and parcel of the everyday language of solicitors and law firms. Leeds Law Society will help law firms to promote their businesses and their people through their involvement with local charities, the Living Wage Foundation, access to justice campaigns and many more
What does the future look like for the legal professionals in Leeds?
Leeds is a vibrant legal community in which you can work for an incredible range of firms covering almost every conceivable area of the law, firms offering specialisms and foreign offices, a burgeoning in house market and an increasing number of new law firms opening and moving into Leeds. Not only that, but you can afford to buy a house here, and you are so close to places like York and the Dales. What an incredible place to live â€“ the future looks amazing.
Do you feel that the Leeds Law Society has a voice in wider conversations outside of the region?
Leeds is the centre of legal excellence outside London. We have worked hard for that accolade, and in turn the prosperity of Leeds and the success of Leeds Law Society makes it an imperative to work with and help and support other local law societies and organisations. The Yorkshire Union of law societies is given huge support and encouragement by us, and they benefit from our improved connections and standing in the local economy and regulatory environment.
New law firms create competition and that makes firms constantly review and improve what they do
Bill has specialised in contentious and non-contentious construction for nearly 25 years, having been a partner with Walker Morris and DLA Piper. Bill is a trained mediator, a Fellow of the Institute of Arbitrators, a member of the RIBA disciplinary panel and of TeSCA. Bill is currently the President of Leeds Law Society.
Modern Law 41
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Forget the tech, you’ll never have innovation if the culture is wrong Our resident Tech commentator Charles Christian writes… he Editor said, “This edition should be right up your street…the focus is on how law firm culture can impact upon innovation”. And he’s right, it’s always been a subject dear to my heart. Or, rather more to the point, it has always intrigued me why some law firms seem to enjoy tremendous success implementing innovatory new tech systems, while another, very similar firm implementing exactly the same systems can regard the whole project as a total ‘computer disaster’ with appalling budgetary and timescale overruns.
But if it is not the technology that is at fault, then why this disparity of experience? About 15 years ago, when I was still doing consultancy work with law firms and tech vendors, I kept encountering this issue, particularly in relation to case management software and systems, such as time recording, which had been specifically designed for lawyers and other fee-earners. Not all firms complaining of computer disasters experienced the same permutation of problems, there was enough similarity for me to coin the phrase: People – Culture – Process – Change – then Technology (or PCPCT ) to explain this phenomenon. In a nutshell, the firms encountering issues were those apparently hoping that simply investing in a technology solution would solve a whole mess of organisational, structural, financial and practicewide dysfunctionalities. To give credit where it is due, the English Law Society has been pushing the message for years that a law firm’s technology strategy should be an integral part of a broader practice development strategy – or what used to be called ‘joinedup thinking’. Unfortunately the message continues to fall on deaf ears, and all too often the purchase of technology seems to be an alternative to or substitute for formulating a wider holistic strategy – possibly because buying new computers is simpler than facing up to the realities of tackling systemic problems within a firm. But, let’s get back to PCPCT. The People – Culture – Process – Change paradigm can take many different forms but unless all Issue 35
All too often the purchase of technology seems to be an alternative to or substitute for formulating a wider holistic strategy the potential points of failure are addressed, no matter how much money a firm spends on innovatory tech, it will never achieve the benefits hoped for. To pick a few examples I’ve encountered over the years: if senior lawyers and partners have a “I’m so busy and so important” attitude (come on, you’ve all worked with people like this) and they never make time to go on the tech training courses they are offered, then they will never master, nor benefit, from the new systems being rolled out to them. Though of course they’ll be the first to complain the new system is useless and a waste of money. Similarly, with case management ‘disasters’, all too often the issue here is a new system is purchased and rolled out without anyone addressing how it will impact on existing processes and how they will have to be changed to maximise the potential benefits and productivity gains of the new system. In a worst case scenario, lawyers continue operating in exactly the same way they always have done, thereby reducing the new system to little more than an expensive diary and word processor – which will also be criticised as useless and a waste of money! It all comes down to this: technology does not exist within a vacuum. Instead, it must be viewed as an integral part of an organisation, and unless all the other aspects of the organisation are addressed – its people, culture, processes and any necessary change management – tech rollout projects are always going to be a disappointment. Charles Christian is the Editor-at-Large of the Legal IT Insider newsletter and also talks about Tech & Geek Stuff on Twitter at @ChristianUncut
Modern Law 43
There’s something in the pipeline... The Law Society CON29DW
What makes the CON29DW unique?
