Tag Archives: 2013

The next generation: there is hope!

I and my colleagues speak at quite a few events. We enjoy it, and it’s a very good way of meeting people and discussing different ways of delivering legal services (particularly our ways!). Having said that, some events are better than others and I’m sure that we have all sat through a few lengthy low-energy sessions which fall somewhat short of their initial promise, despite a hefty price tag and heavyweight speakers – CPD points and forty winks anybody? In November, I was invited by the UCL Law Society to take part in a panel discussion entitled “The Future of the Legal Profession”. A weighty topic and pretty relevant to a group of people who were intending to embark upon a career in law at a time of unprecedented change in the market and great uncertainty for new entrants. This was not an audience after CPD points but merely the chance to earn them one day, and I was very interested to gauge how aware law students are of the challenges facing them and the profession in general. I am happy to report that the packed audience were well aware of the realities of the market. Happy not that they were worried about the difficulties of getting training contracts or pupillages but that they were going into this with their eyes open and, judging from the conversations I had afterwards, a determination to succeed and a very commercial approach to the practice of law. Of course, this is not all good news. Only a handful of those present were considering going in to traditionally publicly-funded work such as criminal or family law. Not because of the work itself but because, starting a career saddled with thousands of pounds of student debt and the prospect of funding the incredibly high cost of living in (mostly) London, such a route is simply unaffordable. However, from the perspective of the new legal landscape which is rapidly emerging, I felt that the response of the students indicated a welcome move away from the traditional ivory tower viewpoint of the profession and towards a more pragmatic, commercial and customer-centric approach. There is hope! There is hope, also, in the fact that an entirely student-organised function provoked an active and informed debate. The quality of the questions were far better than many I have heard in “professional” conferences and it was refreshing to be in such an engaged gathering. Another feature was the diversity of the student body. I don’t have the statistics to hand, but a good proportion of attendees were from overseas – what a fantastic reflection on the strength of the English Law market and legal system, driving one of our country’s most important “invisible” exports. The only downside, for me at least, was that there were no members of the teaching faculty present. I have no idea why this was – maybe they weren’t invited – but surely the challenge of delivering a career for law graduates must be central to the purpose of the faculty, particularly in the era of £9,000 a year fees?

December 2013 Market Horizon Scanning Report

Welcome to the December 2013 edition of the Riverview Law Market Scanning Report.

As part of our market and horizon scanning activities we have always collected and circulated internally relevant legal market articles, commentaries, reports and blogs. When we shared this data with a GC he asked why we didn’t routinely share this with him because he’d find it invaluable. It was a good question!

So, we now publish this report which, as you’ll see below, contains links to what we think are the most interesting and relevant legal market commentaries of the last month – November 2013.

November 2013

Legal Market assessment report 2012/13
http://rv-l.com/1cCxlpA
The Law Society
November 2013

A report by the New York City Bar Association on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession
http://rv-l.com/1fOyEqc
New York City Bar Association
Fall 2013

Big law. New law. Ethical risk.
http://rv-l.com/IvNYKx
Richard Moorhead
20 November 2013

Will continuing to ban non lawyer ownership make US firms and clients less competitive?
http://rv-l.com/1jQzuQF
ABA Journal
1 November 2013

Lawyers in lavish offices still don’t get client demands
http://rv-l.com/1bSZzdN
Financial Post
1 November 2013

Legal Outsourcing Guide
The inside perspective for buyers of legal services

http://rv-l.com/1aOnXMk
The Global Legal Post
1 November 2013

“Entrepreneurial?” Really?
http://rv-l.com/1gosGtN
Blog: Adam Smith, Esq.
7 November 2013 

Big Law Still Needs to Get a Lot Smaller
http://rv-l.com/1dz0mr1
Business Week
11 November 2013

Legal fees cut by better law department management
http://rv-l.com/1iPK7Wj
The Global Legal Post
11 November 2013

Latest data reveals growing problems for OldLaw
http://rv-l.com/1cMVoSj
ABA Journal
13 November 2013

What managers and GCs should know about technology in the law department
http://rv-l.com/IlHpdx
Inside Counsel
21 November 2013

Riverview Law adds four commercial barristers

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, has responded to the growing demand from customers for a broad spread of commercial law advice by adding four new barristers to its team. Sarah Clarke from Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, Gabriel Fadipe from Wilberforce Chambers and 11 South Square duo Jacqueline Reid and Christopher Hall all join Riverview Chambers to boost its expertise in financial services, commercial/chancery and IP work. Sarah Clarke is a specialist adviser and advocate in the field of financial services regulation, with extensive experience of market abuse and regulatory actions. Gabriel Fadipe has a wide-ranging practice encompassing most aspects of commercial, property, and ‘modern chancery’ litigation. He has a growing portfolio of fraud-related cases, and his work often has an international flavour. Jacqueline Reid is an established specialist in all areas of intellectual property and information technology law, with particular expertise in design law, confidential information and data protection. She chairs the Bar Council’s IT panel, which advises on the impact of IT developments on the legal profession and wider community. Christopher Hall’s practice covers the full spread of intellectual property. Benefiting from a scientific background, he has considerable expertise in the re-styled Intellectual Property Enterprise Court. In line with the Riverview Chambers model, each barrister will also continue to practise at their existing chambers. Adam Shutkever, the COO of Riverview Law, says: “The appointment of these four exceptional barristers demonstrates the range of commercial law advice our clients are demanding. We recognise the increasingly complex and varied environment facing businesses of all sizes and are able to bring the best legal minds to bear in guiding them through it.” Since launching in February 2012, Riverview Chambers has attracted some of the leading names from the Bar. It now has 64 members practising across all areas of business law.

