THE BUSINESS OF LAW
LEGAL TECH ROCKET LAWYER
Read how Fletcher Longstaff has A legal tech partnership to increased its business online and be reckoned with, supporting across the UK using high tech millions globally with blockchain- business management solutions fuelled smart contracts and full pricing transparency
KEEN BUT CAUTIOUS Despite the innovations for customers, are law firms implementing legal tech or is it all hype? LexisNexis shares its latest research
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WELCOME In a sector where customers are ‘at the heart’ of so many law firms’ mission statements, it’s interesting to see how this is being played out in action with the dawn of pricing transparency, increasing deregulation and a call for ‘more choice’ from the regulators. While I’m not sure that a lack of legal models is the main barrier to customers accessing the legal system, a lack of clarity on cost, disparity on access to services, poor, irregular communication and poor service can be a clear vote-loser when it comes to picking a lawyer. If you look at TrustPilot, Facebook and other review-hosting websites, one of the main concerns for customers is a lack of communication and waiting times after an enquiry. I suspect that while most law firms are on social media and have the means to be contacted 24/7, a lack of processes, tools and resources to manage enquiries quickly, effectively and long after client care can often result in some of the weaker reviews.
Thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom. There are a considerable number of firms engaged in, testing, using and benefitting from some of the most advanced technological solutions out there to support customers, clients, consumers – whatever you’d prefer to call them. In this issue you’ll hear from some of those leading the way and taking on the risk in innovating, implementing and embracing new (and not so new) tech to benefit the end user – most often the customer. We have some exceptional features, interviews and opinion pieces, all focused on one thing: how to use legal tech to improve the quality of service for the customer / end user – thereby making the legal industry more accessible, more efficient and of more value through increased access to justice and legal protection. As you’ll hear from Adam Cheal at Fletcher Longstaff, you don’t have to run a vast legal enterprise to make tech work for you. In fact, if you’ve got to this page, you’ll
have already seen our conversation on page 32. My sincere thanks, as ever, to our outstanding editorial board and contributors (regular or new) for their take on tech and customer service. There are some fantastic pieces in this issue so make time to imbibe them until we see each other in the New Year. To echo the sentiments of Sarah Boustouller, Head of Marketing & Partner at Stephensons Solicitors (page 52), don’t delay change, lead a culture of difference, put the customer at the heart of your plans and make your move. If you don’t, you’ll be sure to eat the dust of those winning your customers’ hearts and business…
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Editorial Contributors Adam Bullion, Head of Marketing, InfoTrack Adrienne Cohen, Jt Managing Director, Silverman Advisory Alisa Gray, Director of Business Development, Kaplan Altior Andrew Davies, Managing Director, SpeechWrite Digital Andrew McKie, Barrister & Founder, Barrister-Direct RESOLVE Anurag Bana, Senior Legal Advisor, International Bar Association Anna Yamaoka-Enkerlin, Editor, Oxford University Undergraduate Law Journal Ben Mitchell, Global Head of Commercial Operations, DocsCorp Colin Fowle, Managing Director, Blue Car Technologies Limited Charles Christian, Editor, Legal IT Insider Craig Campbell, Product Director, tmgroup Darren Gower, Marketing Director, Eclipse Legal Services Dave Seager, Development Director, SIFA Ltd Edna Hammami, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Legit Claims Professor Hugh Koch, Birmingham City University Jacqueline Harvey, Senior ATE Underwriter, AmTrust Law James Dobson, Marketing Director, Smartsearch
ISSUE 39 ISSN 2050-5744
Jane Malcolm, Executive Director, SRA. Jayne Smith, Managing Director, Bluebird Jonny Davey, Product Manager, Geodesys. John Hogg, Managing Director, Enlighten IC Mark Holt, Commercial Director, Frenkel Topping Mark Richardson, Operations Manager, VFS Legal Funding Nikki Greenway, Head of Information Technology and Governance, Legal Ombudsman Norm Mullock, VP, Strategy, Wilson Legal Solutions Peter Ambrose, Director, The Partnership Property Solicitors Richard Burcher, Chairman, Burcher Jennings Rich Dibbins, Head of Sales and Digital Strategy, Conscious Sophia Adams Bhatti, Director of Legal and Regulatory Policy at The Law Society Vanessa Ugatti, The True Worth Expert Vibeke Bjornfors, Regulatory Policy Manager, Legal Services Board Wayne Gallant, Co-Founder & CEO, GetMeMoving Yvonne Hirons, Global CEO, Perfect Portal
Co-Editor | Emma Waddingham Co-Editor | Poppy Green Project Manager | Martin Smith Events Sales | Kate McKittrick
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.
Anurag Bana and Anna Yamaoka-Enkerlin talk news… The blockchain revolution is coming for the legal sector. Remaining competitive in the face of disruptive innovation means adopting a global outlook will only become more critical.
Jimmy Vestbirk Legal Geek, updates us on the punchy event platform that reaches thousands of legal professionals each year; the cultural shift required to implement change and if he thinks legal tech has moved out of it’s ‘hype’ phase.
Light years ahead We spoke to Rocket Lawyer and Open Law to hear about the partnership with ConsenSys to deliver smart legal contracts, how far ahead of the game they really are and why legal could well be the next ‘killer’ app.
Keen but Cautious Modern Law spoke to Sophie Gould, LexisNexis, about its very recent research that examined the reality of in-house lawyer’s use and perception of legal tech and provides a useful five-step approach to drive successful legal technology adoption.
LSB Consultation on new regulatory Internal Governance Rules Vibeke Bjornfors, Legal Services Board (LSB) Taking advantage of new technology Jane Malcolm, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Human flourishing: the role of legal technology Sophia Adams Bhatti, The Law Society of England & Wales Collaborating with Tech Nikki Greenway, Legal Ombudsman (LeO)
23 25 27
Plugged in Edna Hammami, Legit Claims Let’s not make conveyancing cheaper Adam Bullion, InfoTrack Using technology to improve the conveyancing process Jonny Davey, Geodesys Legal tech risks Mark Richardson, VFS Legal Funding Clear winner Adam Cheal, Fletcher Longstaff, explains how his awardwinning conveyancing firm has moved into #2 on for legal services on TrustPilot thanks to significant tech investment and utilising Perfect Portal Is tech the answer to ‘just in time’ training needs? Alisa Gray, Kaplan Altior
29 31 31 32
EDITORIAL BOARD CONTRIBUTORS
There’s no excuse Vanessa Ugatti, The True Worth Expert A homegrown challenge Colin Fowle, Blue Car Technologies Limited Collaborate for clarity Jacqueline Harvey, AmTrust Law Speed, security & transparency Craig Campbell, tmgroup A cloud of silver linings Adrienne Cohen, Silverman Advisory Emotive value Mark Holt, Frenkel Topping Mergers & acquisitions = ingested files, which = hidden files Ben Mitchell, DocsCorp Improving work / life balance Andrew Davies, SpeechWrite Digital Happy firm, happy clients Richard Burcher, Burcher Jennings Putting a spring into your legal step Professor Hugh Koch, Birmingham City University. Next Generation Jason Connolly, JMC Legal Recruitment Be transparent; win more business Yvonne Hirons, Perfect Portal AML reporting made easy James Dobson, Smartsearch Connect the dots Norm Mullock, Wilson Legal Solutions Is your website guilty? John Hogg, Enlighten IC
37 37 39 39 41 41 43 43 45 45 47 47 48 48
Maximising client care through tech: it’s the clients, stupid Charles Christian, Legal IT Insider 51 Get on the offensive with tech Geoff Dunnett, Shieldpay 52 Change it up Sarah Boustouller, Stephensons Solicitors LLP explains why a change of approach to client engagement is an essential today, not tomorrow. 54 No substitute for experience Andrew McKie, Barrister-Direct RESOLVE 56 Servicing clients when you’re not there Rich Dibbins, Conscious 57 Collaborate in confidence Dave Seager, SIFA 58 Word up Jayne Smith, Bluebird 59 One-to-one Peter Ambrose, The Partnership Property Solicitors. 61 Case Study – Eclipse DJ Alexander opts for Legal Eclipse’s Proclaim solution to support expansion.
Wayne Gallant, GetMeMoving
EDITORIAL BOARD CONTRIBUTORS
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BLOCKCHAIN A GLOBAL REVOLUTION The blockchain revolution is coming for the legal sector. Remaining competitive in the face of disruptive innovation means adopting a global outlook will only become more critical. Such an approach to the nexus between the law, practice and blockchain makes at least three emerging trends apparent, as Anurag Bana, International Bar Association and Anna Yamaoka-Enkerlin, Oxford University Undergraduate Law Journal report. 1. Cryptocurrency and the firm When people say ‘the blockchain’, they are often referring to the bitcoin blockchain network, of which bitcoin (the unit of value or currency) is a feature. However, the bitcoin blockchain is only one type of blockchain. In short, blockchain refers to a shared cryptographically secured ledger that records data and value between users in chronological order, creating an immutable rec-ord of transactions. Cryptocurrency generally refers to a medium or unit of exchange that uses cryptography as security and is created without an issuer or contract. As law firms explore ways to respond to client pressure for alternative fee arrangements, ac-ceptance of cryptocurrency as payment is increasing. As far back as 2013 - 2014, early-adopters Selachii LLP and Sheridans began accepting bitcoin payments in the UK. Fast-forward to February 2018 and Piper Alderman, one of Australia’s old-est law firms, became the first major Australian law firm to do the same. Soon after, in May, DLx Law LLP was launched in New York and Washington. The firm, that has
an exclusive focus on blockchain technology and accepts cryptocurrency, calls itself a ‘new kind of law firm for a new kind of economy’. It joins a host of other firms in accepting cryptocurrencies, including larger US firms such as Frost Brown Todd, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, and McLaughlin & Stern LLP. Just this October, Canadian firm Macleod Law announced that it is the first larger firm in the country to accept cryptocurrencies as payment.
(FATF) will publish rules for the regulation of cryptocurrencies on an international level by June 2019. This should bring some muchneeded degree of clarity and international harmonisa-tion to this area, which may accelerate cryptocurrency’s proliferation. Law and technology is on the move, and lawyers should take note.
Benefits to customer experience include not only providing more payment flexibility but also offering a trusted partnership based on the firm’s own commitment to the paradigm shift being heralded by cryptocurrencies.
2. Blockchain and the courts
What remains to be seen is whether the risks - legal and ethical - of accepting cryptocurrencies outweigh the benefits to the customer experience. Issues involved include unclear tax implications, cryptocurrencies’ volatile valuation, KYC and AML compliance difficulties, in addition to professional privilege, confidentiality and other ethi-cal landmines including cybersecurity concerns. These may not be insurmountable. Technologi-cal solutions to these barriers to adoption are under development. Perhaps having technically inclined lawyers deliberately involved in this process could lead to cryptocurrencies that are ‘ethical by design’. Nevertheless, the uncertain policy landscape remains. While some jurisdictions are struggling to apply existing laws, others are creating bespoke but often, inconsistent regimes. On 19 September, the House of Common’s Treasury Committee underscored that some form of regulation of cryptocurrencies is imperative, and recommended that the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001 be extended to crypto-asset related activity. On 19 October, Reuters reported that the Financial Action Task Force
The potential for the immutable, time-stamping features of blockchain-powered applications to be applied towards protecting the integrity of evidence before court, is being realised. Caselines, a global digital evidence management software provider, announced in July that it applied for a patent for the use of blockchain within its evidence management platform, which it says is necessary to provide an absolute guarantee as to the authenticity of evidence. In August, Balanji Anbil, Head of Digital Architecture and Cyber Security at HM Courts & Tribu-nals Service, revealed that an investigation into how digital ledger technologies can be used to secure digital evidence is underway. The initiative involves developing upon a digital evidence audit trail proof of concept. This features a ‘chronological record of system activities which cap-ture how digital evidence has been created/accessed/ modified, by which entity, from what lo-cation, in such as way as to enable to reconstruction and examination of the sequence of evinc-es, and actions learn to the currency state of the digital evidence’. China’s Supreme Court already held in September that blockchain can be used to authenticate evidence in legal disputes in a case where blockchain was used to preserve and verify the integ-rity of online evidence of copyright infringement.
“Though lawyers are often charged with conservatism when it comes to innovation, when it comes to blockchain use cases the leap from theoretical solutionism to implementation is gaining momentum in courts worldwide.” 8
“Lawyers who do not understand the risks involved with technology such as blockchain as well as how it could be leveraged to the advantage of clients face a real risk of being left behind. “ The IBA’s Presidential Task Force on the Future of the Legal Services’ recent ‘Global Drivers of Change’ report pinpointed the growing power of emerging economies in the global legal market, and role of China adjusting and shaping international rules. The latest from China thus has implications for the legitimacy of the use of blockchain in court proceedings around the world. It is also reflective of the growing interest in blockchain adoption among the legal community in Asia. For instance, in August a South Korean Blockchain Law Society, that aims to promote interdisci-plinary collaborations and dialogue within the country’s justice and legislative sectors and gen-erally in the society, was founded by, among others, a presiding judge. Just prior to this, the Courts of the Future Forum and Smart Dubai announced an alliance to create the world’s first ‘Court of the Blockchain’. The initiatives’ reported first steps are directly relevant to practitioners in England and Wales, as it aims to explore how blockchain can be used to verify court judgements that need to be enforced in jurisdictions other than the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts. Though lawyers are often charged with conservatism when it comes to innovation, when it comes to blockchain use cases the leap from theoretical solutionism to implementation is gain-ing momentum in courts worldwide.
3. Blockchain and the duty of technological competency The rise of blockchain and cryptocurrencies continues to disrupt the law and the legal profes-sion. This raises the question - what are the ethical obligations associated with the use of this technology in practice? By the end of this year, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada intendeds to supplement the competency standard articulated in its’ Model Code of Professional Conduct with commentary directly addressing technological competence. The proposed commentary states: “A lawyer should understand the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, recognising the lawyer’s duty to protect confidential information…” This follows the step taken by the American Bar Association in 2012 when it adopted Comment 8 on Rule 1.1 (Competence): “To maintain the
requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” 31 states have adopted some form of this Model Rule. By contrast, the word ‘technology’ does not appear in the Bar Standards Board Handbook up-dated May 2018 or the Solicitor Regulatory Authority Handbook updated October 2017. Whether regulatory authorities in the UK will follow their North American counterparts remains to be seen. However, competence remains a core value. Given the increasing ubiquity of blockchainbased business and justice system use cases, understanding its basic implications for one’s client may in certain cases be an important aspect of competent legal service delivery. Moreover, even in the absence of any regulatory response, there is an evident business case for technical compe-tency. Lawyers who do not
understand the risks involved with technology such as blockchain as well as how it could be leveraged to the advantage of clients face a real risk of being left be-hind. William Gibson is often quoted as having said: “The future is here – it is just not very evenly distributed”. This seems to be an apt description of the state of cryptocurrency, blockchain, and its ongoing collision with the legal sector. The IBA’s Legal Policy & Research Unit is actively tracking these developments and their impacts. While this technology is disrupting all aspects practice, from the basics of billing to the workings of the judicial system and the governance of legal profession, the speed and extent of technological adoption may vary wildly. Digital gaps are al-ready appearing. The key not only to closing these gaps in the interest of access to justice but also to becoming an industry thought leader is breaking these silos. Anticipating what is new, what to look out for and how it can help clients will thus require lawyers to think globally while acting locally.