With the abundance of conveyancing reports on the market, it’s good to know that the Law Society introduced the CON29DW in 2002 to promote a consistent approach to property-specific drainage and water information.
When speaking to clients we find that the CON29DW is usually the drainage and water search of choice. It is the ONLY search that:
With 23 questions and two accurate Ordnance Survey maps showing assets and pipes, it ensures that property buyers get a consistent and thorough drainage and water search regardless of where the property is located in the country.
• includes TWO separate maps to illustrate the position of both drainage and water assets
This standardisation of property information is very much in line with the Government’s current proposals for improving the homebuying process as it helps to reduce uncertainty and unnecessary delays.
• includes answers to ALL 23 Law Society copyrighted questions on drainage and water
• does NOT infer or insure against answers to Law Society questions • does NOT refer customers to a different source of information • provides FULL protection to residential property buyers • provides effective REDRESS for homebuyers in the case of incorrect information
Our new-generation CON29DW Despite the thoroughness of the report, the Geodesys team is constantly speaking to homebuyers who have not understood the implications of identified drainage and water issues. Bearing this in mind, we set ourselves a challenge of ensuring that Geodesys’ version of the CON29DW offers the best possible information and explanation to conveyancers and buyers. We come across examples every day where a property’s value and enjoyment have been affected by related issues – so we felt it was important to paint a picture of why this could be the case.
The redesigned CON29DW provides this information upfront, ensuring that the homebuyer is empowered either to proceed with confidence or to make further enquiries of the seller. As a result, it’s much less likely that a deal-breaking issue will emerge later in the process.
The new-generation CON29DW from Geodesys is now live! For more information and to arrange a product presentation, please contact: Jonny Davey Product Manager 01480 326 093.
CON29DW – about to make the conveyancer’s job even easier The redesigned CON29DW from Geodesys launches this April with the following key features: • a new crystal-clear front-page customer dashboard highlighting information on key questions • clearer identification of potential issues on the dashboard • easy-to-use interactive navigation so it’s easy for users to retrieve relevant information from the details in the report • two formats: interactive PDF and usual print format • improved information on drainage and water legislation • an updated ‘plain English’ guide explaining how specific issues could affect value and further development • a new design created by industry experts
Geodesys. About to get even better. www.geodesys.com
Freelancing the future The legal landscape will not stop changing anytime soon, Gun Judge, Addleshaw Goddard explains as she examines developing attitudes towards the legal freelancer and the solutions this new breed of workload flexibility can offer to legal professionals and clients.
aw is going through a dramatic transformation period. Business models are changing, consolidation is occurring, advances in technology are exponential, market saturation is at an all-time high, funding and regulative agendas are heightening; then there’s Brexit. Add to this employee satisfaction and their expectation of flexibility and agility coupled with the changes in client behaviours and their daily demands of more for less. All of this leaves firms facing a future of significant change and one that brings with it challenges – but also benefits. Perceptions about a career in law are also changing; gone are the days when you needed to work ungodly hours and be chained to your desk dealing with relentless volumes of work. New, previously non-existent roles are also being carved out. Legal tech and AI, automated services and paralegal hubs like our Transaction Services Team (TST) provide a more imaginative solution to resourcing lower level assignments, and the thought of outsourcing work to a freelancer is one which no longer receives a raised eyebrow. The legal freelancer The legal freelance community has come on in leaps and bounds. Gone are the days when it solely focused on people wanting a better work-life balance; new models of working allow clients to pick and choose quality candidates for ad-hoc or contract roles and give professionals access to exciting and demanding work, without the commitment of being nine to five, five days a week. Yet, despite steps being taken with regards to accepting freelance consultants as serious, quality professionals, the global legal freelance market remains relatively small, boarding the question – is the sector as ready as it thinks it is and can we really embrace the changes the new law world brings to working practices? To that I’d answer yes! The speed of evolution in the sector is rapid; what’s taken thirty years could now take three. Yes, law has been behind other sectors when it comes to utilising and offering freelance services, but firms and clients now truly believe that being able to resource work in different, more efficient ways, not only gives you a competitive advantage but allows you to deliver the same quality results expected, on