November 2013 Market Horizon Scanning Report

Welcome to the November 2013 edition of the Riverview Law Market Scanning Report.

As part of our market and horizon scanning activities we have always collected and circulated internally relevant legal market articles, commentaries, reports and blogs. When we shared this data with a GC he asked why we didn’t routinely share this with him because he’d find it invaluable. It was a good question!

So, we now publish this report which, as you’ll see below, contains links to what we think are the most interesting and relevant legal market commentaries of the last month – October 2013.

October 2013 

‘Slow, ignorant’ lawyers charge by the hour to inflate bills, says leading judge
http://rv-l.com/1bULf5M
Lord Neuberger – London Evening Standard
18 Oct 2013

What Voltaire might have said about NewLaw
http://rv-l.com/1fgqUuc
Eric Chin, Beaton Capital
18 Oct 2013

Captive law firms to smash status quo
http://rv-l.com/1iJuCfL
The Wall Street Journal
18 Oct 2013

Lawyers must learn to adapt to a brave new world
http://rv-l.com/GQOMZ0
Sir Nigel Knowles
15 Oct 2013

Restoring a future for Law
http://rv-l.com/19Tk6Bh
Professor Stephen Mayson
14 Oct 2013

Why law firm pedigree may be a thing of the past
http://rv-l.com/1a4NmEz
Harvard business review
11 Oct 2013

The rise and rise of the new law firm business model
http://rv-l.com/1byylKU
Beaton Capital
7 October 2013

Riverview speak at University of Law career day

Recently we had great fun visiting the University of Law in Christleton to share the Riverview model with the next generation of legal professionals … and to share with them why they should consider starting their career with us. We (Ed Chan, Sam Cooper, Yasmin Shokrollahi and Tara Cavanna) spoke to around 30 students about Alternative Business Structures, the changing legal market and why we are in the process of securing an ABS license. It was clear that for many hourly billing and the ticking clock is all they know and what they expected. However, we hope that our enthusiasm for the innovative nature of Riverview changed that. Hearing what we do every day, at the front line of the service, seemed to challenge the students’ perception of how legal services should be provided. After all, since we launched we’ve been proving, day-in-day out, that affordable, first class legal services can be provided to all organisations, from the small medium enterprises to the large corporates without compromising on quality. As importantly, we’ve also proved that we can have fun whilst doing it. Two questions repeatedly came up: How can a business structure like Riverview’s possibly work, and what are the career prospects at Riverview? The answer to the first question is straight forward; we provide our legal services in a no-nonsense way that charges a fair, fixed price that delivers value to the customer and revenues and profit to Riverview. We’re transparent, open and honest with our customers and most importantly, we understand what they do. Add to that an enthusiastic and innovative team of people who are at the top of their game and there’s your answer. The career prospects are exactly what you’d expect from a fresh, dynamic business expanding at an impressive rate. We explained that that in just 2 months, we’ve doubled in size. Pretty impressive for a new business. And we’re still growing. There is already a huge amount of opportunity at Riverview for those who want it. Riverview recognises that a business is only as good as it’s people, so they are hugely committed to training and developing their staff to enhance their careers and support them on their chosen paths. After all, the team is ultimately what makes Riverview stand out from the crowd. I hope we helped to inspire these students, and change their perception of how legal services can (and should!) be provided. We think we got them excited for their future careers and we got them excited about Riverview. We certainly learnt a lot.

The British are coming – with Sports Mixtures – what would The New Yorker say?