Anna Yamaoka-Enkerlin is Editor of the Oxford University Undergraduate Law Journal.
is the Senior Legal Advisor with the Legal Policy & Research Unit at the International Bar Association.
“Reuters reported that the Financial Action Task Force will publish rules for the regulation of cryptocurrencies on an international level by June 2019. This should bring some much-needed degree of clarity and international harmonisation to this area.” 9
JIMMY VESTBIRK Modern Law speaks to Jimmy Vestbirk, Legal Geek, about the punchy event platform that reaches thousands of legal professionals each year; the cultural shift required to implement change and if he thinks legal tech has moved out of it’s ‘hype’ phase. 10
ML: Have you evolved the programme over the last 12 months? JV: This is the first year that legal tech has moved out of the hype phase and it’s being adopted quickly in terms of trials and pilots. However, while there are a lot of trials, the tech is definitely being adopted. Our own network has progressed organically and is referral based. Our audience is predominantly big law focused but we also attract a number of boutiques. While we never had a huge high street presence, law tech does cover a broad spectrum – especially for those involved in big data, wills and conveyancing so should see more interest there. Law tech isn’t just servicing the top 10 big firms; it’s a big movement.
ML: It has to trickle down from the bigger players though surely? JV: Definitely. The most interesting element for me is the international-ness of it. Around 40 countries plus attend the conference. I’ve been to Russia, Melbourne, Singapore and San Francisco and can see law tech innovations are truly an internationally relevant movement. Professionals around the world share common problems that are being catered for by the same solutions. Having said that, the boutique firms are very tech led so you don’t have to be a global firm to utilise the tech out there. Models such as Keystone Law – those that are much more open to harnessing tech – are running with our network and let’s not forget that we have a great regulatory platform in England and Wales. We can do more under this platform so it’s an exciting place to be right now.
ML: What are the biggest, consistent barriers to implementing legal tech? JV: I’m a casual commentator here but the conversations I’ve had around barriers to entry and implementation are on both sides. These largely revolve around the creation of common standards for accessing and using data. Law firms are often bound by certain restraints, made by (for example), banks, existing tech solutions or data security elements - and start ups aren’t always compliant to these. These issues surrounding access to data – either on premise or on the cloud - need to be fixed for wider adoption. I can see the frustration on both sides really and the challenges here but people are getting through them and we’re starting to see solutions come through.
ML: Bring us up to speed with the Legal Geek events. JV: The Legal Geek conference alone has grown from 500 to 2000 delegates in the UK, with guests from over 40 countries and start-ups that are now established and raising millions of pounds of funds. I never expected Legal Geek; I started my own market research on legal start-ups but it was never really my intention to create a legal event business. Yet we’re now aiming to be THE global space for legal tech start-ups. It’s our ambition to allow people to engage and instruct them in a really relevant, meaningful way. We like the idea that you can achieve a year’s worth of networking and research in one day at a Legal Geek event. We’ve listened to our customers to make it relevant for everyone, from regulators, firms – from big law to in-house and other pockets that overlap, including legal education. I feel our network has matured. For example, our first start-ups are now serious businesses and are our silver sponsors. It’s cool to be a part of that journey and see that happen in a short space of time.
ML: Who, in the main, champions tech implementation in a firm? JV: In terms of our conference delegates, it’s hard to pigeonhole who’s driving it as we have a broad range of attendance and interest; from senior leaders to younger employees. I’ve also met a lot of students who understand the benefits of tech and not staying the same; they are also driving those conversations.
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I do understand that firms face a cultural challenge. It’s also hard for fee earners to justify spending time out of the office to come to our events and see all the amazing things on offer. I think firms need a cultural shift to happen to allow those with the vision to help change things for the future. Additionally, using tech to empower people in a firm is a separate thing to tackle.
attractive – and provide competition. Again, it takes a cultural shift to understand what’s on offer to Millennials, what their ambitions are, how they’re promoted, how they’re rewarded, the workspaces provided, and compete with that. For instance, tech natives – Millennials – are often conducting double-entry time recording, then pull their iPhones out of their pocket at lunch; it’s frustrating and needs to change. Again, the bar is low in legal services so there’s lots of room to be more relevant and improve.
However, a speaker at one of our recent events said something about lawyers still counting rows; it made me think, yes, the bar is pretty low to improve efficiency in the legal sector. Sometimes using Excel properly is just as important as securing new tech to enhance the business.
ML: How do you avoid the hype and conduct quality control over the events? JV: I know a lot of the speakers personally and work closely with them to ensure they are the right fit. They have to deliver a short sharp pitch so that we can cover a lot of topics in a short space of time. Its not a style for everyone but it works well. We have a punchy, current, topic-led event platform and are always working on it. We also have over 10 different countries speaking; it’s great to hear from people outside of your own bubble.
ML: What’s your response to the idea that ‘legal tech will replace jobs’? JV: I really hate the conversation about tech replacing lawyers; where senior law leaders steer the conversation towards concerns about taking jobs. I don’t have the energy to convert people so we work with those who are on that path already, energising them and hopefully bringing about change. Legal tech absolutely should be about making things better and more efficient for the customer.
We stay in touch with people in the short term and host a number of smaller, community events – including those hosted in the Barclays LawTech Eagle Lab . We run these events frequently and attract anywhere from 30 to 100 people, depending on the concept. Next year we’re taking our network to North America and Australia – we’re definitely looking to move the conference outside of the UK and Europe, which is really exciting.
ML: How can firms use tech to captivate and retain incoming, younger talent? JV: We frequently engage with student and trainee audiences. I don’t think people coming through feel that their law course prepares them for the reality of their work. This might not be representative of everyone but the people I meet say they don’t want to work in a law firm 24 hours a day and not have a life. They tell me they’re really excited about the tech element in law and some look to become a legal design engineer rather than a lawyer – or look for other exciting opportunities that are coming out of legal tech.
How can people find out more? The main way for people to stay engaged is to sign up to our newsletter and visit our website. All the Legal Lab information is on the website as well as our frank WTF blog, that addresses realistic issues in legal tech. In terms of our communications, we only run three newsletters a year filled with punchy and interesting information.
I think we have to remember that lots of smart young lawyers have smart friends working in enterprises like Google, where they are treated well and rewarded well. Law isn’t the only high paying industry now; there are lots of places that offer exciting rewards for working in these spaces and they’re very
Founder of Legal Geek..
The Legal Geek ethos
n n n
Come to make friends, not to sell Come to learn and to teach. Look after your fellow law-gends, you may need their help someday. This is your community, please pitch in and help. You will be rewarded.
1 Legal Geek is the event partner of Barclays’ LawTech Eagle Lab, a dedicated centre for legal technology entrepreneurs in Notting Hill, London. The lab aims to help legal companies start-up and scale and will provide co-working space for up to 100 individuals.
CHARLEY MARK AARON MOORE EDWARDS WRIGHT Emma Waddingham, Modern Law, hosted a cross-Atlantic interview with Rocket Lawyer and Open Law (a blockchain-based protocol for the creation and execution of legal agreements, created using ConsenSys Ethereum blockchain technology) to discover more about the partnership to deliver smart legal contracts, how far ahead of the game they really are and why legal could well be the next ‘killer’ app. 14
“The conversation about building the legal layer has been there from the start. People often get a little muddled with blockchain tech and presume it’s one piece of tech when it’s really a new commercial stack.”
We spoke to: Charley Moore (CM), Founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer; Mark Edwards (ME), SVP Global Operations, Rocket Lawyer, and; Aaron Wright (AW), co-founder, OpenLaw and Professor at Cardozo Law School.
Aaron – most of our readers will know about Rocket Lawyer but tell us more about your involvement in the partnership. AW: I’m one of the co-founders of OpenLaw, a ConsenSys project. We have built a legal layer to bridge smart contracts and legal agreements using Ethereum’s blockchain technology. Blockchain is a great tool to keep track and manage of assets of various different types, legal agreements are necessary to structure and wrap these transactions. The E¬thereum blockchain enables to create virtually signed for and executed smart contracts.
What came first – the tech or the relationship? AW: The conversation about building the legal layer has been there from the start. People often get a little muddled with blockchain tech
“In time, all contracts will be smart contracts and that’s incredibly exciting. For enterprises, there are so many high volume, routine and high scale agreements executed every day so smart contracts bring tremendous efficiency in this space.” 15
What about the reaction from consumers? Do they understand the benefits of blockchain – or need to? CM: This is what Rocket Lawyer is all about. We make tech as simple and as integrated into everyday life as we possible can and that’s why we established in the first place. We build our legal services and support regulators to redress the overly complex (for most people – even for well educated people) and difficult to navigate legal system with our tools. CM: We want to make it as easy as possible for people and businesses to interact with the law – as easy as it is to play video games, Spotify or access commerce sites. If someone has to understand what blockchain is before they can use it then we’re not doing it right. AW: Blockchain exists to ensure more efficient transactions, more reliable or recurrent payments which secure and easy. Blockchain provides the benefits and solutions; it’s not about thed tech. We expect the increasing deregulation of services due to hit the market in April 2019 will offer even more opportunities for Rocket Lawyer. How will you respond to the increasing liberalisation of the market? CM: We have been literally at the forefront – one of a handful of companies (and the first) - of developing innovations with the SRA. We’ve worked with the regulator for a number of years to experiment with legal services and see how we can liberalise certain services. Nothing the SRA does is a surprise to us or offers something for us to react to. We’ve already collaborated with the SRA on some of the new deregulated moves. We’ve already implemented many of the ‘new’ things that will become standard practice. ME: The SRA created its innovation space to allow legal tech companies to come along and test new models. We were the first company to be invited into that space and given the ability to give legal advice directly. Lawyers are using our tech to provide legal advice in the UK in a really efficient way. CM: We provide lots of services to independent solicitors in the UK and will continue to do that. Our hybrid model is the right model as we know smart contracts are something solicitors will need to integrate with their practice. There is also a terrific opportunity for smart contracts to become the defacto infrastructure for for big law and we have an opportunity to participate in that too. CM: Let me be clear, I don’t consider that it’s our job is to disrupt the relationship between lawyers and their clients – quite the contrary. We provide a hybrid model where our solicitor clients are very happy that we services some of the less profitable work through our tech, resulting in the more profitable work going to them. In terms of your work with UK lawyers, has the market changed in the last 12 months – what kind of impact does your relationship with solicitors have on their practice?
“In time, all contracts will be smart contracts and that’s incredibly exciting. For enterprises, there are so many high volume, routine and high scale agreements executed every day so smart contracts bring tremendous efficiency in this space.”
CM: As someone who is over 5000 miles away watching our UK business grow, it’s a little like watching a child grow up from afar. Whenever I come back I’m amazed by the progress and think ‘look how big you are and how smart you grown’. We work with solicitors who have grown their firm from sole practitioner roots to a large and new kind of legal practice. They’ve achieved this using our tech to generate lots of clients online and service them digitally – operating on a time and geo shifting basis. For example, answering questions for clients online, rather than face-to-face, in any time zone or place. They can support clients across the country, immediately, digitally, and then sign smart contracts. CM: This new wave of legal services will accelerate further still when courts become fully digitised. The sector has changed and grown rapidly in terms of this style of legal service – and right before our eyes. Is legal tech ahead of the game commercially – why do you think it’s so important? AW: One thing I think is underappreciated is that the first broad and significant use for consumer-facing blockchain sits within the legal industry. Thanks to our partnership with Rocket Lawyer and our other activity within the sector, we can see that legal could be the second “killer app” - with profound implications globally. There is a tremendous amount of interest in this from government, law firms and other parties that are ancillary to the legal sector – it’s coming much faster than anticipated. Faster than those launching the tech anticipated for this sector.
“We can see that legal could be the second killer app - with profound implications globally. There is a tremendous amount of interest in this from government, law firms and other parties that are ancillary to the legal sector – it’s coming much faster than anticipated. Faster than those launching the tech anticipated for this sector.” 16
CM: I agree with that and think there’s something here for each type of person that we serve – from SMEs to solicitors. In time, all contracts will be smart contracts and that’s incredibly exciting. For enterprises, there are so many high volume, routine and high scale agreements executed every day so smart contracts bring tremendous efficiency in this space. In addition, there are great opportunities for government and lawyers for blockchain asset recording and measuring capacity. CM: Legal tech is a terrific space to deploy these innovations in and could absolutely be the next ‘killer’ sector app. Each constituent of Rocket Lawyer will benefit from the apps we will build on top of Ethereum blockchain solutions provided by ConsenSys and we’ll keep on building.
Founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer
SVP Global Operations, Rocket Lawyer
co-founder, OpenLaw and Professor at Cardozo Law School .
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SOPHIE GOULD The quest for the ‘holy grail of legal tech’ offers the promise of great change and, regardless of the accuracy of industry predictions; the debate around legal technology has generated valuable examination of the way legal services are provided. Modern Law spoke to Sophie Gould, LexisNexis, about its very recent research that examined the reality of in-house lawyer’s use and perception of legal tech and provides a useful five-step approach to drive successful legal technology adoption. Talking to our customers has revealed that the market for legal services has never been more competitive and consequently corporate lawyers are fronting a challenging set of demands: n Firstly, there is an intensified need and expectation of legal teams to align activity with organisational strategy. In-house counsels are now seen by their organisation as strategic managers of regulatory and legal risk, as their responsibilities expand from legal advisor to business decision-maker. n Secondly, providers of legal analytics have proven that, in numerous areas, technologies can power better decisionmaking, creating an expectation of increased service sophistication delivered via new technologies.
“Interestingly, law firms seem to be aware of the benefits of collaboration on technology projects, but also seem to be feeling a disconnect.”
n Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, General Counsels continue to face budget pressure. This adds a requirement to drive cost effective and efficient service delivery
from their law firms and alternative service providers. Increasing fee visibility and predictability remains a key focus. Ben Foat, Group Legal Director at The Post Office, succinctly sums up the landscape: “Inhouse legal departments are increasingly being challenged by their CEOs and CFOs. We have to align to corporate strategies, provide greater oversight and management of legal risk with either the same or even less resource – this is where technology can play a role.” Over the course of six months, we investigated the relationship between in-house counsel and legal technology in a bid to unearth the current issues facing the legal market and offer guidance and perspective to those in the legal ecosystem. The result was a UK first report ‘Legal Technology: Looking Past the Hype’. This comprises quantitative data collected from across the in-house legal community, qualitative
insights from General Counsels at some of the largest in-house legal teams in the UK and our own expertise. Wide-held belief in the potential of legal technology One of the primary findings of our research was that in-house teams believe in the potential of technology. Almost two thirds (60%) of General Counsels believe that technology will help advance the accuracy of their legal work over the next 3-5 years, while 57% believe that technology investments have already improved their productivity. Despite this, 67% still struggle to find the time to educate themselves on the potential of new legal technologies. Familiarity breeds comfort It also became clear that lawyers are most comfortable with tried and tested insight tools. Legal research tools (such as Lexis®Library and Lexis®PSL) were found to be the most popular among the in-house community, with 82% of respondents already employing this technology. While less than 4% of those interviewed had adopted a proof-reading technology, 100% of those that had agreed that this had vastly improved their working methods. It therefore stands to reason that a further 14% of inhouse lawyers plan to implement proofreading technology in the future.
“Almost two thirds (60%) of General Counsels believe that technology will help advance the accuracy of their legal work over the next 3-5 years… Despite this, 67% still struggle to find the time to educate themselves on the potential of new legal technologies.”