demand, with the cost efficiencies required. Our Integrate offering, which we launched in 2015, does exactly that - helps clients access a broad range of high-quality legal services on an “as needed” basis with expertise bespoke to their particular needs, for consultants, the beauty of Integrate is that there is no one size fits all solution. Consultants come from a variety of backgrounds; we see a mix of young professionals wanting to broaden their experience, mid-career lawyers craving a better work-life balance and seasoned experts wanting interesting ad-hoc projects. Fit for purpose For those seeking to take the plunge into the seemingly unknown, or a business looking to employ a consultant, one thing I’d encourage them to remember is that it’s all about fit. The fit of the role, the fit for the individual and the fit for the client or firm. When we introduced AG Integrate we knew we needed to focus on fit, and by breaking down boundaries between legal experts who work differently, we could attract talent that others can’t reach, fit them to roles that suit their personal requirements and fit into our clients’ workplaces seamlessly. I mean, we all know that talented people don’t all live and work in the same place and they don’t want to work in the same way. Finding
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Law will no longer be able to sit still; it must continue to adapt and diversify and therefore so must its working practices and the attitudes of lawyers people whose skills, drive and values fit is essential when placing high quality freelance consultants. Lily Dou, one of our consultants and a forensic accountant, is currently working as part of our corporate crime team. She said that freelancing not only gave her a fantastic work-life balance, but believes it’s all about the fit of a role: “You can work as much or as little as you need, but it’s all about how you tailor the relationship with the client. Being a part of Integrate balances the objective of the assignment with being receptive to my needs.” Why jump? Becoming a freelancer is not an easy option and shouldn’t be one that individuals take lightly. Factors like financial uncertainty and that the work isn’t as linear as it is in-house or in private practice can put many off. However, the benefits can outstrip the risks, and having the option to dip into a pool of varied and quality work is an attractive option for many. Potential consultants should ask themselves what they want to achieve and be honest with themselves as this will form the cornerstone of their career moving forwards. My advice for anyone thinking of a freelance career is to ask yourself two things: 1. Do you have the skills needed to work this way? 2. Can you truly motivate yourself? If you can whole-heartedly answer yes to both, then that’s half the battle. The next is succeeding, and although services like AG Integrate can help, success is down to a number of things: emotional intelligence to build quality relationships quickly, independence to feel comfortable being in charge of your own career, entrepreneurial spirit to hunt out opportunities and adapt and resilience to weather the highs and potential lows of a freelancing career. With placements working in various ways: through temporary secondments, remote working, or creating a blend of law firm and freelance consultant expertise, the benefits are vast and non-lawyer roles are coming through more and more. We now have forensic accountants, legal project managers and company secretarial consultants on our books. This plethora of new roles means there are options left, right and centre. For us, having a wide variety of roles means that we can find the best talent, which suits our clients, allows us to offer something different and a new way of thinking and allows consultants to feel part of a community, who can leverage and access resources from a larger firm. One of our Integrate freelance consultants, Toby Cummins, found himself redundant and wanted to use his change in situation as a springboard to into a more varied career. He said: “Freelancing
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The benefits can outstrip the risks, and having the option to dip into a pool of varied and quality work is an attractive option for many suits my personality, particularly my open and commercial style of working. Integrate were able to identify the type of lawyer I am and found a role that fitted both mine and the clients’ needs, and they recognised that they would be able to accommodate my circumstances when considering me as a candidate for this role.” Giving clients the choice Clients are also on a journey of change and need more savvy ways to manage workloads. With continuing constraints on budget, in-house teams often ask us how they can better manage their never ending workloads and still deliver high quality work.
Attitudes to freelancing will also adapt; no longer will consultants be seen as an option to fill voids, but instead be seen as a solution to get the talent (legal and non-legal) needed and a way to streamline businesses without hampering on quality. All of this change to working practices will mean firms need to continually consider how to best manage their client relationships, people and wider resources, but those who can combine the best of new business models with the traditions of law will be successful in the new-world of law. Gun Judge is Head of AG Integrate at Addleshaw Goddard.