I couldn’t resist tweeting, while our plane was prevented from leaving its stand by torrential rain, that we were on our way to support @RiverviewLawUS as it continued its work converting our US cousins. I burst out laughing as almost immediately I was greeted with a ‘The British are coming’ response from a US commentator. Don’t you just love Twitter. Given the scrutiny my passport got at Border Control these Tweets were clearly being monitored by the US authorities … and the ABA? However, the customs official finally let me through when my answer to what felt like his forty-ninth question – “So what does your business do?” – was “We make it cheaper and easier to get high quality legal advice.” He directed me on my way with a smile saying “Anyone who can sort lawyers out is fine by me, welcome to America.” Well, his words were actually a little less diplomatic than this but you get the sentiment. After much laughter and many intense, challenging and engaging discussions with lawyers, businesses, law school deans, law students, academics and commentators, the trip ended in New York, via Boston and a 90 minute meeting with London on Cisco Telepresence. Scarily (be very scared Riverview Law team) it left me even more excited about the global opportunities in the legal market and the impact technology will have on the delivery of professional services. We may be getting an Ice Cream fridge following the visit to Jorma Vartia of Fondia but I really want a Cisco Telepresence system for Riverview Law – brilliant technology. There were many stand-out moments during the trip; forgetting where we’d parked the car, getting a parking ticket, driving out of a service station with a drink on the roof, talking on a mobile phone in the Yale club … But the big take-away for me was the strategic drivers behind the trends in the US and UK legal markets. Much of the US market, including many law schools, is clearly unaware of the ABS revolution that’s happening ‘across the Pond’. They have no idea of its likely impact, and probably think that a combination of the ABA, Border Control and the Atlantic Ocean are enough to shield the US legal market from the increased competition emerging. The flipside is that there’s a lot more technological innovation in the US (just look at what Cisco and our partner Legal OnRamp have and are doing!). It’s easy for us, and I include Riverview Law in the ‘us’ (and we think we’re quite advanced), to overlook what’s happening in this space. I think the technology trend will ultimately prove to be at least as important as the regulatory changes occurring. I was invigorated by what I saw and heard. However, above everything else the trip reminded me just how poor American ‘candy’ is when compared with British sweets. Biting into a US Twix was, let me be charitable, disappointing. Trying their equivalent of our Sports Mixtures was nothing short of horrible. When I expressed such views, politely of course, and when I extolled the virtues of OUR sweets (I became very patriotic), my American hosts, Paul Lippe of Legal On-Ramp and Steve Harmon of Cisco, thought I was ‘exaggerating’, although they used more colourful language at the time, suggesting that I should not judge American cuisine from our Masspike rest-stop experience! But, a mouthful of Sports Mixtures later (I had a couple of bags in my case for emergency breakfast purposes) and their journey to the promised land had started. You’ll be pleased to know, and would expect nothing else given our traditional English hospitality, that as part of our on-going missionary services to our US brethren we’re assembling a sweet parcel so that they know what they are missing!  It’s always great to be home – I love touching down in England – but I learnt so much, in such a short time, that the next longer trip to the US is already being planned. A visit during which I will try and blag my way into the pages of the New Yorker with an interview on the health and well-being benefits of English sweets – particularly Sports Mixtures as part of a balanced diet. After all, many lawyers would say I know more about sweets than legal services. Some would say such an article would raise the standard of journalism in the New Yorker. I couldn’t possibly comment!

Riverview Law adds five commercial lawyers to expanding team

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, has recruited five additional solicitors to its legal team, amid plans to double in size over the next year. All five will be assigned to large corporate accounts, as a result of recent contract wins with a number of FTSE 100 businesses, and bring with them a wealth of experience:

  • Sarah East: Qualified in 2003 and has extensive in-house experience having most recently worked with Virgin Media as an Associate Counsel for business & technology.
  • Ed Chan: Joins from DLA Piper with over ten years’ experience. He specialises in corporate and business law, advising on start-ups and small businesses, through to high profile private equity transactions and international mergers and acquisitions.
  • Emma Walmsley: Joins from DWF where she qualified as a solicitor in 2010 and has experience in both commercial and finance litigation.
  • David Stalker: Qualified with Nabarro in 2006 before joining Hill Dickinson’s banking team in 2010. David has extensive advisory and transactional experience in commercial contracts, corporate and banking law often involving multiple jurisdictions.
  • Heather O’Donnell: Also joins from Hill Dickinson where she was an assistant solicitor in the commercial litigation team.

Steven Zdolyny, Head of Legal at Riverview Solicitors, says: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the calibre of candidates applying for roles with us. We offer an exciting alternative for legal professionals, particularly for those who want to focus on delivering high quality legal work for major customers and not having to worry about billable hours or being relied upon to win new work. One of our new starters summed it up perfectly by saying: “This role is everything I wanted and more. It is fresh, friendly and fun.” Riverview Law announced in August that it planned to double in size by recruiting 100 new employees including lawyers, business law executives, client managers, IT developers and data analysts. Those interested in a career with Riverview Law, can find out more about the opportunities available by emailing: recruitment@riverviewlaw.com

Riverview Law instructed to act for Julien Grout in connection with US and UK investigations into trading activities at JP Morgan

Julien Grout, the ex-JP Morgan trader, has instructed Richard Lissack QC of Riverview Law to lead the London team in connection with investigations into trading activities being carried out in the US and UK, working alongside a US team led by Edward Little of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, New York.