In-house teams look to their firms for guidance Our research also revealed that, with deeper pockets dedicated to innovation than those of their clients, law firms are expected to play a major role driving the development and adoption of technology across the ecosystem. When asked what role they expect their law firms to play in legal technology innovation, 75% of respondents said they expected their law firms to use technology and pass the benefits, including lower fees, increased quality and turnaround times, through to their clients. However, we received mixed feedback from the pool of lawyers we surveyed on their satisfaction with the legal technology deployed by their law firms. 40% of General Counsels said they were satisfied, and only 12% said they were very satisfied. A notable 37% were dissatisfied with the technology their law firms were using, while more than a third were unaware of the legal technology being used. Interestingly, law firms seem to be aware of the benefits of collaboration on technology projects, but also seem to be feeling a disconnect. Mike Potter, a partner and head of the transaction services team at Addleshaw Goddard comments: “Having an in-house team willing to share their challenges with us is like gold dust for us. They don’t have the resources to test new technology all the time, so they want us to come in and show them what’s happening.”
Dan Wright, partner at Osborne Clark expands on this, discussing how the increasing requirement from clients for consultancy regarding technology issues could lead to shifting business models. “Law firms need to get their heads around a different model. We’re not always selling the delivery of legal services – we’re selling the delivery of enabling and consulting services with a legal backbone. But that positions us for a much broader, longer-term relationship.”
What’s next for in-house teams and legal technology? Our survey showed that while the current focus of technology innovation is around driving efficiency, in the future tech tools are expected to unlock valuable insights by improving work accuracy and enabling new data insights.
“Its key to focus on both legal and business outcomes and in-house teams need to have a clear understanding of the legal technology used by their law firms and how this benefits them.”
Substantial investment in the legal technology market has made it harder to identify technology winners and losers. In order to identify a solution that works, it’s imperative that in-house teams first identify the pain points within their organisation, before finding a solution that addresses these. Matthew Braovac, Director of Legal, Consumer, Corporate and Competition at Sky summarises the process; “Identify the business problem then demonstrate how bringing this technology in is going to solve the business problem. Understanding the pain points is the best aspect to sell the technology into the business.”
and cost categories. Then consider where potential opportunities may lie. 2. Identify the problems: Once you know the pain points in your team or organisation that need addressing, you can find a fit for purpose solution, rather than just installing the latest flashy piece of technology. 3. Dedicate time and effort to innovation: Dedicating some time to building your understanding of available solutions in the short term will pay dividends. You also need to take the time to educate your organisation with regards to what you’re doing. Demonstrating ROI to a C-Suite audience was cited as a significant hurdle to tech implementation by almost half our respondents. It’s far easier to do this when they understand the process you’re going through. 4. Work with multi-disciplinary teams: Bringing in experts from other areas of the business (IT, Finance, etc.) will substantially increase the chances of technology gaining traction. A multidisciplinary team will allow for richer, more fruitful discussion and help foster a culture that is supportive of innovation. But also remember to educate the team members you already have. 5. Choose the correct partners: Whether the partnership is between a legal services provider and a technology provider, or between a law firm and in-house counsel, this relationship is fundamental; success requires the effective contribution of both supplier and buyer of legal technology.
We identified that there is a growing need to build knowledge in this area. Many teams operating in today’s market feel at the mercy of sensationalised discourse regarding technological advancement, when what is really needed is sustained, informed discussion that helps them keep pace with the rapid pace of change in the legal industry and allows them to communicate and work effectively with their increasingly multidisciplinary teams.
Following on from our research and to develop this discussion further, LexisNexis has created a practical tool to aid in-house decision-making. This assesses current deployment strategy, the legal technologies currently used and the resources available to in-house teams. It combines these answers with information on the participant’s attitude to design thinking and their understanding and awareness of technology partners and projects. It then makes recommendations on the best approach for their organisation.
Its key to focus on both legal and business outcomes and in-house teams need to have a clear understanding of the legal technology used by their law firms and how this benefits them. With this in mind, LexisNexis has established five principles for in-house leaders to follow when looking to drive successful legal technology adoption:
To learn more about the adoption of technology in the in-house legal community, including current attitudes, trends and popular service providers please read our full report at: lexisnexis.co.uk/ModernLawMag
1. Remove Ambiguity: Technology investments made without clear objectives or rationales are highly likely to fail. Speak to your organisation and your team to understand your key risk areas
Sophie Gould, Head of In-house, LexisNexis
CONSULTATION ON NEW REGULATORY INTERNAL GOVERNANCE RULES Vibeke Bjornfors, Regulatory Policy Manager, The Legal Services Board (LSB), provides an update on the Internal Governance Rules review – the rules created by the Legal Services Board (LSB) to separate regulation of legal services from representative functions and interests – and the Consultation that closes shortly in January 2019.
W early 2017.
e have been on quite a journey since we started our review of the current Internal Governance Rules (IGR) in
In November last year, we consulted on options for reform to the IGR. Then in July of this year we published our decision document in which we set out the high level decisions we made in response to this consultation. The current consultation now seeks views on draft new IGR and supporting statutory guidance that reflect the decisions we made earlier in the year. The legal services market needs a regulatory framework, which is, and is seen to be, independent. This will engender the trust and confidence of consumers and the public and will give the providers of legal services the certainty they need to grow and innovate. The separation of regulatory functions from representative functions and interests underpins this aim. The Legal Services Act 2007 (the Act) does not create a framework in which the body discharging regulatory functions is structurally separate from the body discharging representative functions. However, it created the LSB and gave us responsibility (amongst other things) for making IGR to ensure that: n The exercise of regulatory functions by an approved regulator is not prejudiced by its representative functions or interests, and; n Decisions relating to the exercise of regulatory functions by an approved regulator are, so far as reasonably practicable, taken independently from decisions relating to the exercise of any representative functions or interests.
In discharging this key statutory function, the Act requires The LSB to act in a way which we consider appropriate to meet the regulatory objectives in accordance with the principles of transparency, accountability, proportionality, consistency and targeting action only at cases in which action is needed.
clarity and to ensure that they address the issues that have come up in the past. We have added some new rules with more specific obligations where our experience of confusion or disagreement shows that specificity is needed. The consultation document explains our reasons for each of the proposed rules.
These principles are not upheld if our IGR result in excessive time being spent by approved regulators and regulatory bodies interpreting or disagreeing about how the rules apply. This is time that is better spent, respectively, representing and regulating the legal industry.
We have produced draft Guidance to accompany the rules. The Guidance explains how compliance can be achieved. It also addresses the respective roles of the LSB, approved regulators and regulatory bodies.
Since the current rules were introduced, the legal sector has changed considerably and some of the rules in the current IGR are no longer relevant. The LSB’s approach to regulation has also changed to become more principled and outcome focused, reflecting modern good practice in regulation. We have worked hard to translate this new approach into the proposed rules, so that they are understandable, enforceable and focused on the areas where action is now needed. We have removed unhelpful terminology and gone back to the wording of the Act (where possible) as this is language that will be familiar to approved regulators and regulatory bodies. We have removed some rules and retained others but modified them for
“The the Act requires The LSB to act in a way which we consider appropriate to meet the regulatory objectives in accordance with the principles of transparency, accountability, proportionality, consistency and targeting action only at cases in which action is needed.”
We understand that regulators will need time to assess and make changes to comply with the new IGR and therefore a transition period of six months is proposed, to begin on publication of the final version of the new IGR and Guidance. Following the end of the transition phase we will require a certificate of compliance from each approved regulator and regulatory body. If there are areas of non-compliance, the approved regulator or regulatory body will have to explain why and provide its plan for remedying the situation. It is important to us that the new IGR work well. We are seeking feedback on whether the proposed IGR enhance regulatory independence, whether they are clear and whether they can be complied with. The consultation will close on 21 January 2019. The consultation document can be found here: www.legalservicesboard.org. uk/what_we_do/consultations/open/ index.htm
Regulatory Policy Manager, The Legal Services Board.
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TAKING ADVANTAGE OF ‘NEW’ TECHNOLOGY “We know that many firms are already providing good information for future clients to give themselves a competitive edge. These reforms will help the sector overall to be much more open and encourage small businesses and the public to see legal services as accessible.”
have always enjoyed reading Clifford Stoll, an American author and teacher who, over the last three decades, has written books, technology articles and contributions to mathematics channel Numberphile. And, in 1995 after happily using the Internet for nearly two decades, he had an article published in Newsweek entitled ‘Why the web won’t be Nirvana’.
In it, he dampens enthusiasm for the new opportunities afforded by the world wide web. Views on the future of technology have for centuries been wide of the mark and in this instance, like many others before and after him, this rightly-respected scholar simply got it wrong Well not quite: his view of a worldwide bulletin board could just as easily be reflected in how we would describe certain ‘social’ media platforms today. But we now know that the new technology Stoll was so doubtful about has been absorbed almost totally into our lives. Amazon, Kindle, Uber, Just Eat – there aren’t many concepts that Stoll could not see a future for in 1995 that haven’t become the norm in 2018. And that norm means that everyone expects to have good information at their fingertips. The Competition and Markets Authority found that a lack of available information was one of the root causes for the disconnect between the nine out of 10 people who needed legal services but never sought assistance from the very people who could help them. So how to bridge the gap? By publishing meaningful information about what services are available and at what likely cost.
like consumers. Just as we all do when buying everything from financial services, to plants for the garden to software packages, they listen to the recommendations of friends and family and they shop around online. Research we published at the start of October showed small businesses would be more inclined to use a law firm if price information was made available, and that’s the case for members of the public too. And people like to know that a firm - and importantly the people working there have relevant expertise, and how long their issue will take to sort out. We have consulted widely on the best way to make sure people can find this information. In December, we are bringing in new rules about what your firm needs to publish. We will: n Ask firms to publish information on prices they charge and what these cover across a number of common services n For members of the public this will be: conveyancing, probate, motoring offences, employment tribunals (claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal) and immigration (excluding asylum)
“These reforms will help the sector overall to be much more open and encourage small businesses and the public to see legal services as accessible.”
Unsurprisingly, potential clients act
n For small businesses this will be: debt recovery (up to £100k), employment tribunals (defending claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal) and licensing applications for business premises Firms will also be required to publish information on the teams and individuals who deliver these services. Those that don’t have a website will be asked to make the information available on request. We have already published guidance and templates to make it easier – have a look at our website to find what you need. Looking ahead, we will also bring in a new digital badge so that people can see what sort of consumer protections they get from using a regulated firm. We know that many firms are already providing good information for future clients to give themselves a competitive edge. These reforms will help the sector overall to be much more open and encourage small businesses and the public to see legal services as accessible. When Stoll was reminded in 2010 of his article in 1995 he said it was the biggest of his gaffs. ‘New’ technology is here to stay, bringing with it opportunities for law firms and solicitors. Let’s make sure the sector takes full advantage, extending firms’ reach and consumer access and we should all embrace the opportunities it presents.
Executive Director, External Affairs, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
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HUMAN FLOURISHING – THE ROLE OF LEGAL TECHNOLOGY The UK’s lawtech community is booming, and this growth is replicated in centres around the world. But what is the real prize at stake?
hat does ‘good’ look like? Not so much for the individuals, although no doubt they all have their own personal motivations, but rather for the system as a whole. In the world of data ethics and AI, the common parlance is to contribute to ‘human flourishing’, a notion equally relevant in the world of legal services. But how do we achieve this – individually or collectively? First, it is vital to have a sense of what ‘purpose’ is being served. It’s easy to get lost in the wonder of what is possible with emerging technologies. But fundamentally all of these are small parts in a larger whole – a legal system which is accessible, affordable, just, equitable, and independent. In all professions, not just the legal profession, the challenge being faced is how to do the job, quicker, more efficiently, while still doing the best job possible.
“For all the estimates of how much money is being invested in lawtech, the challenge is how do we encourage a greater slice of that investment to tackle access to justice concerns, to increase legal literacy and to empower citizens?”
Being anchored in ‘purpose’ is vital for law firms and in-house counsel as it is for any other organisation. It is also vital for all those in the start-up community. How does this purpose translate into action? There are countless solutions in lawtech, both existing and in development, ranging from the wellrecognised contract review software through to sector specific solutions for prediction. Each, in their own way, have an opportunity to make a positive contribution. For all the estimates of how much money is being invested in lawtech, the challenge is how do we encourage a greater slice of that investment to tackle access to justice concerns, to increase legal literacy and to empower citizens? There are the ‘do not pay’ type solutions, funding mechanisms such as the crowd justice partnership, online mediation and dispute mechanisms. We have seen the development of partnerships between tech providers and law clinics and law schools, but none at any great scale, and the investment pales into insignificance compared to the millions of pounds being invested in other solutions. As the Law Society’s Technology and Law Commission on the use of AI in the Justice system is exploring, the impact of technology in the law is more than about speed of service, or clever chat bots to help people understand their rights. At the sharp end, technology as deployed in the legal system has
“At the sharp end, technology as deployed in the legal system has profound effects on the lives of individuals, and society as a whole.” profound effects on the lives of individuals, and society as a whole. The Commission, which is working collaboratively across disciplines such as computer science, academia, human rights, law enforcement, political science and law is midway through its exploration of the issues. Obviously, there is potential for great benefits to society (who would say no to safer streets?) so long as the potential harms are understood and mitigated. The excitement of what AI might be able to achieve, at times, can blur true understanding of what it is currently capable of doing and what it is not. For this to be a force for good – to support the flourishing of our societies – we need to engender a better level of understanding and draw out consensus. Value to society, purposeful business, should be a priority for everyone in the lawtech community.
Sophia Adams Bhatti
Director of Legal and Regulatory Policy at The Law Society.
FUTURE-PROOF YOUR FIRM When investing in new technology to support customers and other users, you need a clear plan, brief and project management to ensure all your hard work is put to use after implementation. Nikki Greenway, Legal Ombudsman, shares its experience of project managing a new customer-facing tool.
How do you start to approach a technology company to help you implement a customer care or service solution? Are technology companies savvy about the legal sector, regulation and the needs of consumers?
The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) recently soft-launched a Customer Assessment Tool (CAT) on its website to help improve customer experience at the front end. The aim was to walk customers through the initial assessment stage, signposting those that we could not help, and gathering more pertinent information from those we could. Before we even thought about the technical solution and associated delivery resource, our focus was on the requirements and business logic. Our IT team worked alongside operations colleagues to: n Map out the questions and responses that would form the decision tree that would be at the heart of the solution; n Document the necessary signposts at each branch of the tree; and n Lay out a complaint form that would provide information that could easily be added to our in-house case management system.
Once the requirements were understood we reviewed technology and delivery choices, resulting in it being deemed more suitable for in-house delivery than via a supplier. However, had we felt it necessary to use a supplier, the up-front efforts would have been invaluable in finding a delivery partner. Solid requirements would have led to more relevant supplier responses, and appreciation of the technology choices would have helped us decide on whether the supplier had sufficient breadth and depth in the necessary skills. We used an agile approach to development, initially setting out a proof of concept, and then building the tool around the decision tree. Regular testing and follow-up meetings between IT and Operations continued as it was developed, and time was taken to demonstrate it to senior managers and the Board, enabling their feedback to be taken into account. Prior to launch we also undertook some accessibility assessments, and accessibility testing with both internal colleagues with disabilities and an outside organisation. Had we used a supplier to undertake the development we would have wanted to ensure their capability with an agile approach to development and that the contract commercials were aligned to the approach. Prior to launching CAT we undertook
“Before we even thought about the technical solution and associated delivery resource, our focus was on the requirements and business logic.” an assessment of both technical and business readiness at a ‘Go / No Go’ meeting. This disciplined governance, alongside proportionate project management, was essential to ensuring a smooth launch. As part of the discussions we made sure that our general enquiries team had seen the tool and were fully briefed to handle any callers that were struggling with the tool, and we also signed off communications for various other stakeholders. CAT was soft-launched on Monday 8 October. We are monitoring and gathering analytics to help inform a further release which will go out alongside a Welsh language version next month. You can find CAT at: www. legalombudsman.org.uk/helpingthe-public/make-a-complaint/cat/
Head of Information Technology and Governance, Legal Ombudsman.