Outsourcing projects, using paralegal hubs, tech and freelancers bring benefits to the clients and the firm, gives peace of mind and helps manage time more efficiently, without the risk or budget worries of hiring a full time employee. Integrating services like ours is novel and it isn’t easy. Anyone working in the area will agree that you have to work hard in order to get it right and that the learnings never stop. In an increasingly pressurised legal environment, our clients tell us they like the simplicity of accessing all the expertise they need – from specialist advice to a volume project delivered efficiently – through one legal provider. Having a straightforward approach that’s part of a wider service delivery approach (AG Intelligent Delivery) gives more options, greater choice over how clients manage their legal risk and more control. One of our clients, The Co-Operative Group, have been using Integrate as a way to manage ad hoc projects. Chris Aujard, GC said; “It’s a perfect match between clients’ needs and lawyers’ changing approach to work. AG Integrate provides us with professionals who fit in easily and add value quickly.” A flexible future Law will no longer be able to sit still; it must continue to adapt and diversify, and therefore so must its working practices and the attitudes of lawyers. Routes into law will continue to change; offering a more diverse group of people access to a career in law is vital in order to offer clients the skills mix they need. Apprenticeship offerings, like our solicitor apprenticeship programme, and new options for those coming back to a career in law after career breaks will be commonplace. Paralegal hubs are common practice today, but continued success will be down to their deployment, integration and collaboration into both clients’ businesses and the firms.
It’s all about fit. The fit of the role, the fit for the individual and the fit for the client or firm Issue 34 35
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Probate: choosing the right software to do the work effectively and profitably Choosing an effective solution for your probate work is essential in a growing and competitive market. Gregory van Dyk Watson, Isokon, explains what you should be looking out for when choosing the right supplier.
ase management illusion
A common expression used to refer to software for probate work is ‘Probate Case Management.’ This is a misnomer. Case management is the easy part of probate work. It involves keeping track of the tasks involved, and outputting a series of relatively standard letters and oaths. The case management component addresses no more than approximately 20% of probate estate administration. The bulk of estate administration is about collecting and collating the finances of the deceased estate to enable an accurate set of accounts to be produced at the touch of a button, along with the automatic population and production of a myriad of inheritance tax forms. Accounting system database An accounting system (double entry to highlight errors) is a fundamental requirement to doing the work profitably and efficiently, in order to deal with the plethora of inheritance tax details, such as: l separating post death income from accrued income l dealing with post probate adjustments l accounting for an abatement of assets l dealing with capital gains/losses and revaluations l accounting for packaged products such as ISAs and SIPPs and other financial instruments l listing the market value of equities and their dividends l calculating the cash value to the beneficiary who does not want shares
Choosing the right probate software supplier A search on the Internet suggests that almost every firm offering practice management software includes a probate software module tacked onto the tail end of their software. A careful examination reveals that in most cases this ‘fag end’ addition is no more than rudimentary. It serves the purpose of satisfying the purchaser that it is a one stop shop, even though it is often not fit for purpose. In these cases it is not a satisfactory solution and will often not enable your fee earners to do the work completely and satisfactorily without using a supplementary spreadsheet to perform the calculations manually.
Support from an experienced supplier Purchasing the software is half of the solution. Quality support from your software supplier in dealing with some of the intricacies of the work is a sine qua non, especially in assisting your lesser experienced team members. This type of expert probate work support is more likely to be available from a dedicated software supplier in this area of work than you are likely to find from a jack of all trades software supplier. Gross profit margin of 70% A bulging bank of wills is no longer a guarantee of an abundance of probate work. In the face of increasing competition, doing the work profitably is a fundamental contribution to the survival and growth of the firm. The target for doing the work profitably should be a minimum of 70% gross profit margin, which can be achieved by use of a fit for purpose accounting system database integrated with an effective case management component.
l constantly recalculating the money due to the residuary beneficiaries
Leadership and accepting the change Regardless of the quality of the software and support, the successful implementation of the software is dependent upon leadership. Adopting probate software invariably requires a change in doing the work. Leadership is about leading the team through the change to a new way of working - persuading and enthusing the team to adopt the new process comfortably and positively.