Helsinki Heights: Susskind, That Skeleton and Ice Cream

Have you ever walked into a law firm reception and been offered ice cream? Neither had I until I went to Helsinki last week at the invitation of Jorma Vartia, Managing Director of the law firm Fondia. Walking into the Fondia office is an experience. Stepping out of the lift I thought I’d got off at the wrong floor. I thought I’d walked into someone’s front room. There is no reception. There is a coffee shop. There is a comfortable study with big, deep leather chairs and old fashioned rich wall paper which acts, almost accidentally, as a waiting area. There is a deliciously unavoidable ice cream freezer (I assume it’s replaced by a soup dispenser in winter!). But if walking into the office had, in its own low key and understated way, that wow factor, walking into the meeting rooms was, literally, mind boggling. Did I say meeting rooms? I mean playrooms with games, toys … oh and glass-topped meeting tables which allow you to see the pool table underneath. And a skeleton, who is apparently the longest serving employee (I forgot to ask his/her name). They even have a house band which is so good it could easily play gigs, and probably does. In some ways it all reminded me of BFC, the fictional US law firm created by Mitch Kowalski in his excellent book ‘Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining legal services for the 21st century’’. But Mitch, this is way beyond BFC and must feature in your next book (alongside Riverview Law of course!). I’d been invited to speak at the Fondia Legal conference organised to celebrate its ninth birthday. I’m so glad I accepted. Not only was the pre-conference Q&A with 80 ‘Fondians’ great fun – I admit I googled ‘Fondians’ before the event – the conference itself (and the party afterwards!) was excellent. The first speaker was Pekka Ala-Pietila, ex-President of Nokia . He provided an overview of the ICT 2015 strategy Finland has commenced to provide its five million population with a competitive advantage in both the regional and global markets. He spoke with calm authority and shared many lessons and goals we could learn from in the UK, particularly in the public sector – “Public services need to be customer driven and frictionless”. Richard Susskind followed with a 90 minute tour-de-force. I’ve heard Richard speak, excellently, before. However, there was clearly something in the Finnish air because he only stopped to take his first breath and first drink of water after 69 minutes. Yes, I timed it. Many of you will be familiar with his core themes having read his various books so I won’t repeat them here. However, some of his throw away lines were not only funny they were injected with serious messages that spread through attendees like a virus. After the laughter you could hear people thinking – is that me? For example: “Not many lawyers use Twitter. What are they doing, waiting for it to take off?”?“Lawyers think project management is buying bigger lever-arched folders and applying more yellow stickies to pages”?“Lawyers, being intelligent people, think they’re project managers after two days training, 15 years ago, but would look in horror if a project manager claimed they were a lawyer after two days training” In particular I was delighted to hear his views on where he thinks we are in the evolution of the legal market – “We’re clearly at a big moment, we’ve reached the point where General Counsel are increasingly saying that they’ve always said that law firms needed to change”. When people think it’s their idea … He went on to add that “the next ten years will be dominated by the more for less theme. Expect customers to work together as law firms fail to move quickly enough” Of course he could have added ”… or work with Legal Advisory Outsourcing businesses like Riverview Law”. Maybe in his next speech! So, what a 48 hours that was. I learnt a lot. In Fondia I found people similar to the team we have at Riverview – highly professional, focused on the customer, with a great sense of humour who know that they shouldn’t take themselves too seriously. And yes, for the record, I would have quite happily stayed in the Fondia snug for quite some time … I love ice cream and coffee!

Riverview Law wins international award for its innovative law firm model

The achievement of Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, in successfully “creating a new model law firm” has been recognised by a coveted international award that recognises outstanding innovation in the delivery of legal services. Now in their ninth year, the InnovAction Awards, presented by the not-for-profit College of Law Practice Management in the US, seek to demonstrate to the legal community what can happen when passionate professionals, with big ideas and strong convictions, resolve to create effective change. The news comes just days after Riverview Law announced plans to double in size by creating up to 100 new posts as a result of a series of FTSE 100 client contract wins. Timothy Corcoran, chair of the awards committee, said: “The winning entries exemplify not only innovation, but the practical necessity for bold ideas to benefit multiple stakeholders. This year’s winners reflect an admirable clients-first approach.” Riverview Law was one of just three winners, and the only one from outside the US. This latest win represents the third major award for Riverview Law in the last ten months and follows the Managing Partners’ Forum Best Emerging Firm award 2013 and recognition as a Standout Legal Industry Pioneer at the FT Innovative Lawyer Awards 2012. Adam Shutkever, the COO of Riverview Law, says: “We are very proud to receive this prestigious international award and for recognition of our clients-first approach. We have always maintained that the real winners from the changes occurring in the legal market are customers. For too long the law has been delivered for the benefit of the lawyers – we are putting the customers first and the benefits for all are clear to see.” Praising Riverview Law for “creating a new model law firm” from the ground up, the judges acknowledged that Riverview Law’s model draws on principles more typically taught in business schools than in law schools, providing a “streamlined fixed-fee business model” based on processes designed around their customers’ needs. Thomas Clay, one of the awards judges, added: “Future survival of a vital and contributing legal profession now depends on the innovative, unstuffy thinking of a few individuals and organizations around the world. It is the mission of the College of Law Practice Management to shine a spotlight on extraordinary thinking and impressive implementation to illustrate what can be accomplished when firms dare to take a risk.” Former Clifford Chance managing partner Tony Williams, now head of UK- based consultants Jomati, was also on the judging panel. The awards will be presented on 4 October at the 2013 Futures Conference, held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the College of Law Practice Management in Chicago.