“Had we used a supplier to undertake the development we would have wanted to ensure their capability with an agile approach to development and that the contract commercials were aligned to the approach.” 27
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Let’s not make conveyancing cheaper!
With the advent of online courts, are law firms and chambers ready to plug in effectively to maximise opportunities from this investment and what are practitioners’ concerns for the effectiveness of the project?
Recently HM Land Registry has announced several developments, all of which focus on reviewing and improving the conveyancing process through technology. It has also put out a charter demonstrating its commitment to improving the conveyancing process through innovation and delivering on customer needs (via its ‘Digital Street’ strategy 2017).
As one of the solutions to the problem, HMCTS researchers are exploring how best to provide ways for solicitors to send case applications to the Courts. In addition, the aim would be to provide ways for solicitors to track how their cases are progressing without having to call up (or email) for answers to such fundamental information. Legit Claims was approached in August this year by a senior researcher on behalf of the HMCTS Reform Programme on how to create this online platform for the legal profession. As our CFA has already been designed for digitalisation and is ready to deploy and plug through for PI related claims, Legit Claims is yet again at the technological forefront of the legal sector.
This is all positive news that the property sector will welcome. However, one aspect struck me as fundamentally wrong. That was the call to make conveyancing cheaper. We shouldn’t just focus on make conveyancing ‘cheaper’ because by placing the utmost importance on price and making certain products or services cheap, we inherently devalue it.
The digital process is already in place for consumers to apply online; for example to be executor of a family member’s estate and are doing well. HMCTS are swiftly busy creating a similar system for legal professionals. They anticipate designing ways for solicitors and their staff to log in, add team members,open new or view the status of active cases across multiple services.From applying for a divorce for a client to getting decree nice, filing a money claim in the Civil courts, and applications for grant of probate, etc.
A classic example of this is DFS sofas. The brand has had great success in the past by running an annual campaign at Christmas time that focuses on its big sale. For the first time in many years, this year DFS has focused the advertising on emotion instead, a far cry from its usual price driven messaging. Unfortunately, previous advertising has built a perception that DFS cannot move away from. Customers of DFS have been accustomed to a particular price point and know that they can rely on DFS to provide it. To retrain a consumer from a perceiving value based on cost, to instead trying to convey perceived value is incredibly difficult.
The difference between commercial CMS and what is proposed, is creating an API as a direct route from third party software into the court service itself as a more efficient way forward. Reducing the black hole that currently exists in court cases to obtain status and progress on cases submitted. No more queueing to post documents, less transferring of paper to digital portals and re-keying data to other online systems and in the process duplicating files (for tribunals) as example. Another benefit will be the reduction of data breaching with less systems in a seamless info sharing route. Error rate at moment is very high and hopefully this will also be reduced this way.
Using this price driven message, DFS has only managed to devalue what it delivers. It’s price over quality. Placing emphasis only on price also means that comparisons between other companies will always be based on this factor, disregarding the level of quality, service or experience – even if these are excellent. Recently, Customers 2020 report demonstrated clearly that consumers are changing. They are now prioritising experience above the product or price of the product with the view that by 2020 experiencer will be the key differentiator. This will be regardless of industry. So to focus a service based industry such as conveyancing on price now, would be doing a disservice to those working in it for the future.
The benefits of digitising the court system will address some of the bottlenecks that frustrates many legal practitioners in the UK. This hopefully addresses concerns, by and large, of practitioners on the effectiveness of the project. As much as change can be intimidating, it can also hail in the future of a digital court system with the help of third party service providers. Keep doing a what you are good at, and let us take care of what we are good at: the technology to drive this change forward, for the greater good of all.
While I cannot argue that HM Land Registry has its heart in the right place in terms of bettering the conveyancing process by making information more conveniently served, faster and easier, it should not suggest it’s made cheaper. This would only serve to cheapen the expertise of the industry, and by placing importance on driving down the cost between conveyancers creating a race to the bottom – and at what cost to both the solicitor and the client?
“Keep doing a what you are good at, and let us take care of what we are good at: the technology to drive this change forward, for the greater good of all.” 29
We are delighted to announce that Alexander dos Santos, Rhys Hadden and Matthew Chidley have joined us as new members of Chambers As part of our strategy to extend our service for clients, we have gained 14 new tenants in 12 months with Alex, Rhys and Matthew enhancing our Public Law, Court of Protection and Business and Specialist Crime teams in particular. The set has won 23 awards in the last three years and was one of the first chambers to be recognised by the Bar Council for its excellence on well-being. Most importantly it continues to attract the key briefs in crucial cases, such as Alfie Evans, the Deepcut inquests, and the Undercover Policing Inquiry. The LexisNexis Legal Awards 2018 Chambers of the Year
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Product Manager at Geodesys.
Using technology to improve the conveyancing process
What are the risks of legal tech when looking to ensure high quality, bespoke legal solutions for clients? How far can technology really go to aid consumers - and lawyers?
Technology plays an influential role in the world of work, yet the conveyancing industry has been slow in responding to the various platforms and services available to assist in making the process swifter and pain-free. Jonny Davey, Geodesys, discusses how embracing technology can support improvements in the conveyancing industry.
While recent publications maintain law firms are recording record turnovers, the reality is many firms are experiencing a cash flow crisis. This struggle has already seen major players leave the market. Is technology the solution to law firm sustainability, and what are the risks of legal tech?
Despite some of the legal processes in conveyancing being largely paper-based, technology available to conveyancers has never been so broad. And with the recent government consultation proposing digitalisation as a solution to transforming the home buying and selling process, it would appear that it’s still evolving.
New technology can clearly offer great benefits to consumers. Online portal-based solutions offer immediate customer interface and allow firms to progress cases efficiently, with instant updates available to the client. Internal systems benefit too, with firms better able to track case progression. Automated document production and e-signatures make the paperless office an achievable reality, allowing the savvy law firm to reduce overheads, increase case volume, and focus fee earners’ time effectively.
CONDUCT AN INTERNAL AUDIT To help reach this ambition, I’d recommend conveyancers conduct an internal audit of processes, to map technologies and capabilities alongside the demands of today’s property market. This isn’t about identifying who is tech-savvy, but about recognising attitudes towards digitalisation within the firm and helping shape the company’s approach going forwards.
Sounds great but new technologies can only be as effective as the way they are utilised. Systems have to be appropriate to the specifics of the law firm, otherwise you will not maximise the potential, and could lose valuable data simply through an inability to store it appropriately. In addition, you need good people using the systems, and they have to be trained properly to use the technologies you have – if fee earners puts rubbish into the system, you cannot expect to get anything different out of it! Getting this right takes time and significant customisation, which can be very costly.
IMPROVING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE Thanks to the development of technology, conveyancers now have more access to a property’s details than ever before, allowing them to keep on top of their cases, confidently inform their customers in depth and ensure they are completed efficiently and to a high standard. Most search providers offer online mapping tools, so conveyancers can instantly produce an accurate map based on Land Registry data. There are also various online pricing tools for conveyancers to provide accurate quotes and apps on the market that allow professionals to keep those in the chain up-to-date with their transactions.
Put these expenses into the context of the cashflow crisis, and you understand why not every firm wants to be an early adopter. Without strong cashflow, the costs of implementing new technologies could cause a firm to go under before it gets the chance to reap the benefits of its shiny new systems. New technologies can revolutionise the way a law firm operates but only if the firm can afford to implement them effectively.
HELPING TO PREVENT RISK Using technology will never eliminate risk but, with conveyancing fraud on the increase, it can support conveyancers in performing their due diligence in real time and more efficiently. An automated AML search is fully compliant with the EU’s recent Money Laundering Directives and includes additional positive and negative verification of identity, date of birth and address.
This is why many firms are turning to alternative funders who can release the money tied up in their bills, and provide the certainty of cashflow they need to invest in their systems. Ultimately, as the old adage reminds us, ‘cashflow is king’ and if a law firm can manage its cashflow effectively, then it can afford to invest in both the technology and the people required to achieve long-term sustainability.
CONCLUSION The conveyancing industry is always evolving and experiencing disruption. Technology is something that conveyancers should embrace because these advancements have the potential to significantly speed up the homebuyer and selling process for all.
“Without strong cashflow, the costs of implementing new technologies could cause a firm to go under before it gets the chance to reap the benefits of its shiny new systems.”
Geodesys is part of Anglian Water and a leading provider of conveyancing searches for residential and commercial properties throughout England and Wales.
Clear winners Emma Waddingham, Modern Law, caught up with Adam Cheal, Fletcher Longstaff about how the Perfect Portal new business management system has helped the growing firm to win more business online AND achieve (to date) a #2 ranking on TrustPilot UK for conveyancing legal services, thanks to it’s high-tech approach to transparent pricing and client care.
We hear you’re leading the way in working price transparency into your business strategy, in terms of customer service as well as ensuring you’re compliant with the new SRA Pricing Transparency Rule that comes into force in December 2018. Tell us a how you’ve used Perfect Portal to give your potential customers a true picture of the value of your services, prices and quality of work.
We’ve been trading for three and a half years so we’re still quite a young company but from the outset, it was always my idea to be as transparent as possible. Perfect Portal has been brilliant – although we had looked at other solutions first. I wish we hadn’t! From a price strategy point, it makes our life easy. Anyone can get a quote, any time of the day. It also allows us to track and monitor the quoting system so our Ad Word and Google guys can see who is using the software, where and when. When we first started, around 75% of our work was referred work. We’re now around 25% referral based. Almost 50% of our work comes directly from the website - which could still be from the local market but we know a great deal of instructions come from all over the country. We continue to be ranked second place on TrustPilot for legal services – which has some great SEO benefits - and picked up four ESTAS Conveyancing Awards last month – on the back of our three ETSAS in 2017. This all helps to convert clients online. From a transparency point of view, it’s so much easier; I can set up any questions I want on Perfect Portal to capture the information we need. I know lots of lawyers moan that they can’t capture everything they need for pricing and quotes but if you take the time to go through your process and ask them
in a way that elicits a yes or no answer, then it works brilliantly. For example, if the client says ‘no’ to a question then, if the quote needs amending, you have grounds to go back later on to say “if you’d said yes then we would have quoted ‘x’ originally”. We capture as much information as possible on Perfect Portal to ensure the quote is as clear and true to the picture as possible.
What does client care mean to customers; what’s the most important part of the process for clients?
That you’re not hiding anything. You have to consider the implication of hiding your fees and what this says about you as a firm.
How to you overcome the ‘pricing problem’ of being transparent before you’ve seen the work involved?
I know conveyancing is up and down when it comes to client care. We offer banded fixed fees and monitor the work involved for all cases - it works itself out in the end. Some clients don’t require need much on the engagement front and others do. While some transactions are harder than others to manage, the files and fees balance themselves out across the year.
We’ve found that younger clients – often ‘tech natives’ are great users of apps and online quotation systems, as well as e-signature tools like Adobe Sign. We get some client care back within 30 mins, proving these clients understand e-signatures. This builds a massive amount of speed into our system.
What will happen if firms do the bear minimum in terms of pricing and don’t invest in the tech to help them?
You’re not keen for a race to the bottom so how do you balance that with transparency and the need to compete?
We’ve had to throw a lot of money at technology to stay ahead of the curve. We’re not a huge company – there’s only 10 of us – but we’ve invested in what we think is the best tech available to us and keep building. If firms don’t start to think and invest in this type of tech – particularly in conveyancing - then they’ll be left behind. Clients are picking up on the fact that firms offer these solutions and ways to stay informed so they’ll look for firms that offer them. People think an investment in tech is a massive expense but the money we save on printing and post and the admin behind that is huge. Our fee earners are then able to offer so much more in terms of client care.
No, we don’t want a race to the bottom! Our client care is now completely digitised. We have a new case management system (VisualFiles) that’s fully integrated with Perfect Portal. All our instructions arrive into the CMS instantaneously via Perfect Portal and our client care is managed via Adobe sign. This means we’re able to get client care sorted in 24-48 hours, rather than a number of days. Perfect Portal is massively valuable to us to ensure we get all the information and fees straight into the CMS, agreed and set in stone. All the solutions talk to each other and it only took one API key from Perfect Portal to plug this data in.
How do you approach pricing?
We’re working on an app for referrers, to allow our CMS to push information back to Perfect Portal so agents can see more about the work and what’s happening. The product is really helping us to develop and enhance our business and the tools that help us. The professionals at Perfect Portal are incredibly easy-going and always quick and happy to help. There’s no wait for any changes to be made and we only wish we’d started using it from day one!
We identified our pace of work over the first two years, especially in terms of referred work. Over the last six months, with the shift to self-generating work, we’ve been able to put our fees up twice as we don’t want to be over worked, nor overburden our fee earners. Setting this pace for ourselves ensures we can continue to give the high level of client care we’re known for. We have also seen a shift in where people instruct us from – with a bulk of work coming in from the South East. While our fees are higher for Lincolnshire, Sale and the East Midlands, they’re not for the South. We know our clients in the South are getting a high quality of customer service wrapped up in comparably lower fees.
Managing Director of Fletcher Longstaff. Perfect Portal is a digital solution which is easy to use, quick to implement and helps firms manage clients while providing complete transparency from quote to completion.
How do your fee earners utilise that extra time, gained by the quoting benefits of Perfect Portal?
To see how Perfect Portal can help you, please visit
We don’t go home with an email in the inbox; we deal with messages the day they come in so that no-one is waiting for information. We’ve also built an app with another party that plugs into the CMS and sends push notifications straight through to clients to keep them informed.
Are ‘tech natives’ more in tune with your brand of legal services?
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Director of Business Development, Kaplan Altior.
Best seller author
Is technology the answer to ‘just in time’ training needs?
No matter how long you’ve been in business, how young or how old you are, you simply must be open to change.
Technology may be instant but learning is not. Knowing something ‘in the moment’ is not the same as absorbing its full connotations and digesting its impact on other areas of your understanding. However, just as speed and accessibility of information do not guarantee learning neither are they mutually exclusive. When judging technological learning resources, we have to assess quality as well as what we mean by ‘just in time’.
Let’s take charging, as an example. Lawyers are often uncomfortable stating their fees because of a fear of losing the client.
There’s no excuse Change is the only phenomenon you can be certain of, except for death and taxes of course! Often humans avoid change; it’s easier to stay in your comfort zone. However, when you decide to embrace change, you open up new possibilities that weren’t available to you before.
There is so much competition, you get caught in the trap of thinking it’s all about price.