Dealing with these issues is clearly beyond the capability of case management software. Using an Excel spreadsheet instead to track these items and make the calculations accurately is fraught with risks to the firm.
Gregory van Dyk Watson is the Founder and Managing Director of Isokon Limited, having invested 44,000 man hours in the development of software for probate estate administration over the last twenty years. Isokon is used by more than 40% of the law firms who do probate work.
l auto calculating the net or gross tax of equities, gilts and unit trusts l listing the foreign shares and calculating the tax due under double taxation agreements
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Conveyancing scams cost over 100K on average per case n December 2016 the Solicitors Regulation Authority identified conveyancing fraud as the most common cyber crime in the legal sector. It suggested that a quarter of firms had been targeted by online fraudsters, and in one in ten of these cases, money had been stolen as a result. Victims of conveyancing scams lose £101,000 on average – not an amount anyone can afford to lose easily.
Fraud though can take various forms, whether this is through suspicious emails, which could lead to an erroneous transfer of funds, a potential new client coming to you with fake identification or clients being defrauded themselves, possibly by one of more of their own employees, and looking to you for advice. On this latter point, who would you turn to? A well established business with experience of similar cases or would you leave your client to fend for themselves? We find that our solicitor clients regularly recommend and introduce us to their client, and that way we deal with the client direct, the
solicitor has no issues with budgetary requirements and limits, this is dealt with directly and they would simply see the results. Results come in various forms. If surveillance is undertaken this may not yield results immediately. Alternatively, we have known cases be completed in a few hours and all points covered off. Similarly, should you be considering a background profiling report on an individual to locate assets to consider whether to pursue a claim, this may uncover potential avenues to more than cover any debt owed. If the police need to be involved, providing a full report to them with relevant supporting documentation will ensure that there is scope for the matter to be reviewed more readily. Whatever the issue, speedy action and clear communication, together with specific information, will assist in ensuring a resolution. Chris Taylor, Commercial Director, SIRS Europe. SIRS is an investigation and discovery company, specialising in corporate investigations worldwide, together with the location of assets and individuals
Recognising the problems facing interpreters L
egal practitioners will need no reminding of the consequences for our Criminal Justice System following huge recent changes to legal aid, probation, the prison service and court interpreting.
The provision of court interpreting services has considerably deteriorated since the service was outsourced in 2012 and is still the focus of huge amounts of ongoing criticism. The criterion of a quality service is put to one side in favour of a chimaera of cost savings. Then Facebook and Twitter are awash with sorry tales from angry solicitors and others who have been badly let down by interpreting services. This is attributable to a number of causes, but primarily, the failure to recognise the need to protect title. Essentially, anyone can call themselves an interpreter and register with an agency, to the point of ridicule where a rabbit, cat and even a dog were able to register with the original agency. You may recognise the problems; • The interpreter fails to arrive or, • Leaves before the hearing is concluded or, • Can’t speak the correct language or, • Can’t speak English.
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Maybe they do not have the necessary qualifications, experience or security clearance. The results include wasted time, disruption to your diary and considerable unnecessary expense. There is also a great risk of a miscarriage of justice. We professionals recall with horror the case of R-v-Begum (Court of Appeal 6187/B/64). Enquiries were made by the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee by way of the National Audit Office (NAO), which produced scathing reports, and the Justice Select Committee, where Rt Hon Alan Beith MP spoke in a Commons debate on the subject. The MoJ, at the PAC insistence, commissioned an independent report by Matrix. The MoJ “did not accept” crucial recommendations and attempts to improve the service were vague and insubstantial. When the framework was up for renewal it was morphed into a single contract, and the original contractor walked away from it. For daily updates please consult Twitter and Facebook. Geoffrey Buckingham, French Interpreter and Translator, Member of the Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI).
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Why your law firm should invest in local PR Helen Campbell, Head of PR at The Ideal Marketing Company, explains the value of coverage in the local media. hat’s worth more to your law firm – a story in The Times or your local weekly paper? Getting positive national coverage is great. However, there are times when good local PR is worth as much (if not more), in terms of attracting and retaining clients. Getting into the nationals (for the right reasons) is a timeconsuming business with no guarantee of success, especially for smaller regional firms.