Riverview Law to recruit 100 staff

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, is to double in size by creating up to 100 new posts over the next year, primarily in the North-West. The appointments are a result of recent contract wins with a number of FTSE 100 businesses. The majority of the new roles in Riverview Law and Riverview Solicitors, which include lawyers, business law executives, client managers, IT developers and data analysts, will be based in their Bromborough offices. A number of recruitment days in Wirral are planned during September and October and it is hoped that at least 25 new recruits will be appointed by the end of this year. Riverview Law burst onto the legal services market in February 2012 when it launched its fixed price legal services to organisations of all sizes. These services range from multi-year outsourced contracts for large organisations, through to barrister-led litigation for businesses of all sizes and annual contracts for SMEs. Karl Chapman, CEO of Riverview Law, says: “For far too long law firms have been protected by myth and regulation. Customers are no longer prepared to put up with an outdated hourly charging model and, rightly, are demanding more value from their lawyers. “Our exponential growth rates show that customers are voting with their wallets. The direction of travel for the legal market, and Riverview Law, is very clear and is the reason we’re keen to recruit so many people. “At one of our recent team briefing sessions I asked our team to shout out the words they’d use to describe Riverview to a potential recruit. Their suggestions included ‘customer first’, ‘different’, ‘equality’, ‘fun’, ‘friendly’, ‘honest’, ‘liberating’, ‘professional’ and ‘responsible’. To these I would add ‘mad’ … it helps to be just a little bit mad!” Those interested in a career with Riverview Law, can find out more about the opportunities available by emailing: recruitment@riverviewlaw.com

Segmentation of the Legal Services Market – ‘The Banker’s View’

Riverview Law gets a mention in this article from The Lawyer. Price points and service models are the first areas on which the UK legal market is segmenting, but as Lee Everson, corporate director (professional services industry team) at  Barclays  says, there is more to come. He marks Riverview Law out for particular mention ‘Another new player, Riverview Law, is targeting the UK corporate space with a fixed fee offering that provides its corporate customers with unlimited access, within the agreed service scope, to its legal teams. This out-sourcing model again provides significant benefits to firms looking to gain certainty over their legal spend.’

‘Innovations in Legal Services’ 14 Eye-Opening Cases from The Canadian Bar Association Legal Futures

The future isn’t just coming, it’s already here, this paper suggests. Riverview Law is discussed in Chapter 7 ‘Fixed Fee arrangements’ at page 19. The Legal Futures Initiative examined 14 companies ‘that haven’t waited for a groundswell of opinion or approval before implementing their innovative ideas for service including freelance lawyers to automated document providers; from fixed fee arrangements to co-operative legal services’  and, as the data suggests, they have been quite successful at it. See more at: CBA Legal Futures Initiative for a downloadable pdf.

Riverview Law adds international commercial duo

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, has added a further two international commercial barristers to its team. William Godwin of 3 Hare Court and Dirk van Heck of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square both join Riverview Chambers. Dirk van Heck has a broad business law practice, encompassing commercial, chancery, property and employment with specific international experience in offshore asset-tracing, fraud, insolvency and shareholder disputes. He has previously worked in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for leading offshore law firm Maples & Calder as both a solicitor and barrister. As a result he brings considerable experience in BVI company and insolvency law. He says: “Riverview Law has a sound and progressive business model that appeals to clients and so gives me a strong platform to expand further the business’s international aspirations, particularly in offshore work, given my BVI experience.” William Godwin is a highly experienced commercial litigator, specialising in multi-party international litigation and arbitration, with particular experience of the Middle East and South-East Asia. He has also worked with major US practice Debevoise & Plimpton as international counsel in the firm’s London office. William’s practice covers general commercial, construction, banking, insurance, professional indemnity and other business disputes. He says: “I’ve been very impressed with the forward-looking approach to legal services adopted by Riverview Law and by what they have achieved in a short period of time. I think my commercial international and cross-border experience will complement the existing team well.” In line with the Riverview Chambers model, the two will also continue to practise at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square and 3 Hare Court respectively. Adam Shutkever, the COO of Riverview Law, says: “We’re delighted to welcome another two high- quality barristers to Riverview Chambers. Their international experience will be particularly useful given the increasing amount of international and cross-border instructions Riverview Law is receiving.”