All online learning is not created equal – ease of accessibility doesn’t necessarily make it good. Certainly, the convenience of online courses is not to be underestimated – accessed from your location – removing unnecessary travel time and expense which can often be a blocker to learning. Online courses, once attended, can be replayed, such as Kaplan Altior’s Live Online. Certainly the ‘just in time’ nature of rewatching training has proved successful with our Live Online PSC candidates, who have a 96% pass rate on the Financial and Business Skills exam, typically achieving a higher pass mark than those who opt for classroom learning.
If you’re not careful, you end up doing work which is not well paid, with clients who don’t value you and then feel resentful in the process. If your thinking is fear-based, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you either reduce your fees to get work that doesn’t really inspire you or you lose the client through desperation. Let’s get one thing straight here: there will always be someone willing to do it cheaper, no matter what, so you might just as well make your mind up right now not to be that person.
Yes, convenience is important but not at the expense of true learning; the bluff of relying on a quick answer is no substitute for real understanding. Online learning should be engaging, interactive, contain quality research and information and be delivered by industry experts who can take questions and provide real time answers.
Begin thinking about the value you bring your clients, rather than the fees you charge – change how you think about this process. And if you’re thinking, I’m too old to change, then listen to this:
As solicitors, we have a duty to remain compliant and continuously serve our clients in the best way possible, being equipped to deliver the service that we claim we’re able to. This is why the SRA tried to discourage the last-minute approach to CPD, scrapping the old model of 16 annual CPD hours and replacing it with one that placed greater emphasis on personal responsibility for on-going learning needs.
I was recently approached by a 70-year old lawyer, with 40+ years’ experience, who intends to continue practising for the next 10 years. He’s signed up for coaching, because he’s recognised that he hasn’t valued himself for years and wants to increase his revenue and gain more balance in his life.
What’s important is that the delivery method fits both the content and learning need and this should be constantly revisited. For example, we wouldn’t suggest that advocacy skills were best learnt and practiced via a computer screen - at least not yet. Even our approach to advocacy skills will in future have to change to accommodate the growing trend for online and telephone court work.
Hats off to him - and no excuse for you not to change too! Vanessa Ugatti is the author of Amazon Best Seller, True Worth, How to Charge What You’re Worth and Get It and helps lawyers to generate more income, without having to get more clients, do more work or compromise their value or values.
Personally, I prefer face-to-face training but good online learning products provide a convenient and engaging alternative. Others may see it the other way round. Rather than obsessing over which is better, it makes more sense to use both and instead focus on training that is planned and of the best quality as only that can be ‘just in time’.
“Let’s get one thing straight here: there will always be someone willing to do it cheaper, no matter what, so you might just as well make your mind up right now not to be that person.” 35
At HK Associates we provide a comprehensive and independent psychological and orthopaedic reportng service throughout the UK as well as access to a psychological treatment service. Services are provided within the context of personal injury, employment injury, stress and chronic absence management, clinical negligence, Neuropsychology and chronic pain. We have particular expertise in assessing the psychological effects of cosmetic surgery. Adults and children are seen within four to six weeks of instruction at any of our 167 clinics across the UK and the report provided within two weeks. The â€˜Find and Expertâ€™ facility on our website allows three experts to be located immediately.
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Silverman Advisory is the specialist management consultancy for the legal industry To find out how we can help your firm achieve greater success visit
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Managing Director, Blue Car Technologies Limited.
Senior ATE Underwriter, AmTrust Law
A homegrown challenge
Collaborate for clarity
Assessing the challenges faced by firms that rely on in-house IT development.
Clients expect to access clear, simple yet comprehensive information about pursuit of their legal claim and its costs. How can law firms provide this in a cost effective way?
With the economic uncertainty that Brexit continues to pose to law firms and their clients, the process of outsourcing software development becomes more crucial than ever. Research suggests that there are numerous drawbacks to in-house software development.
Think about working together with legal expense insurers and others. Dispute resolution lawyers have a mountain of information to convey to clients at the outset of a retainer. In addition to all the basic requirements, they must also provide substantial dispute specific input, including procedure, timescales, and of course, the costs and costs risks, which are so crucial for claim commercials and the rationale for its pursuit. This information alone is wide-ranging, complex, and has increased exponentially over recent years.
Firstly, a considerable amount of capital must be set aside merely to buy the physical infrastructure to enable in house development. This initial outlay will feature several unknowns: where are the development team going to work? How many computers do they need? How many servers will they need, etc. The in-house team will also usually need to be larger than one would think because you will need to hire ‘scrum’ / project managers to manage your team’s workflow.
At a high level it can divide under four headings, 1. Own costs/disbursements (OCs) 2. Potential liability for an opponent’s cost (Adverse) 3. How to fund OCs 4. The potential for protecting against Adverse.
However, the process to hire a large team from scratch is easier said than done. The job market for software developers in the UK is already stretched, with 94% of tech employers believing the technology industry is facing a skills gap. Brexit will only exacerbate this problem because the UK currently relies on EU citizens to make up 180,000 jobs in the sector. Finding a talented team that fits your company culture is hard enough in a normal job sector but especially so in the technology sector.
At lower levels, there are myriads of topic subdivisions, the relevance of which may emerge following questions like How much will OCs be? What are the funding options? What are the upsides/downsides? Might cover be available for Adverse? How would I apply? What is ‘security for costs’? How can that be dealt with? How much will each option cost?
Any business in the services sector has a high turnover in staff but this is especially true in the technology sector. The skills shortage as discussed above, can cause employers significant problems in recruitment and staff retention. The career fluidity exacerbates another weakness of in house development, namely a dependence on certain highlyskilled company employees. Unless there is a requirement to develop new software constantly, the workload may vary significantly but your business is still obliged to cover the pay, benefits and administration costs.
Such questions are invariably ‘starter questions’ leading to the requirement for additional information, the content of which may depend on client/claim specific circumstances. How then, can the legal team provide all that, in a clear, simple yet cost effective manner? One answer could be to approach issues systematically. Flag up headline points on a ‘one pager’, ensuring it contains sufficient to trigger the right questions, and then have additional ‘follow on’ material as relevant to the client. This would avoid ‘re-inventing the wheel. It would ensure the provision of appropriately targeted information on each occasion, without swamping a client with details that may not be relevant to them.
Employees of in-house development teams tend to build up large, bespoke skill sets that often prove fundamental to the successful maintenance of company systems. Should these employees ever move on to pastures new, they would leave the company with a dangerous skills shortfall that could affect the performance of the company’s main business. One possible solution is to consider working with a bespoke software development partner, who can provide quality, flexibility as well as the legal expertise to negate these potential risks. Focus on what your business does best and leave your software development needs to the experts.
It can take a lot of work to be brief - to get to the ‘one pager’/additional materials. These would then need regular review. That may appear an extensive undertaking, but there is a degree of logical load sharing here. The legal team will be best placed to provide information on headings 1 and 2, but others are uniquely placed to provide them with input on 3 and 4.
“Employees of in-house development teams… often prove fundamental to the successful maintenance of company systems. Should these employees ever move on to pastures new, they would leave the company with a dangerous skills shortfall.”
Legal expenses insurers and funders are keenly aware of current issues in their spheres and of risk/problem areas. Law firms might consider liaising with them (or intermediaries) to get their input and perspective. It is in everyone’s interest to get current, practical and targeted information to the client.
WH E R E CO NVEYA N C IN G M E E TS TEC H N OLOG Y As property specialists, we know that transparency and strong communication reduces stress during the house buying and selling process. That’s why we have developed our “Insights” technology-based services for clients, estate agents and mortgage brokers.
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Jt Managing Director, Silverman Advisory.
Product Director (tmconnect) tmgroup.
Speed, security & transparency
A Cloud of Silver Linings
Customers expect to access clear, simple information on their legal matter quickly and efficiently. Are law firms now providing solutions to this and what in particular will give firms the edge?
Still stuck on the ground? Then it’s probably time to jump onto a cloud with a silver lining. A profession that has learnt its trade by reference to books has understandably been reticent about committing its entire business data to a server in the sky; but the tide appears to have at last turned. Lawyers are playing catch up with the commercial world by (at last) adopting cloud based computing.
Transparent, mobile-friendly and secure. These are just some of the things consumers have come to expect when communicating with their solicitors – and consumer portals are helping them rise to the challenge. With potential to create a unique selling point (USP) to help them win more business, as well as streamline the way they manage their cases, it’s no surprise that forward-thinking law firms are already adopting this technology to make legal matters quicker and easier to progress.
In a business environment where speed of service has become of paramount importance, the flexibility and stability provided by cloud-based computing has underpinned the legal industry’s ability to deliver a greater level of client service.
So what’s the big deal? Similar to what we’ve seen in banking in the last 10 years or so; giving consumers visibility of their progress updates, milestones, and tasks relating to a property transaction (for example) through a mobile-friendly portal can make for a far richer and secure experience with their law firm – that they can also fit in around their busy lifestyles.
For most lawyers the anxiety stalling cloud adoption has centered on security and confidentiality but the realisation has dawned that a firm’s own server (even if in a locked cabinet) provides no real security against malware and hackers, fires and floods. Indeed, data stored remotely in a secure cloud server is probably far less vulnerable from such threats, far better defended than any antivirus software and firewalls operated by an individual law firm.
Firms also benefit, as they can connect with their clients and share information far more efficiently and securely than via traditional paper-based communications, helping to save them time, as well as postage costs. These are not just incremental gains, especially when you consider that the time it takes to progress the property transaction to completion currently stands at more than 18 weeks (according to 2018 UK House Price Index data).
What’s more, in today’s click of a button environment, clients are singularly unimpressed if, during a transaction, a firm’s server crashes and functionality becomes lost for an uncertain period. Could such an episode affect the likelihood of a future instruction? I’d very much think so. This shouldn’t happen when cloud-based options provide the ability to switch to a virtual server almost instantaneously, enabling seamless business continuity.
From cyber threats to rising customer expectations, law firms are facing a harsh reality – and consumer portals aren’t the only technology helping to take the pressure off. The use of Blockchain is beginning to build momentum, as is the use of artificial intelligence to review contracts, all of which can help to streamline legal processes and create a faster, more competitive customer experience.
What is the silver lining for law firms in the cloud? As well as the financial saving resulting from not having to buy, insure, house, maintain and regularly update costly software, servers and backups, your firm benefits from access to continuously improved, best of breed solutions for both disaster recovery and business continuity. As David Baskerville of Baskerville Drummond, an independent IT consultant, explains: “By carefully selecting your vendors and the appropriate systems for your practice, you’ll combine saving with greater efficiency resulting in improved client service”.
These steps toward a more customer-focused experience are also being seen in other areas. For example, some data providers have been redesigning their search reports with clear and accessible summary pages – not only making it quicker and easier for conveyancers to review but making the information more accessible for conveyancers to share with their clients. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the future of the legal sector is about speed, security and transparency – particularly with the new Transparency Rules coming into force on 6 December 2018.
While it’s impossible to make any business risk free, whether from data theft or system failures, the reassurance of knowing all your files and data, are being constantly updated, backed up and are readily accessible by any fee earner - whether they’re working remotely or in the office - means that few firms can justify not paying serious consideration to adopting the cloud.
For those taking advantage of the latest innovations and embracing forward-thinking business partners, the future is already here – helping them service the needs of millennials and stay ahead of the competition.
Geodesys. All you need to know. For over 20 years, Geodesys has provided a wide range of conveyancing searches and services to clients nationwide. The result? Indispensable peace of mind. Whether your transaction is local, regional or further afield, our unique and insightful service is available to you.
Over 20 years of conveyancing searches. For information call 0800 085 8050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org www.geodesys.com
is VP Global Commercial Operations at DocsCorp.
Commercial Director, Frenkel Topping
Mergers and acquisitions equal ingested files, which equals hidden files
Are there any psychological barriers to implementing new technology to communicate with clients or conduct legal matters? Digital transformation and the implementation of new technology is a hot topic for any business looking to evolve, grow and keep ahead of its competitors.
Ben Mitchell, DocsCorp, explains how OCR’ing ingested files can harness the influx of knowledge.
The process of modernising a business so it uses the latest tools and technology to ensure you are responding to your clients needs and equipping your staff to access client information quickly, is one thing. However, completely adapting to the digital world means more careful client relationships to ensure they don’t impact on personal interactions and emotional intelligence.
One of the biggest challenges of a merger/acquisition is to take an influx of data and transform it into something useful. Data systems won’t have any value to lawyers and legal staff if they aren’t accessible, and the client won’t have the best experience if the information isn’t accurate. So, how can IT departments make the data merge process a successful one? By making 100% of files text-searchable.
Increasingly, interactions are now through digital channels and some of our clients rely on technology to communicate. Trying to create a feeling of empathy and emotional presence on these is a challenge.
HOW HIDDEN FILES END UP IN YOUR SYSTEMS
At Frenkel Topping, we have invested heavily in consolidating several different operating systems and modernising to a single Cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system called IO – a specialised system for IFAs.
The root cause of non-searchable files in a case or document management system (DMS) is image-based PDFs, TIFFs, or PNGs missing a text layer (like a scanned contract or client ID). While your firm may have OCR turned on by default on all scanners, none of the files brought in via a merger/ acquisition can be OCR’d that way. Without OCR’ing, up to 30% of documents could end up invisible to search technology. Most partners would not be comfortable knowing lawyers are making decisions using only 70% of the facts.
We have moved to a flexible and agile system that is both efficient and provides a single platform to view client investments and our interactions with them. We introduced this less than 12 months ago and the impact on the business has been transformational. An app will soon follow which will allow clients to view valuations, document storage, secure encrypted communication they have with us and provide alerts for when insurance documents are due for renewal. The app will even help our clients review their spending habits.
Merging data systems with millions of files and making them 100% searchable can seem like a daunting task, but back-end OCR processing means it ends up being relatively painless.
After a significant amount of investment, we now have multiple touch-points with our customers.
USE BACK-END OCR AFTER A MERGER OR ACQUISITION
While we recognise that a business that fails to modernise runs the risk of being left behind, we have not lost sight of the fact that a fundamental part of our business is based on relationships – human relationships.
OCR’ing at the back end means files are processed after they’ve been saved or profiled – not before, like at the point of scanning. OCR’ing documents at the back rather than the front end mean both new and legacy files are processed. When staff profile documents into a DMS or other file systems/repositories the OCR application can pick it up for OCR’ing and save it back as a text-searchable PDF. At the same time, a separate service can be automatically processing a backlog of legacy files already profiled. The result? Your firm can ensure information ingested during the merger/ acquisition process is being made available to lawyers without impacting staff workloads.
Frenkel Topping operates in a unique market space. Because we work with people who have a catastrophic injury, building strong relationships with them is as important as having the right technology in place. Equally important is the strength of the relationships we have with introducers, such as solicitor firms or barristers. A lot of time has been spent reviewing internal procedures and processes to improve our client journey and how we communicate with our clients; and, coupled with the new tech, we have improved the client experience. However, technology is an enabler and will never take over from the human interface and the relationships we build with our clients.
“Without OCR’ing, up to 30% of documents could end up invisible to search technology. Most partners would not be comfortable knowing lawyers are making decisions using only 70% of the facts.”
“We have moved to a flexible and agile system that is both efficient and provides a single platform to view client investments and our interactions with them…the impact on the business has been transformational.” 41
The Definitive Guide To Legal Marketing Find out what your law firm needs to do to attract new business and grow your practice.