What is the point of your PR? Like all areas of marketing, PR needs to be strategically planned. You need to decide why you are seeking publicity and how it will help you. For most law firms, it’s about attracting more clients, so start by thinking about where current and potential clients come from. If you are based in Birmingham, your clients are highly unlikely to come from Bristol. They will be drawn from a small radius around your practice – probably no more than twenty miles away. So, why waste all that time trying to reach a UK-wide audience when you have an audience that is far more likely to be interested in your services right on your doorstep? Local media now includes so much more than just newspapers. Just like its national counterpart, local media outlets are working to create a more prominent online presence. For example, many local newspapers and radio stations have a healthy following on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This helps to ensure that any press releases or articles you have published get wider coverage and reach different demographics. Planning a local media PR strategy for your law firm As you would do with any case, do your research. Find out what local newspapers, radio stations, TV programmes, magazines and websites exist in your area. Which of those publications are potential clients most likely to read/listen to/watch?
You need to decide who you want to target. In my experience, any PR or marketing campaign will be more successful if focused on a specific demographic. Decide what age or gender you want to reach. Do you want to communicate with the general public or the business community? Newspapers are still well read in the local community and a significant proportion of that audience could be interested in your services. So, a publication with a good online presence and well-used social platforms is a great option. Next, work on building a relationship with relevant journalists who should already be interested in you because you have a local story to tell. Drop them an email to introduce yourself and offer to be on hand to comment on any story with a legal slant so you are their go-to law firm. Match content to your target audience Decide on the services that are most likely to interest your prospects and adapt content accordingly. Local newspapers tend to be read by an older demographic whilst younger clients are likely to go online. Approach newspapers with stories around the sorts of services that older people are more likely to be interested in: wills, probate, care homes and power of attorney. Online publications with a younger readership might be more interested in family law, employment law, or divorce services. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s easy to get quality coverage in the local media. It takes planning, research and skill to identify the right publications and the right stories. Helen Campbell, Head of PR, The Ideal Marketing Company. If you are interested in finding out more about how local PR could help your law firm visit www.idealmarketingcompany.com.
Why waste all that time trying to reach a UK-wide audience when you have an audience that is far more likely to be interested in your services right on your doorstep? 50 Modern Law
Why law firms need to get flexible Legal recruitment and retaining talent is a big problem and continues to be a huge priority for most law firms. With such a chronic skills shortage behind the problem, it’s definitely a candidate’s market right now, writes Ian Partington, Simply Law Jobs. ltimately, law firms looking to retain their top talent need to ensure that their staff are happy, starting with the basics – look at how your staff are managed, career progression opportunities, performance related bonuses and work life balance.
Is it fair to assume that lawyers will be predominantly motivated by money? Well, no actually. A flexible work/life balance is a big driving force behind most employees these days, not just in the legal field. It’s no secret that lawyers work incredibly long and stressful hours and this often directly impacts on their private life. With staff shortages in firms, workloads become intensified, which can result in staff just burning out – it’s a real problem. By offering flexible working arrangements, the talent pool immediately grows. What works for one might not necessarily work for another though, so find what works for your staff on a case by case basis. You can do simple things such as conducting a staff motivation questionnaire, or asking in a one-to-one “what motivates you?” or “where do you want to be in a year?” By asking these simple questions, it lets your staff know that you want to motivate them, and that you see them being here a year down the line. Showing that you care is the first step. In some cases, it may be as simple as praise and recognition, but more often than not, it comes down to flexibility. Job sharing, parental leave, working from home, additional holidays and nine day fortnights are just some of the ways you could be flexible and give your firm an edge over your competitors. With employers seriously concerned about finding suitable replacements, there is a huge issue with employers resorting to ‘buying-back’ their employees, typically with promotions or salary raises that can run into thousands of pounds. While you may have retained a good employee, at least in the short term anyway, it’s important to address the influencing factors of why they wanted to
The better way to manage leads and onboard new clients Issue 34 35 Issue
Is it fair to assume that lawyers will be predominantly motivated by money? Well, no actually. A flexible work/life balance is a big driving force behind most employees these days leave in the first place. Failing that, you run the risk of losing them for good a few months down the line. So what do you do if you do lose staff? Sometimes, it can be inevitable - personal factors can mean that you may lose staff through no fault of the company. In these cases, it can be difficult to get the ball rolling in getting someone new in, but here are three tips: 1. Think quality over quantity: Using a generic job board might return hundreds of applications, but the majority won’t be relevant for those higher end roles. 2. Write the perfect job description: The advert for the job is so often overlooked or a rushed part of the recruitment process, but in reality it’s key to finding your ideal candidate. 3. Don’t carry the burden yourself: There are a multitude of flexible services available these days, whether it be a job board or a recruitment agency, that work as an extension of your own business. Utilising one of these can save you time and money, as well as delivering the goods. Just make sure you pick the one that has a proven track record and offers the right service for you. Ian Partington is Chief Operating Officer of Simply Law Jobs.