Riverview Law warns “don’t follow Apple’s lead”

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, has issued a warning to businesses about making sure they read and understand the terms and conditions of contracts they are signing. The warning comes after it emerged that even multi-national companies like Apple don’t read the small print. They recently admitted not even picking up the 25 page terms and conditions given to them by FBI-NSA agents working on the Prism surveillance programme. Solicitor, Natasha Maddock, says reading every part of a contract can save a lot of problems later on: “Standard terms and conditions are often one-sided and by signing them you could commit to something that you’re not able to deliver. Reading through and understanding what is expected of you, before you sign a contract, can help you not only negotiate some of the points but it could also allow you to add some terms and conditions of your own.” Natasha has put together five top tips for dealing with terms and conditions:

  1. Get it in writing: Business agreements can often be made informally. If this does happen then it’s difficult to know when the contract was formed and what the terms of the contract are. Get the deal clearly set out in writing as soon as possible.
  2. Read and understand: Read the terms and conditions fully, including any supporting documents, and understand what it is they mean. It is important that you understand what is expected of you and the other party. Be mindful too that you don’t also commit to something that your sub-contractors cannot deliver. If you’re unsure ask for legal advice to ensure your best interests are also considered.
  3. Negotiate: If there is anything in the small print you’re not happy with, say so. It might be that the ‘standard’ terms and conditions given to you are not fit for purpose so highlight this and discuss how you can come to some agreement. If negotiating is not possible, but the contract is too important to pass up, then carry out a risk assessment to identify areas of concern and make sure you prepare for any knock on effects that might occur.
  4. Keep it confidential: If while negotiating you need to disclose confidential business information or ideas, then get both parties to sign a confidentiality (non-disclosure) agreement to ensure your confidential information remains secure.
  5. If in doubt, ask: Commercial contract drafting is a complex issue, if you have any doubt about what you’re about to sign, no matter how small, seek specialist legal advice.

“Contracts can be daunting”, says Natasha, “but that does not mean that you have to just go with what the first draft says. By taking time to get things right at the start you can avoid costly delays and disputes in the future. ”

Lifting the Lid on New-Model Law Firm

A video interview with the head of our US office, Andy Daws, was just posted by law firm consultant Ron Friedmann and can be viewed here. Ron asks a number of questions about the origins of Riverview, market liberalisation and future plans, and he jokes with Andy at one point about the use of the “S” word … “Sales”! Remarkable as it seems, many lawyers still find the notion of selling their services somewhat abhorrent, yet an increasing number of firms are beginning to wake up to the importance of business development. Earlier this month, Andy was invited to speak to the annual conference of the Legal Sales & Service Organisation in Boston, which has grown significantly in recent years. The conference was attended by individuals from law firms around the world and whose primary role is in the area of sales and business development. It’s a unique event that brings together a roster of thought-provoking speakers as well collaboration (the “C” word, for many firms!) in small groups to learn together. If you’re interested in learning more visit Legal Sales here.

Home thoughts from abroad – Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum 2013

Adam Shutkever, COO at Riverview Law reports back from the Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum 2013. I have recently returned from speaking at the Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum 2013 which was held in Fiuggi, Italy- a spa resort in the hills around an hour from Rome. I must confess that the prospect of an all-expenses paid couple of days in the sun was an attractive one from the outset but I was also interested in hearing the views, ideas and concerns of a group of mostly non-lawyers delivering key services to the legal market. Have you ever noticed how the legal market loves the concept of “nons” ? Non- partners, non-lawyers, non-fee earners….the list goes on. I have always found the views of the “nons” to be particularly interesting, and last week’s experience was no exception. Topics at the conference ranged widely, from predictions on the long-term use of artificial intelligence in law firms to “The psychology of the Courageous Conversation”. I was struck by the very active debates which took place, perhaps reflecting the fact that those present seemed a very close-knit group. The event felt a little like a reunion- almost a gathering of friends, albeit these “friends” manage IT and operations in a good cross-section of the world’s largest law firms. I spoke as a member of a panel of “managing partners” (!), discussing legal services realignment. This gave me an opportunity to share my views on the current state of the traditional legal services market (a perfect storm: difficult economic environment, new regulatory regime and, most importantly, customer-driven change) and to contrast Riverview Law’s approach, building fixed price services around the requirements of our customers. The response from a large audience was very consistent with similar gatherings of “nons” which I had spoken to before- a remarkably high level of agreement, combined with frustration at the difficulty of re-aligning partner-owned firms to address the changing marketplace. The consensus view of the longer-term viability of the traditional model was not at all positive- all very encouraging for a newcomer not saddled with high overheads and a partnership structure to support! Other interesting topics of discussion included options for remote collaboration between lawyers and customers and in particular the conflict between the need for security and the increasing use by businesses of cloud-based document storage solutions such as Dropbox. It was clear that IT directors have their work cut out in delivering secure solutions when customers demand simplicity. A debate entitled “Overcoming the challenges of a mobile and international workforce” quickly became something of a group therapy session, with delegates bemoaning the need to keep providing the latest toys to their lawyer colleagues, despite the obvious challenges of supporting multiple platforms, devices etc. Again, music to my ears. All in all, it was a very worthwhile experience. I should, though, let on that the photos of the inviting pool which I thoughtfully shared with my colleagues back home failed to tell the full story. If any readers are attracted to the prospect of having themselves cryogenically frozen they should save the expense of going to a clinic and opt instead for 10 minutes in a Fiuggi swimming pool in June.