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Burcher Jennings is a pioneer in costs, pricing and funding. We boost law firm profitability and improve client relationships, delivering swift, measurable results. Our nationwide network of offices is staffed by experienced costs lawyers, costs draftsmen and pricing and funding specialists. Run by lawyers, for lawyers, we really understand your business. Contact us to see the innovative and ground-breaking improvements we can quickly make to your business through our uniquely holistic approach to pricing, costs and funding.
t. 0870 7777 100 e. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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Senior Consultant and Costs Lawyer, Burcher Jennings.
Managing Director, SpeechWrite Digital.
Happy firm, happy clients
Improving the work-life balance for solicitors
Technology solutions are not the be-all and end-all but unfortunately, they often seem to be discussed from the perspective of two polar extremes. Either, they are going to replace lawyers (although we don’t think anyone seriously believes that for one minute now) or alternatively they are the latest silver bullet that promises much and delivers little.
What is agile working? According to the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI), when employees are given the autonomy and empowerment to choose when and where they work, this creates a culture that removes artificial measures of success (such as logged hours or constant visibility within an office) and actually allows employers to focus on what’s important - results and performance.
The reality is that for most, the opportunity lies in the judicious use of technology to augment what lawyers currently do. To date, most of the narrative around the use of technology is in relation to the client facing aspect of the relationship. For example, automated document review designed to increase accuracy and speed and correspondingly reduce some of the tedium and cost.
How agile working can benefit law firms Agile working and the legal profession happen to be a natural fit – with core tasks such as research, planning, admin, drafting etc. requiring no specific physical location or time. Plus, the rise of cloud based computing is enabling firms to save money (e.g. by requiring less office space) without cutting corners.
However, internal technology and artificial intelligence tools and solutions that address law firm’s internal issues in contrast to client facing issues, have had comparatively little attention.
Furthermore, with a number of high-profile firms moving away from a billable hours-based system towards a valuebased system of working, time and location are being edged out in favour of discovering new ways to maximise value. Savvy firms are recognising the need to adapt to clients’ changing demands – and Sir Nigel Knowles said back in 2010 that billable hours were becoming anachronistic.
No more is this evident than in relation to the tortuous business of budgeting and pricing. Gone are the days where the pricing conversation took place after the event. Now, a combination of regulatory imperatives and market forces means that lawyers are having to have much more constructive and committed pricing conversations at the outset of the piece of work.
Fortunately, agile working policies not only help save firms money and allow employees to maximise their output, they can also help move them towards more value-based relationships with their clients, through real-time problem solving.
This is proving to be enormously challenging for firms. The absence of rigorous internal processes, huge variance in perspectives of individual fee earners, an absence of consistency, the historical absence of usable data and the extremely manual, repetitive and non-scalable nature of putting pricing proposals together has made budgeting and pricing one of the most loathed aspects of a lawyer’s day.
A growing trend in agile working A plethora of forward-thinking law firms have begun to adopt flexible working (Clifford Chance, Schillings, Dentons, Herbert Smith Freehills and DAC Beachcroft, amongst others).
Most importantly from the client perspective, it has made it increasingly difficult for firms to deliver on client’s expectations of price transparency and cost predictability. Fortunately, solutions are emerging such as last week’s release to the market of Virtual Pricing Director (www. virtualpricingdirector.com).
Ultimately, as a growing cohort of legal firms begins to implement agile working, and a new generation of lawyers demand more flexibility, it will become evermore important for firms to keep up if they don’t want to get left behind. The importance of technology in agile working However, agile working isn’t simply about flexibility. It not only incorporates location- and time-based flexibility, it also focuses on doing work differently, to provide better outcomes. Employees need to be able to access all the tools required to carry out their jobs, whether they are in the office, at home or in a coffee bar. Cloud based software can provide a robust solution for businesses wishing to adopt agile working practices. Practice management systems and CRMs can be hosted in the cloud and made available to users, no matter where they are.
VPD is a collaboration between the world’s leading legal services pricing consultancies Validatum® and Burcher Jennings together with award-winning legal AI platform Neota. VPD is a cloud-based solution specifically designed to help lawyers produce high-quality pricing proposals in a fraction of the time it would normally take. This is achieved through the use of artificial intelligence, best-in-class work stream templates and structured logic. With tools like VPD, lawyers may even get to enjoy putting pricing proposals together instead of cringing at the prospect – a win for the firm and a transparency win for clients.
Furthermore, utilising tools such as digital dictation and voice recognition can streamline and speed up correspondence and other documentation for legal professionals on the move.
GET READY FOR PRICE TRANSPARENCY
Perfect Portal provides a quote to completion solution that can be implemented within 24-48 hrs. 59% of home movers obtain two or more quotes when selecting a conveyancer. Converting the quote to sale can be faster when you can offer full transparency of price and service at the selection stage. Perfect Portal is a market leading, easy to use, online platform that enables firms to quote, convert, manage and communicate throughout the transaction. Why not find out more?
Provide transparency and win more business www.perfectportal.co.uk/transparency 0845 556 0077
Professor Hugh Koch
Clinical Psychologist and Visiting Professor in Law and Psychology, Birmingham City University
Managing Director, JMC Legal Recruitment.
Putting a spring in your legal step
Whatever your particular role title in the claims industry (lawyer, insurer, expert, judge), you have many ‘customers’ to whom you ‘supply’ your excellent services.
Millennials are ’tech natives’ and spend most of their consumer life interacting on easy-to-use digital applications. Are law firms missing a trick when hiring the next generation of lawyers – often dubbed ‘Millennials’?
Each customer expects to be given clear and non-complex (simple) information on the legal matter at hand (e.g., their claim; expert or legal evidence). They want this information quickly, accurately and efficiently. They want to be able to have contact with you as accessibly and as easily as possible. Many professionals are afraid of releasing this access information in case the phone starts ringing and never stops! However, most customers do not abuse this ‘easy access’ but are reassured by this information, and, paradoxically, do not ring, write or email incessantly or obtrusively as a result.
92% of Millennials have a smartphone, so to say that the two go together well is like saying ‘so do cheese and wine’. The ‘tech native’ age has led to an evolution that means archaic institutes must adapt or die. I remember the days of having to sift through publications, file away CVs and having Filofaxes full of client details in firmly locked cabinets – a modern-day GDPR disaster! As an agency, we have to constantly adapt in order to keep up with the trends of the Millennials. This generation expects news, information and services quickly and has an appetite for consumption that requires us to constantly add to our digital footprint. Social media and other platforms are essential tools.
Providing high quality legal and medico-legal services depends on excellent products provided by staff and professionals who feel empowered and happy in their jobs. However, even when these ‘internal’ processes of process improvement and staff empowerment are achieved, the crucial variable of customer responsiveness can ‘make or break’ any one contact with the outside world.
Conversely, in the hiring process, there is also a lot to be gained from the footprints Millennials leave on the Internet. Social media, articles and blogs are an excellent way to garner more information about a candidate - expanding on their CVs. I have personally found the legal market has been slow on the uptake of tech. One of the reasons behind our success probably comes from the fact that we are more attuned to expanding on a candidate background, beyond their CV and that to do this, we use any digital footprint we can to enhance our understanding.
Putting yourself in the metaphorical shoes of any of your customers is an essential strategy to ensure the common sense practices of communication and service delivery are being addressed. Did you treat the last person you ‘supplied’ with courtesy and information in a speedy and high quality manner?
We also attract more talent because we are able to tap into the channels of communication Millennials use. Whether this comes from reviews, social media, articles, or professional networking sites - when a Millennial wants content, we pop up.
Contemporary 21st century legal practice should be based on rapid, excellent and up-to-date service that is appropriately resourced. This means that however busy you are, you release the appropriate resource (time, administration, research) to meet the customer’s expectations and, on a good day, exceed them!
Firms should embrace the ‘tech native’ Millennial by making the right hire and utilising savvy individuals to instigate a change in their customer service. This means getting into more streams of communication and by resourcing all the knowledge available to ensure any hires are vetted as thoroughly as possible.
Alongside the technical ‘know-how’ necessary for supplying effective service, the psychological benefits of the ‘halo’ (happy, timely, easily accessible), ‘primary’ (first time high quality response) and ‘recency’ (latest high quality response) effects will give firms the edge over the ‘busy, distracted’ firm who fails to deliver good service on time.
In conclusion, there are a lot of firms in the market yet to adapt to the changing digital landscape instigated by Millennials, and in short, they absolutely miss things that a CV would not necessarily highlight. They also miss getting their name out there, to enhance their own profile to attract talent organically.
Deliver your service with a metaphorical smile on your face, put a spring in your legal step and deliver it now, not tomorrow.
“…there is also a lot to be gained from the footprints Millennials leave on the Internet. Social media, articles and blogs are an excellent way to garner more information about a candidate - expanding on their CVs.”
“However busy you are, you release the appropriate resource (time, administration, research) to meet the customer’s expectations and, on a good day, exceed them!” 45
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Global CEO, Perfect Portal.
Law firms have a duty to report anti money laundering; technology can make it easy
Be transparent; win more business The SRA regulations are new but the firms need to understand that the pricing and service transparency have been demanded by consumers. I have attended many conferences and seminars over the last couple of months and pricing transparency really has been a hot topic. In recent research, 70% of the participants mentioned that they want instant information from law firms but it’s not there. Only 15% found the pricing information they needed online and understood what service the fees included. Service expectations have evolved. Clients now want transparency every step of the way so there are no surprises; they want online and self-serving information as well as quick and clear communication from law firms.
Money laundering is a huge problem in UK, with the Government stating that the UK is one of the most attractive destinations for laundering the proceeds of grand corruption, estimating that £90bn of cash is laundered in Britain every year. Overall, the number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) rose 9.7% last year but amongst law firms, the number fell by 10%. In response, the NCA’s director of economic and cybercrime Donald Toon questioned whether law firms are taking their obligations seriously enough.
Firms have flexibility on how they display pricing and service information on their website to be compliant with the new SRA regulations. Firms who will succeed are the ones who invest time and implement a solution that best meets the needs of their end client. Remember, price is not always the main factor in decision making. In fact, less than 20% of home movers select on price and will pay premium if the value of service is clearly defined.
He said: “We believe that we do not get the level of reporting from legal firms of suspicious activity that we would expect. We have said it a number of times and there has been no significant change.”
Imagine if one firm just lists their average cost of fees versus a firm who has a calculator on their website, where a client can input their transaction details and answer questions to get an instant accurate quote that is tailored to them. Which firm do you think will win the business?
Solicitors have a legal duty to file (SAR) when they suspect they are being asked to handle the proceeds of crime. There will be some that are turning a blind eye, but most firms do have procedures in place. The trouble is, many are still relying on manual checks which are open to errors.
Some firms have multiple offices and have different fees associated with each location so how would a customer get an accurate quote with the correct fees? The Perfect Portal quote calculator provides the firms the flexibility they need to be able to add multiple fee scales associated with different post codes, matter types, and questions related to the transaction. The calculator not only provides instant price and service information that the client wants but also gives the firm a competitive advantage in converting the website leads to sale.
The fifth revision of the Money-Laundering Directive calls for firms to use ‘electronic identification means’ where available, because electronic identification is the most reliable, secure and efficient source of information for identity solutions. By using an electronic AML platform like SmartSearch law firms validate documents and make electronic identification verification through one system. Not only is this quicker and easier than manual checks but it is also much more reliable, as it can match documents with information from major data suppliers like Experian, Equifax, Dow Jones and Companies House.
“Almost 50% of our work comes directly from the website calculator. For us, it clearly demonstrates that implementing technology that caters for the home mover is no longer optional for firms.” Adam Cheal, Managing Director Fletcher Longstaff Limited
Electronic systems can also provide daily monitoring, where each clients’ customers’ names are checked every night against the updated Sanctions and PEP lists and when a name matches, it triggers automated enhanced due diligence and sends an email alert to the money laundering reporting officer, ensuring firms are compliant at all times.
If you are interested in knowing how Perfect Portal can help your firm be compliant to the new rules and win more business, then visit our website for more information perfectportal.co.uk.
In a world where money laundering is on the rise, it is each law firm’s duty to do everything they can to prevent it. As Toon says: “It’s about taking on the responsibility of serving the public. We’re not asking people to go out and tackle gangsters, only to report something where they have a suspicion.”
“Imagine if one firm just lists their average cost of fees versus a firm who has a calculator on their website, where a client can input their transaction details and answer questions to get an instant accurate quote that is tailored to them. Which firm do you think will win the business?”
“In a world where money laundering is on the rise, it is each law firm’s duty to do everything they can to prevent it.” 47
Managing Director, Enlighten IC.
VP, Strategy, Wilson Legal Solutions.
Is your website guilty?
Connect the dots What data is necessary to properly price and design legal services AND boost client satisfaction?
What common issues does your website need to avoid?
Firms are racing to use AI as a way of patterning work. They’re developing taxonomies for activities and tasks to estimate work effort and pricing on new matters. Vendors are vying to deliver functionality that automatically infers activities and the nature of the work. And that’s all good. You need to be able to estimate work effort. But that’s only a piece of the pricing and design puzzle. You also need to know how to quantify the risk assumed, reflect (or not) acquisition costs and consider previous client feedback. That’s a big data challenge that firms would benefit from tackling.
Law firm websites are a bit of an enigma. For some it is their pride and joy and a shining example of all that is good at their firm, whilst for others they couldn’t care less as they paid to get their website done five years ago and that’s it, job done! What is quite worrying, however, is that I once read a stat which said that almost 40% of small law firms don’t have a website. Even if this statistic is only half true, that’s still a lot of firms out there without their best opportunity of bringing in new business and helping their practice to grow.
Consider three clients with the same net profitability. Unless they have identical acquisition costs, risk profiles, and client satisfaction outcomes – it’s likely that at least two of the clients have been mispriced. In most businesses, the more risk assumed, the higher the costs to the client. Matters with the same profitability but different risk profiles mean someone is either over or underpaying. Bringing risk into the mix by incorporating intake data makes for an easier time explaining it to the client, and therefore a greater likelihood of avoiding related angst.
This led us to draw up this BIG LIST of the common problems we see with law firm websites... 1. It’s All About You 2. The Content Never Changes 3. Every Address & Fax Number Possible (On Every Page!) 4. Profile Pictures Which Are Either Drab & Boring Or You Look As If You’re About To Be Shot (Or Both!)
Similarly on the client acquisition and feedback or success fronts, firms need to ask some important questions. For example, for acquisition costs, do we need to recoup our efforts? For client feedback, are we pricing and staffing to maximise profitability (in most models I’ve seen, yes) or are we also considering client success and therefore maximising lifetime client value?
5. Endless Lists Of Bullet Points 6. Paragraphs & Paragraphs Of Legalease 7. Nothing To Interact/ Engage With 8. No Calls To Action to let people get in touch, download information or book an appointment 9. No Differentiation From Other Law Firms
Having the right foundational data to do proper business planning and performance measurement is a must for law firms wanting to make better pricing decisions in terms of levels, and also in terms of structure. Using AI to understand historic efforts in a vacuum for estimation, without also knowing the economics of those historic efforts and whether they led to strong client feedback, misses a trick. Absent the full picture, pricing becomes less of a key management tool, pulling in the same direction as firm strategy and more of what-if profitability tool, however complex its capabilities.
10. No Obvious Journey Through The Content 11. Poor Navigation 12. Unsecured (& Not starting HTTPS://) 13. Unresponsive (i.e. Not Viewable On Mobile) 14. Slow To Load 15. Can’t Be Found On Search Engines If you are considering a refresh of your law firm website, or perhaps beginning from scratch, please make sure to consider the points outlined above.