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Simply Complete Solicitors takes client service to the next level with Eclipse’s Proclaim and TouchPoint+ solutions clipse Legal Systems, the sole Law Society Endorsed legal software provider, is implementing its Proclaim Case Management Software solution at Gloucestershire firm, Simply Complete Solicitors.
Specialising in Conveyancing and Probate services, Simply Complete has extensive experience in combining expert legal advice with fast, attentive and practical help that’s tailored to each client. Offering a friendly and approachable service, the firm prides itself on its ability to work quickly and efficiently, whilst maintaining constant contact from start to finish. The Proclaim Case Management Software solution will be rolled out across the Conveyancing and Probate departments, serving to provide the team with a consistent approach to work, whilst the inbuilt automation tools will eliminate a number of time-consuming tasks. In a move to further personalise its client service offering, Simply Complete has implemented Eclipse’s self-service portal, TouchPoint+. Using real-time data from Proclaim – with the ability to display as much or as little as desired – the firm will be able to offer clients case updates within a fully interactive environment, and across a number of devices. Furthermore, the team will be able to style TouchPoint+ entirely in line with the firm’s branding,
as well as offer targeted news feeds, social media links and crossselling opportunities. Fiona Capehorn, Director of Simply Complete, comments: “Not only is Proclaim the market-leading solution for case management, but with Eclipse’s extensive knowledge of the sector and its latest TouchPoint+ innovation, it means we can truly personalise the experience our clients receive, and enhance our service offering.” TouchPoint+ also includes ready-to-go integration with Eclipse’s online communication tools, SecureDocs (an online document delivery and acceptance tool), and FileView (an online matter tracking solution), enabling Simply Complete to provide 24/7 client service from an ‘always on, always visible’ solution. Fiona continues: “Being able to offer all of Eclipse’s online communication tools from one centralised portal will really streamline the client journey – in fact, the entire process can now be carried out from clients’ sofas should they wish, eliminating the need to visit our office! Ultimately, as a new start-up it’s important to us that we’re constantly improving the services on offer, and thanks to the sheer flexibility of Proclaim and TouchPoint+, this can be achieved effortlessly.” For further information, please contact Darren Gower, Marketing Director at Eclipse Legal Systems, part of Capita plc, via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01274 704100. Alternatively, visit www.eclipselegal.co.uk
Are you paying a ‘Pollution Premium’? H
omebuyers in England and Wales spent £24.9bn during 2017 in areas where nitrogen dioxide levels are likely to exceed legal limits – affecting one in twenty (5%) residential transactions.
One in ten transactions within Slough (12%) were affected, while the same was true for more than one in twenty transactions in Greater Manchester (7%), Portsmouth (6%), Thurrock (6%) and Surrey (6%).
This was a key finding in a recent study we conducted on air pollution with our new data partners EarthSense, examining property and land data from HM Land Registry alongside environmental data from EarthSense Systems on average Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels caused by vehicle emissions and other sources.
Postcodes with higher levels of NO2 often fall within central urban areas with higher concentrations of amenities and infrastructure, or otherwise near transport hubs. This can mean the prices paid for properties in polluted areas are sometimes higher than in clean postcodes – leaving buyers effectively paying a premium for a property or location that also exposes them to poorer quality air.
Of the 850,000 homes that changed hands in England and Wales during 2017, nearly 41,500 were in areas where NO2 levels are likely to exceed annual legal limits – worsening in peak traffic and stagnant weather conditions. The findings highlight the extent to which residential transactions are bringing homebuyers into contact with poor quality air, and raise questions about how wellinformed they are about the environments they choose to buy in.