Riverview Law warns businesses not to follow Apple’s lead with Terms and Conditions

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, has issued a warning to businesses about making sure they read and understand the terms and conditions of contracts they are signing. The warning comes after it emerged that even multi-national companies like Apple don’t read the small print. They recently admitted not even picking up the 25 page terms and conditions given to them by FBI-NSA agents working on the Prism surveillance programme. Natasha Maddock, a solicitor with Riverview Solicitors, says reading every part of a contract can save a lot of problems later on: “Standard terms and conditions are often one-sided and by signing them you could commit to something that you’re not able to deliver. Reading through and understanding what is expected of you, before you sign a contract, can help you not only negotiate some of the points but it could also allow you to add some terms and conditions of your own.” Natasha has put together five top tips for dealing with terms and conditions: Get it in writing: Business agreements can often be made informally. If this does happen then it’s difficult to know when the contract was formed and what the terms of the contract are. Get the deal clearly set out in writing as soon as possible. Read and understand: Read the terms and conditions fully, including any supporting documents, and understand what it is they mean. It is important that you understand what is expected of you and the other party. Be mindful too that you don’t also commit to something that your sub-contractors cannot deliver. If you’re unsure ask for legal advice to ensure your best interests are also considered. Negotiate: If there is anything in the small print you’re not happy with, say so. It might be that the ‘standard’ terms and conditions given to you are not fit for purpose so highlight this and discuss how you can come to some agreement. If negotiating is not possible, but the contract is too important to pass up, then carry out a risk assessment to identify areas of concern and make sure you prepare for any knock on effects that might occur. Keep it confidential: If while negotiating you need to disclose confidential business information or ideas, then get both parties to sign a confidentiality (non-disclosure) agreement to ensure your confidential information remains secure.

Moulding the future of law firms

It started from scratch just over a year ago, created fear in many rivals and now has a team in excess of 100. Riverview Law is a fixed fee legal business that is changing the way companies access legal services. Allan Archer, director of customer experiences, talks to Neasa MacErlean of Professional Marketing Magazine. When Riverview Law opened its doors in February last year the phone started ringing almost immediately. “From week one we were getting calls from large corporations,” says Allan Archer. This was a surprise. With its fixed fees, money-back guarantee and annual contracts, Riverview had expected to attract SMEs (small and medium enterprises) before larger organisations. A year on, Riverview works with several household names (though, for confidentiality reasons, it cannot disclose who these are) through a team of over 100 solicitors, barristers and support staff based predominantly in the low cost area of the Wirral, near Liverpool. Archer believes that big business was “intrigued” by a law firm offering “true fixed fees” with nothing hidden in the fine print. The UK legal market was just being liberalised at that stage, allowing non-lawyers to set up “alternative business structures”, funded with their capital, to offer legal services. While most new entrants like the Co-op focused on consumer law, Riverview chose to launch its services solely to the business market. Since then, the Riverview Law team has been winning clients among large and small businesses in the UK and – since May 2012 – through its New York office, its first staging post in the US. Making gains at the top end of the market was, in some ways, easier than at the other end. Archer and Riverview’s chief executive Karl Chapman had run AdviserPlus, an organisation with a similar approach which provided business/ human resources advice for businesses, for over a decade and they already had the contacts and the technology which they could draw on to create Riverview Law. For large customers, Riverview provides monthly feedback about where their legal matters are coming from. This can help these customers cut their costs. For instance, an increase in consumer litigation could be traced back to a problematic script in a call centre. But Riverview – which is made up of Riverview Solicitors and Riverview Chambers – had to think more carefully about the SME category which had largely become sceptical about fixed fees and other marketing claims. At first, Riverview tried out some traditional channels – particularly direct mail, the local press and radio. It had its greatest success with radio in getting over the fixed price message. But the company realised it had to do something different from the norm. “Instead of trying to mass market, we wanted to talk to SMEs,” says Archer. This would allow small businesses to ask questions and establish for themselves that the annual rates promised – £3,960 for organisations with between six and 24 employees, for instance – did not contain get-out clauses. Social media – particularly Twitter and Facebook – have proved to be ideal in facilitating this communication. “Twitter is conversational and allows us to answer questions and build relationships,” says Archer. The dialogue with clients is invaluable, he explains. “We need to constantly engage with businesses so that we’re aware of their current needs and issues. These businesses play as big a part as we do in moulding the future direction of the legal market.” But Riverview did not get the dialogue going from a completely cold start. They wanted to offer something useful to their potential customers which would then entice them to engage in conversation. That something was the online legal library, Myview. It offers free unlimited access to over 650 advice pages and 450 documents, FAQs, letters and templates relating to running a business. “The breadth and depth of advice and guidance in this library is unrivalled and will help business take a more pre-emptive approach to the running of their business. These cover subjects from HR to sales and marketing, finance and regulation to technology and health & safety,” explains Archer. The Riverview team regularly updates the library in response to new cases or legislation or when issues become timely. The UK horse meat scandal in spring this year gave Riverview the opportunity to communicate on who might be affected, how to prevent being damaged and what legal steps to take. “We have a social media manager,” says Archer. “We encourage our employees to tweet. Chief Executive Karl Chapman is very active.” Unlike many of his peers in other legal businesses, Archer is totally convinced by the usefulness of Twitter and other social media. “It’s a lot to do with monitoring what is happening,” he says. “You get a lot of knowledge and feedback.” Riverview won the prize for the ‘Best Emerging Firm’ in the MPF Awards for Management Excellence earlier this year. That award followed on from being described as “standout” in the Financial Times Innovative Awards 2012. Its innovations affect many parts of the business and have a positive knock-on effect on customer service. Archer explains: “Our people can just get on with providing a solution rather than thinking ‘how much can I bill because I want to develop my career?’” Riverview is still growing – actively recruiting – and expects to expand far more once it has firmly established its business model in the UK. One possibly surprising aspect of its current profile is that only 18 per cent of its personnel are not lawyers. The model is technology-heavy and lawyer-heavy – not, in contrast with some other pioneering firms, support staff-heavy. While, like many other firms, Riverview says it is only a matter of time before it opens up bases in China and the Middle East, it is not just following a fad. Before that stage it expects to expand more in the US, building upon its New York office – and not many UK firms are doing that right now. The mantra from many other commercial law firms is that the new world of alternative business structures and legal liberalisation will not affect the business sector. Some competitors have seemed rather offhand about the threat from Riverview. They will be hoping that Archer is wrong when, speaking of the legal market, he says: “There will be a lot of new brands and as a result a lot of existing firms will struggle.”