If you connect all the dots, you’ll be adequately paid for the risk you’re assuming, acquisition costs will be appropriate for the value, and ensure that the successful delivery of legal services that maximise client satisfaction and lifetime value will be within reach.
Hopefully you find this list useful and it helps bring a focus to the areas your website needs to address in order to give you the best possible chance of success. Thankfully, most law firm websites don’t fail on all these counts, however, if any of the issues above resonate and you would like to resolve them, please get in touch for a quick chat to discuss what you need to do next.
“Having the right foundational data to do proper business planning and performance measurement is a must for law firms wanting to make better pricing decisions in terms of levels.”
For more useful website tips, download a copy of The Essential Guide To Your Law Firm Website at enlightenic.com/law-firm-website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maximising client care through tech: it’s the clients, stupid! Our resident Tech columnist Charles Christian writes…
he SRA Handbook contains an extensive (and surprisingly lucidly written) chapter on Client Care and there is no doubt technology can help take some of the strain out of client care compliance for any law firm – not least by ensuring you don’t forget to send the client the latest versions of all the client care documentation. However this is all very much bland, routine administrative ‘stuff’ that has very little impact on the actual lawyer-client relationship. Or, to put it more bluntly, when asked to recommend a firm of solicitors, nobody ever has replied “Ooh, use Firm X, they sent me a lovely client care documentation pack!” I would suspect (speaking as a consumer of legal services myself) the reaction of most clients is to file it, without reading it, and never look at it again. But, what about outcome O(1.5), namely: ‘the service you provide to clients is competent, delivered in a timely manner and takes account of your clients’ needs and circumstances’? In the ‘real world’ this would equate to delivering the sought-after result, on time and on budget. Indeed the majority of legal services are delivered in this fashion – with the obvious caveat that with criminal, matrimonial and civil litigation work there is a considerable risk the client will be disappointed. However, as I’ve commented before in this column, in today’s ultra-competitive world of legal services provision, merely doing your job well is not enough to keep the client happy or ensure they’ll come back to you next time they have a legal matter they need assistance with. To do this, you need to go that extra mile and to ‘super-please’ your clients (to use a corny term much loved by marketing folk). You need to add something that makes your clients go ‘wow!’ – and certainly if you keep the clients
“Given the state of modern law office accounts, billing, time-recording, word-processing and case/matter management software, there is absolutely no excuse for a firm not being able to adapt its client services delivery to meet the clients needs and circumstances.”
happy in this fashion, not only will they return with fresh instructions but they are also far more likely recommend your services to other potential clients. So what has this got to do with client care? Well, over the decades I’ve been writing about the UK legal profession, the biggest cause of client complaints and grumbles about solicitors has consistently been inadequate communications. Sometimes this has involved gross incompetence on behalf of the lawyers but in many other instances it has been an accumulation of niggles which, although minor in themselves, add up to an unsatisfactory client experience. The client’s preferred means of communication is email and mobile phone – but you use the landline and snail-mail. The client wants to work on the documents you are drafting – but you send PDFs rather than Word files. The client (and this is a big bugbear for commercial clients) wants billing on a monthly basis – but you send one large bill at the close of the matter, ignoring the fact in-house legal departments work on strict annual budgets. In other words you are ignoring the final part of O(1.5)… and takes account of your clients’ needs and circumstances; Given the state of modern law office accounts, billing, time-recording, word-processing and case/matter management software, there is absolutely no excuse for a firm not being able to adapt its client services delivery to meet the clients needs and circumstances.
It doesn’t matter that ultimately you may have delivered the sought-after result, on time and on budget, all the client remembers is you Charles Christian is the Founder of the Legal IT were inflexible and caused them administrative Insider newsletter and talks hassle. Technology allows you to maximize about tech and geek stuff on client care: just take a deep breath and remind yourself that today the customer is always right! Twitter at @ChristianUncut
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GET ON THE OFFENSIVE WITH TECHNOLOGY As £500m was stolen by fraudsters from UK bank customers during the first half of 2018 (UK Finance). This threat is becoming evermore prevalent in the legal industry as well. It’s no longer a question of if but rather when a large attack is going to happen to a firm; the impact of such attack could be devastating. Geoff Dunnett, Shieldpay, reports.
he recent Dreamvar decision has everyone worried due to the effect this might have on Professional Indemnity Insurance premiums for victim firms and the market as a whole. This isn’t new, there was a purported £85m lost by firms due to ‘Friday Fraud’ over an 18-month period, over 2016-17 (QBE).
detection and malware detention sandboxes to protect devices and networks. However, for a firm to have all of these solutions set up and maintained, can be expensive. We all know that attack is the best form of defence. It is therefore better to put in processes or systems that remove the crosshairs from your back.
Understanding the cause. Rogue actors within organisations are difficult to stop. Cybercriminals and fraudsters however can be stopped. They exploit human weakness to commit their crimes. Common examples of these types are: (i) phishing, such as gaining access to a firm’s systems via information collected from a partner’s mobile phone; and (ii) interception fraud, where a fraudster, claiming to be from your organisation, providing different bank details to your client to which funds should be sent. This is often done by an email coming from an address with only a slight difference in spelling, which is difficult to notice e.g. email@example.com to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Types of solutions that can be used to great effect:
How do you protect yourself? There is a mixture of firm culture and awareness - something that most firms already have in place - but there is also the adoption of new systems and processes to protect your organisation. You will likely already have defensive technology in place, focusing on firewalls, anti-virus software, intrusion
n Bank account validation and verification systems: For any payment received in or out of client account. Both CallCredit and Experian have very good solutions here but if your organisation is tech savy, you could look at companies that provide off the shelf open banking solutions, such as Truelayer. n Hosted desktop solutions: These provide you with desktop workspace that can be securely accessed from any device capable of displaying it. This secures your IT infrastructure without having to worry whether you have made the necessary recent upgrades to your anti-virus software and also ensures that your staff working remotely is as secure as those sat in the office, providers such as Nasstar are worth exploring.
information like this leaves you open to attack. Many organisations are moving to building their own or use client portals connected to their case management software. This can be expensive and will not work for all types of clients. At the very least, using a secure email provider, such as stayprivate can help you mitigate some of the risk. n Third Party Managed Accounts: Using an FCA authorised and regulated payment institution like Shieldpay, as a Third Party Managed Account provider, removes the operational and regulatory risk of holding client funds. It ensures that the funds arrive safely and go where and to whom they are supposed to go, whilst at same time providing operational efficiencies to your organisation and providing your clients with transparency of funds for the first time. Just look at the numbers if you’re not convinced. Insurers, such as New Eden Way, are beginning to recognise fully the efforts that firms are making in risk management and adjusting premiums as a reward.
n Secure email providers or applications: Traditional email is not secure and passing confidential
“Using an FCA authorised and regulated payment institution… ensures that the funds arrive safely and go where and to whom they are supposed to go, whilst at same time providing operational efficiencies to your organisation.”
Real Estate Director at Shieldpay
CHANGE IT UP Sarah Boustouller, Stephensons Solicitors LLP – a firm with significant and historic investment in technological and digital solutions to support clients, be more accessible and responsive to their needs – explains why a change of approach to client engagement is an essential today, not tomorrow.
he business mantra ‘adapt or die’ may seem a particularly brutal one, but we only need to look at the UK high street over the last few months to point to a handful of businesses who have failed to heed this advice. In an increasingly saturated and competitive market and against a backdrop of digitalisation, heightened client expectations and staffing costs, law firms are not exempt and cannot afford to just maintain the status quo. In fact, PwC’s annual survey of law firms found that a failure to respond adequately to these areas had resulted in an average fee income growth of just 3% in 2017. The survey found that that technology is highly likely to impact all aspects of law firm operations, from clients, to business support as well as things like staff recruitment and retention. While the plateauing of fee income is a worrying trend, over the last few years, many in the legal sector have recognised the need to adapt their offering. Investment in new technologies and looking at new ways to market their firms allows them to grow, stay relevant and remain competitive in our ever-evolving industry. We can’t stand still Change is necessary for any business because the external factors around all of us do not stand still, they evolve. This means that the needs and wants of consumers evolve simultaneously.
“Investment in new technologies and looking at new ways to market their firms allows them to grow, stay relevant and remain competitive in our ever-evolving industry.” Often tangible products are early adopters of change as consumption of a product is inherently linked to people’s environments. What consumers experience in relation to the marketing, communication, and delivery of these products then becomes the expected norm, which is sought in, not only products but in services too. There is increasing pressure for law firms servicing individuals as well as businesses to commoditise the services they offer and change. This has come from a variety of sources. The legal sector has seen new entrants from different sectors into what was always a ‘closed’ sector. These new entrants have used transferable methods of delivering products to market and applied them to the packaging of legal services. These new entrants are one factor which means that law firms need to re-evaluate how they deliver legal services to participate in the marketplace.
The internet is our shop front With 10,360 law firms in the UK and the Internet changing the ‘shop front’; firms now have to compete in a national and, in some instances, international arena as opposed to what used to be a regional and local marketplace with a handful of competitors. Research shows that consumers have several digital interactions with a number of legal services firms before moving from the awareness phase of the buying cycle. If firms want to have access to this market and they do not want to lose local and regional share to firms in different geographical regions, they need to be attuned to online and digital channels that resonate with their prospective client base. It is no longer enough for law firms to deliver services via face to face, telephone, and e-mail exchange. Due to the fact that the lives of their clients are increasingly demanding and people are ‘time poor’, it is vital that the start point is ‘what do our clients need in order to access services? Rather than how do we want to deliver the service’. Consumers are now used to engaging with LiveChat and chatbots, carrying out video calls, digesting video content and verifying and concluding transactions remotely. This means that they seek this across the board in all products and services they want to consume. Social media also has a significant part to play. By embracing social channels as part of their marketing mix, law firms can not only engage with clients more
directly and strike up a conversation but also allow them to keep better watch of the competition and monitor and react to trends and changes in the legal industry. Firms are also having to make certain services free of charge, whether that be guides or templates. These services leave the client more informed and can help cut down the volume of questions at the initial point of contact. Like any regulated sector, regulators and professional bodies have been keen to understand what potential clients need and want in buying legal services. In some instances, this means change is forced in order to meet requirements by these bodies. The most recent example of this is Rule 2.1, which deals with price transparency. For some firms, this represents a huge change. They have never before published prices but the external influence of the regulator has made this a necessity. Changes introduced by different regulators will also mean that firms need to change by offering services that are in line with helping their clients meet those regulatory requirements and to assist them in the face of investigation and prosecution. Generation X and Y The social and demographic change means that the factors that are important to consumers in making a buying decision will continue to change over time. In order to attract the optimal workforce from generation X and Y and to attract these generations as potential clients, law firms will need to understand what motivates these demographics. Factors of influence and importance are very different here in comparison to older generations. This means that law firms will have to extend what they consider to be their principal delivery. For instance, younger generations are significantly influenced and more loyal to brands
“Consumers are now used to engaging with LiveChat and chatbots, carrying out video calls, digesting video content and verifying and concluding transactions remotely. This means that they seek this across the board in all products and services they want to consume.” that demonstrate and deliver a social conscience. This means that the delivery of social value is likely to be paramount. Giving colleagues more choice Different economic factors also necessitate change, increasing business rates and the needs of the workforce means that law firms have to adjust where they deliver services from. The increasing cost of real estate means that law firms must consider different working patterns and models of work. Firms are scaling down the size of their physical office presence and allowing staff to homework and adopt flexible working. This change has been vital to compete on price and keep overheads low. Law firms will need to have a constant eye on the
“The increased cost of real estate has not only made firms look at staff working methods but also the way they work with an increasing shift to secure online storage and paper-light delivery. This will continue to be important.”
‘where’ of service delivery to compete on price and to attract the right candidates. Economic factors will all drive methods of delivery of legal services. The increased cost of real estate has not only made firms look at staff working methods but also the way they work with an increasing shift to secure online storage and paper-light delivery. This will continue to be important. The fundamental goal is always to meet and exceed the needs of clients, with that in mind law firms must evolve every aspect of their business to meet this goal and retain and attract new clients. Standing still amidst this plethora of change is simply not an option.
Head of Marketing and Partner at Stephensons Solicitors LLP.
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NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE In the current legal landscape, where technology is at every meeting, client conference, workstation and soon, courtroom, Andrew McKie Barrister-Direct RESOLVE looks at whether the creation of a full client service and successful modern legal practice demands more than just ‘new’ technology.
hilst the ability of a firm to develop online initiatives, case progress reports, portals, websites and artificial intelligence software cannot be diminished, one of the most fundamental purposes of a legal representative is, for a lay client, to resolve a problem. When such is not done or, not done in a timely manner, technology alone is unlikely to come to the aid of the firm. Rather, somewhat traditionally, a full and proper resolution and rectification of their situation will arguably gain more favour with a lay client. Technology to RESOLVE It was with resolution in mind that Barrister-Direct recently developed its RESOLVE product. Grounded in the understanding that firms are no longer able to write off bad-debt, yet (due to a number of reasons including resources, experience and funding) are unable to continue in some matters, RESOLVE provides clients and claims with a safety net, and a chance of recovery and positive resolution. Whilst technology plays some degree in the transfer of a file and, thereafter, is employed by Barrister-Direct, RESOLVE is proud to count our team’s
“While we ensure technology provides us with the platform to operate effectively, our knowledge, experience and the ability to make a difficult decision is how we get results.”
“Whilst technology plays some degree in the transfer of a file and, thereafter, is employed by Barrister-Direct, RESOLVE is proud to count our team’s experience, knowledge and a breadth of strategic partners as the reason our service has seen tremendous popularity since its inception.” experience, knowledge and a breadth of strategic partners as the reason our service has seen tremendous popularity since its inception. Since our very recent launch, RESOLVE has benefitted from some 1,000 enquiries. Those who have utilised the service range from personal injury law firms, to housing and construction practices and agencies. Naturally, RESOLVE employs the use of technology in E-Sign, SMS Case Updates and 24 hour online instant chat with our clients, yet, for BarristerDirect, technology is merely the vehicle to deliver a client service. For us, the core of this client service embodies skill, experience and longevity, providing a client with trust and security in a positive outcome.
that, for whatever reason, technology alone will not assist. As RESOLVE has successfully found, for those firms that utilise our service, the opportunity to streamline their case-loads yields results - which, in the current legal landscape, promotes success and longevity - in addition to retaining a chance of recovery themselves, through the preservation of a firm’s line on costs and attempt to recover previously incurred disbursements. Those results benefit all and do not arise from a click of a button. While we ensure technology provides us with the platform to operate effectively, our knowledge, experience and the ability to make a difficult decision is how we get results.