As of 30th April, all Future Climate Info reports include EarthSense MappAir® data, the UK’s first and only air quality dataset at 100m resolution, offering homebuyers and property investors the best, high resolution air quality data available. Geoff Offen, Managing Director, Future Climate Info (FCI).
Currently, 7% of postcodes in England and Wales have NO2 levels that are likely to exceed annual legal limits. Our analysis indicated that these postcodes accounted for 5% of all homebuyer transactions last year – nearly 41,500 in total – at an average price of £601,109. However, the share of transactions taking place in polluted areas is far higher in some parts of the country. •
Over a third (35%) of nearly 57,000 residential transactions that took place in Greater London in 2017 were in polluted postcodes.
Outside of Greater London, 1.5% of all property transactions took place in polluted postcodes across England and Wales, with 23 counties or metropolitan boroughs exceeding this average.
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Modern Law Law 53 53 Modern
10 MINUTES WITH
Norman Kenvyn Q A
Did you expect the legal services sector to change so drastically when you started working in it?
When we first entered the sector, we had a reasonable idea of how and where we thought our services would fit in; filling the gap between the traditional bank lenders and the fixed term, inflexible loan providers. What worries us at the moment is that law firms are being forced to change to survive, due to the various reforms. For example, firms that were once focused on one specific sector, i.e. road traffic accidents, are now all of a sudden ‘Clin Neg’ experts. This can only cause problems and, as has already been seen, leads to a number of firms having to close their doors. You can never anticipate what’s going to happen when you first enter a market. You like to think that everything is going to stay reasonably stable but this is never a reality. You’ve got to embrace change and not be scared of it. Did I expect so much change? No, but reality and common sense probably said that something would happen, and what you’ve got to do is adapt and embrace accordingly.
What has been the key positive or negative impact of the liberalisation of legal services?
By opening up the market this gives opportunity and diversification, however, unless the business model and cash flow have been properly thought through, this will undoubtedly lead to problems. There will be casualties but equally there will be real opportunity, and for the law firms that do ‘spread their wings’ and build from a solid business model and financial foundation, the future has real prospects.
Who inspires you and why?
My background has been in the structuring and provision of asset backed finance, and in my time I have been fortunate enough to get to know a wide number of friends and colleagues as well as working for various high performance companies including GE Capital CEF UK; Lombard and AT&T. Taking GE in particular, it is a world leading, multinational company that enabled me to work alongside a number of highly successful individuals, each with different approaches and skill sets that have undoubtedly rubbed off and thereby helped shape my career.
You’ve got to embrace change and not be scared of it It is this wide combination of abilities that gave me the confidence to start my own finance company and then to form VFS, of which I am very proud. Outside of work I follow motor racing. Seeing the skill, commitment and the desire to win of both teams and the individual drivers, of course they inspire, regardless of ever changing circumstance, and you can only admire their constant pursuit for that extra fraction or marginal gain in order to achieve their best possible result. So to answer the question, not one individual but an ever changing mix of people, including friends and colleagues, who use their own or team abilities to get to the top of their game, be it business or sport.
Have you had a mentor? If so, what was the most valuable piece of advice they gave you?
As referred to above, whilst I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a range of successful people from my days at GE and other market leading companies, it was when I formed a finance company and listed it on Plus; my Chairman at the time was a successful, entrepreneurial banker and financier and reminded me to remember to listen (the two ears, one mouth rule), to challenge as need be but importantly, to have an open mind, a trait I try to take with me at work and at home.
If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?
I like challenges, physical or mental, and will always try my hardest. If I had the skills, and the budget, then I would love to have tried some form of racing; sadly this is limited to monthly karting. Combining this with golf, when time allows or skiing at least once a year, gives me the physical challenges. From a mental perspective, I find poker is a relaxing way to spend time. However, the reality is that I have three daughters and the imminent sound of wedding bells, so this is my focus, as well as my new grandson. As to what I would actually been doing if not building VFS; whilst I have often been asked to work with colleagues and that is the simple answer, I guess the reality would be I would still have formed my own company – but who knows? Norman Kenvyn is Founder and CEO of VFS Legal Funding.
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