RESOLVE: The Future Will the vehicle continue to move across the legal industry? Undoubtedly so. However, any practice must understand that technology is just that - a vehicle. At the heart of any law firm live its clients and those whose interests they protect. In the circumstances where a firm is unable to continue to do
Barrister & Director, Barrister-Direct RESOLVE
SERVICING CLIENTS WHEN YOU’RE NOT THERE Just because your office is closed for the weekend and the phones are switched onto autopilot, it doesn’t mean clients are happy to wait. Who can keep your client engaged, informed and cuddled when you’re not around? Rich Dibbins, Conscious, has the answer.
lients and prospective clients expect a level of service from a law firm, be that a nice welcome from the receptionist through to ensuring their bills are correct at the end of a matter. Either way, a bad client experience can leave them with a sour taste in their mouth. Yet what about those times you can’t help your clients, for example 4pm on a Sunday and a client needs some information on conveyancing or a possible employment issue. All they can do is search your website, fill in a form and wait. This all takes time and time is the one commodity we can’t take back. There is also the chance the client is looking at two or three other law firms to get the necessary information. We know from working with hundreds of law firms, clients will fill in a form and wait for a response. The client is then playing a waiting game until you get back to them, and perhaps they move on to the next website ranked in Google. Who will get the information to the client first? How good are your business development skills? Does the website enquiry get lost in your morass of emails? Either way the client is waiting. Yet what if your client could get the initial information relating to their
problem, engage the client on your website by adding value and not losing them to the rest of Google? In some cases, it can take months to get a client on board, but you can lose a client in a matter of days. Retaining clients and providing an online information service is going to be crucial for any modern law firm. Over the last 12 months we have run pilot Chatbot schemes for five of our clients, ranging from a sole practitioner through to a top 200 UK law firm. Below are some of the key stats over the last two months that we have seen are: n 48% of all chats initiated were ‘meaningful, of these n 42% were live chat requests n 30% were enquiries from clients n 28% were website search requests There is no such thing as a ‘standard website’ these days. Here at Conscious we are developing more and more features to make a law firm’s website engaging. Pretty pictures, or thousands of words of text no longer captures the client’s attention. The modern client wants interaction; did you know the human attention span on a website is less than seven seconds. A goldfish has the attention span of eight seconds...
“We wanted to have the next level of engagement with our clients, The Conscious Chatbot was the perfect fit. Since our Chatbot ‘Woody’ has gone live we have seen a 35.8% increase in our website visits and our bounce rate is in single figures.“ 56
“Woody has been live for a little over seven months and we are very excited to see how he will progress over the next 12 ‘months,’“ Clive Smith, Managing Partner, lewessmith.co.uk These numbers reduce greatly when it comes to mobile devices. This means client interaction is more important now than ever. We are not replacing humans and robots are not taking over the world. A common fear of Chatbots has been that they will replace the lawyer. This is not the case (well not yet anyway). We still need the lawyer to conduct the work and the human interaction – that robots cannot replace. The Chatbot function has the ability to pass the client onto a human contact, if someone is available. This feature can be turned on or off as needed. Some law firms still close for lunch, this also is typically the time clients tend to call most law firms. What if your Chatbot could field enquiries on the website at lunch or over the weekend, so you never have to miss an opportunity?
is Head of Sales and Digital Strategy at Conscious
COLLABORATE IN CONFIDENCE
As the SRA is set to make the regulatory rulebook more ‘straightforward’ with regards to the interaction between good quality financial advisory firms and solicitors, Dave Seager, SIFA, explains the benefits of this approach and tips for confident collaborations and referrals going forwards.
our forward thinking, innovative regulator is in the process of changing the regulatory handbook away from the current outcomes focused style tome, to a slimmed down version more heavily based on core principles. From 400 plus pages of indicative behaviours and outcomes to 130 of common sense guidelines across all area of a solicitor’s business. The purpose is to make it easier for solicitors/firms to maintain higher standards, which in turn will benefit clients. Crispin Passmore, the SRA Executive Director, summed the exercise up succinctly when he said to me recently: “We have taken out everything that was unnecessary and left in only what was necessary”. In essence, your regulator trusts solicitors to do the right thing by their clients but by making the rulebook straightforward, it is making it easier for you to do so. For legal work, I am sure no one doubts that solicitors have such high professional standards; that they always act in their clients’ best interests. However, when it comes to referring work outside of your own remit, the new handbook - and within it, the solicitor’s code of conduct offers excellent guidance. The new handbook, expected to come into full force in April 2019, has for the first time a Code of Conduct for the firm as well as for individual solicitors, which should usher in an era of a more centralised approach to how practices manage their external referrals. If solicitors are to adhere to the new rules on referrals outlined in Section 5 of the new Code, they will need to have a more structured approach
when choosing the firms they refer to clients – in particular, those in need of complimentary financial advice. Crispin Passmore, the driving force behind the new handbook and codes at the SRA, summarised how this should look at the recent SIFA Conference. Certainly, our financial planning professionals were delighted with his assessment of how referrals should work in the future, in that: n Agreements relating to referrals of a client by a solicitor to another person, or from another person to a solicitor, must be in writing. n We expect referring firms to have a better understanding of the organisation they refer to – for example, if they are regulated by the FCA and for what activities. n Referrals will need to be based on a more measured approach aiming to benefit the client. n If referring to a ‘separate business’ the solicitor/firm will need the client’s informed consent. n Informed consent – (could be in writing or a recorded call). Up to firms to make sure the client understands the basis of the referral and consents.
“When it comes to referring work outside of your own remit, the new handbook and within it, the solicitor’s code of conduct - offers excellent guidance.” 57
Given the above, which is directly from the Executive Director of the SRA, now truly is the time to undertake serious due diligence into which financial planning and indeed other third parties, you need to work with, to benefit your clients. There must be a centralised firm-wide policy communicated to all individuals. In 2019, the best and most assured way to track processes and ensure the compliant nature of all your dealings for the client is via IT. To demonstrate the referral is in the client’s best interests the due diligence on the referee should be made available to the individual and they must acknowledge and give ‘informed consent’. Having attained the client’s agreement, you might be wise to use a secure communication portal. We at SIFA use Catalyst Software, a bespoke online referral system, but there are many others and the prevalence has increased post GDPR. There is little doubt that your clients or potential customers do not think in silos when it comes to professional advice; a joined up approach between solicitor and financial planner is exactly what the client wants and needs. Customers want it; your regulator recognises it and now expects it, and modern systems like Catalyst and others can facilitate the professional and compliant handling of it.
is the Development Director at SIFA.
Managing Director of Bluebird
“Almost all lawyers use Word yet, from our research, more than one third say they don’t get the most out of it… They do, however, care about these things.”
The most-used yet under-valued system in the legal sector is costing law firms thousands in lost revenue.
annualised, that equates to £20k lost revenue on a £160 hourly charge out rate.
There’s a misconception that our current generation of lawyers understand the technical application of creating and amending their documents. Law schools don’t teach Microsoft Word skills – that’s a matter for the law firm. There’s an expectation that lawyers are to be self-sufficient but I’ll spell it out to you: lawyers don’t know how to Word process their own documents!
This is having a detrimental effect on the operational efficiency of the practice and it’s also damaging a law firm’s brand – the documents drafted in Word are a representation of the brand, although this is sometimes forgotten. n Lawyers are trying to fix broken documents and are increasingly inefficient. n It’s taking longer to respond to clients’ demands. n Documents are delivered late to clients and opponents. n The written advice is not representing a firm’s brand and is often incongruent with its own marketing materials. n Collaboration on other firm’s documents is challenging and leads to lost productivity.
Legal documents are constructed using advanced word processing features such as Word Styles, Numbering Schemes, Automatic Cross Referencing, Section Breaks, Automatic Tables of Content. If you know how to operate these features then congratulations – you’re top of the class! If you have house style, then you also get a gold star. Almost all lawyers use Word yet, from our research, more than one third say they don’t get the most out of it. They confirmed that they don’t know how to fix numbering or formatting. In some cases, they don’t know how track changes work and they don’t realise the risks of not understanding meta-data in documents. They do, however, care about these things. Some are spending at least 30 minutes every day trying to fix alignment of numbering and paragraph indents in their documents. If this figure is
Having skills in the native Word application are necessary for efficiency. Not only are they transferrable, they will enable lawyers to work in documents other than their own firm’s precedents and templates - and therein lies the rub. Not many lawyers have an interest in the technical application. I wait with baited breath to be proven wrong. If you do have a desire to know how to fix the problem then I give you some answers in our book which can be downloaded here: http://downloadbook.bluebird.services.
Have an experienced team of secretaries from just £50 per week Less frustrating and more intelligent than voice recognition, outsourcing transcription and document word processing will save you 60% of your secretarial overhead. Our service is easy to set up and convenient to use so you can work from anywhere at any time and have
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access to a team of secretaries who want to support you. Bluebird’s Transcription and Document Fix & Format services integrate seamlessly into your processes and systems so you can easily manage the peaks of your workflow. The solution to your typing problems is just a phone call away.
Your transcripts are returned Your documents are in under 4 hours guaranteed, or typed and amended using you can choose a priority your preferred formatting 1-hour service and style
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020 3409 7041 email@example.com www.bluebird.services
Simply send us your templates and we train our team
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ONE-TO-ONE Can technology help achieve the ‘one-to-one’ goal of personalised service delivery? Peter Ambrose, The Partnership Property Solicitors, investigates.
hen lawyers (having been subjected to years of relentless approaches by case management salesmen) finally submit and sign on the dotted line, they typically find that the breathless wait for the benefits of tech to deliver tends to be just that – a breathless wait. Using technology to deliver joyful client service in the legal industry is rarely successful as initial optimism gives way to cynical disappointment. However, rather than consigning it to the ‘too-difficult’ pile, the deployment of technology must be better understood and applied to processes and requirements that genuinely meet the goal of service delivery. That goal is to give the impression to a client that they are the only person the company is dealing with – the one-toone approach. When a client interacts with a company, everyone should have access to details about them, their case and their child’s GCSE results. Quite a challenge. What is technology NOT good at? There are aspects of technology such as artificial intelligence that are revolutionising the corporate legal world with efficiencies in contract management and document analysis. However, such advances do not mean that technology is automatically qualified to address the poor levels of service typically found in the sector. Amazon’s Echo and Alexa can give details of the local weather because it is working with a very limited set of data. However, Amazon’s engineers will struggle to develop a technology that calms a client who has just been told that the other side’s lawyers are
away on holiday - with no-one to cover their files. When it comes to interpreting a poorly photocopied 1950’s lease, technology struggles to understand the nuances involved - or the handwritten changes. While this will bring comfort to those who think ‘computers can never replace lawyers’, technology is not best used to solve these types of issues. Yet. What should technology be used for? Technology is REALLY good at giving lawyers access to information vital to the people involved in a case. Unfortunately, software suppliers exhibit such limited industry knowledge that their software typically has an embarrassingly ‘WhatsApp’ air about it. Let’s face it, whoever thinks giving clients immediate and unfettered access to lawyers is a good idea has a lot to learn. For example, conveyancing software typically underestimates the variables and complexities faced by a lawyer who juggling dozens, if not hundreds, of cases. When the telephone rings, they must have instant access to all aspects of the case as if it was the only one they were working on.
to be told, and most importantly, when, should push this information to the client to stop them ringing in the first place. Technology can be used to solve the ‘where’ and the ‘what’ of conveyancing. It should provide an instant and understandable summary of a case’s progress and using this information, analyse the entire caseload to advise the lawyer what they should do next. Such case analytics are not available to most lawyers as companies rarely invest in thorough data collection procedures, automatic document scanning and interpretation and intelligent checklist management to ensure that appropriate decisions can be made. Conclusion Technology can be a highly effective tool for lawyers to achieve the goal of one-to-one service delivery. By capturing data electronically at all stages of the process and making it available for reuse will reduce the effort involved in future cases. Only once this basic standard has been achieved, can intelligent case analytics and predictive prioritisation can be effectively deployed.
However, this is using technology in the wrong way; predictive analytics that understands what the client needs
“Using technology to deliver joyful client service in the legal industry is rarely successful as initial optimism gives way to cynical disappointment.” 59
is the Director of The Partnership Property Solicitors.
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opts for Legal Eclipse’s Proclaim solution to support expansion. DJ Alexander Legal, a Scottishbased law firm, has used the Law Society Endorsed Proclaim Practice Management Software solution from Eclipse Legal Systems to support the rapid expansion of its property law work. With over 30 years’ experience of Lettings and Estate Agency services in Edinburgh and Glasgow, providing clients with a range of legal services, particularly conveyancing, was the next logical steps in order to offer a tailored and seamless service for property clients across the UK.
DJ Alexander Legal chose to replace its incumbent system with the Proclaim Practice Management Software solution, to provide a consolidated and efficient upgrade for its team.
case management module now offers the team a core centralised productivity suite and market-leading toolsets to ensure cases are driven forward in a cost-effective, yet personalised manner.
David Court, Partner at DJ Alexander Legal, said: “Due to our rapid expansion – and anticipated future growth – we needed a case management system that can meet our specific business prerequisites and a provider that can integrate a powerful, robust solution.
As part of the installation process, Eclipse’s in-house consultancy team will work with DJ Alexander Legal to ensure that workflows and documents fully cater for the legislative requirements in Scottish law.
“Following a rigorous selection process, we are more than confident in Eclipse’s ability to understand the implementation work involved, and Proclaim’s ability to provide our team with a comprehensive, yet unified legal software system. Essentially, Eclipse’s Proclaim system will result in a fully centralised practice management solution that will enable our team to complete processes seamlessly.” The pre-configured Proclaim conveyancing
For further information, please contact
Marketing Director at Eclipse Legal Systems, part of Capita plc, via email@example.com or call 01274 704100. Alternatively, visit www.eclipselegal.co.uk
10 MINS WITH
WAYNE GALLANT Q
the estate agency sector was infectious and ultimately inspired my passion to change the conveyancing sector. He makes it his mission to know everything there is to know about the property market and that’s a commendable trait in anyone.
Did you expect the legal services sector to change so drastically when you started working in it?
To be honest yes I did, in fact I had hoped that we would of made larger strides to where we need to be by now. There are a lot of good (and underutilised) tech products on the market to help the legal services sector now but don’t get me wrong there is still along way to go before we get it right. I am extremely happy to meet an increasing number of solicitors recently who are willing to embrace technology and willing to bring their firms to the forefront of the change curve.
What has been the key positive or negative impact of the liberalisation of legal services?
That’s a good question; I definitely see any liberalisation as a positive for the legal services sector. Currently there are ways for the modern conveyancer to stand head and shoulders above their competitors but they do need to think outside the box and avoid the beaten path.
Who inspires you and why?
My late Granddad always inspires me; he was a fantastic business man and remained a gentleman of his word no matter how successful he got. One of his biggest wins was a contract for his engineering firm to do all the plate welding for the Sinclair C5’s. Now obviously the C5 wasn’t the success that Clive Sinclair had hoped but my Grandad’s firm did very well out of it. In fact GetMeMoving recently purchased a C5. It’s currently being modernised and turned into a promotional vehicle for a bit of nostalgia – as well as a tip of the cap to my Granddad.
Have you had a mentor? If so, what was the most valuable piece of advice given to you?
“There are two things I can assure you of: firstly, the only thing that will make you successful in business is hard work, and secondly; you need to find your own path, no matter how difficult it can become at times.”
I’ve not really had a mentor per se, however I always strive to take bits from everyone I meet who are doing something well or different. The best piece of advice I can give anyone, and often do is: ‘you do you’. Every business ‘guru’ or motivational speaker out there will have you believe that the only way to be successful is to listen and follow their every word. There are two things I can assure you of: firstly, the only thing that will make you successful in business is hard work, and secondly; you need to find your own path, no matter how difficult it can become at times.
If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?
Your guess is as good as mine - although I would definitely be running a business of some sort. I have always had a passion for business and love to push boundaries for improvement.
is Co-Founder & CEO of GetMeMoving getmemoving.co.uk
I also spent a lot of time working with Russell Quirk (CEO of Emoov). His passion to change
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