Riverview Law’s approach to business legal service pricing

In this extract from the University of Law’s CPD training video, ‘Practice Management & Compliance: Costs’, Adam Shutkever, COO at Riverview Law discusses the fixed fee, customer-centric model used across their range of legal services for businesses of all sizes. In 2012 the Legal Ombudsman confirmed that costs are the single biggest reason for client dissatisfaction with lawyers, far outweighing any other sorts of complaints it receives.  The Chief Legal Ombudsman’s latest Report on costs and customer service reveals, unsurprisingly, that there is a growing desire from clients to pay a fixed price for a legal service, as opposed to an hourly rate.  Yet it’s often been thought that many of the more complex legal services, such as litigation, do not lend themselves to this model.  However, one firm is challenging this belief. The findings of the Chief Legal Ombudsman’s Report on costs and customer service has shown that clients would prefer clearer pricing and more control over how the costs of their case are incurred.  One firm attempting to address these issues is Riverview Law, who have adopted a fixed fee pricing model across their entire range of legal services.  

Small businesses ‘let down’ by legal industry should fight back

New research shows failure to deal with legal issues costs in excess of £100bn every year Authoritative new research published this week shows that small businesses are being let down by legal services providers and need to fight back, according to Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business. The benchmarking survey of nearly 10,000 small businesses by the Legal Services Board (LSB) – the largest study of legal need ever conducted among this group – finds that:

  • Over the previous year, 38% of small business experienced a ‘significant’ legal problem; nearly half of these problems resulted in a negative financial impact on the business, with the average cost of each problem put at £6,700. Scaled up across the UK, this means a cost to business of £100bn.
  • Many businesses handled legal problems alone and only 13% agreed that lawyers provide a cost effective means to resolve legal issues.
  • Legal problems caused health issues for one or more people working in a fifth of small businesses.
  • Having a legal retainer was strongly linked with dealing with everyday problems.

The LSB says it plans to use the research to challenge legal regulators to help small businesses and Riverview Law has vowed to support the LSB in its efforts. Katy Robson, product manager for the SME services offered by Riverview Law, says: “Small businesses know they’re running a risk by doing it themselves but don’t pick up the phone to a lawyer because they’re worried about the cost. Yet the LSB research shows that this can often be a more costly way for them to operate. “What does this say about the way legal advice is currently provided? It simply isn’t good enough. I would encourage small businesses to demand more from their legal services providers. For too long solicitors’ firms have done business the way that suits them, rather than their customers. In the 21st century, that cannot continue.” Riverview Law has issued its own guidance to small businesses about how to approach their future legal requirements. It advises them to:

  • Get as much as you can for free: The ‘ticking clock’ is one of the biggest gripes businesses have with lawyers, having to pay for every piece of contact. You should be paying for bespoke legal advice, not a document a lawyer just pulls out of a drawer. Fortunately, there
  • is a lot of free information out there, look for lawyers that provide free library access to a range of documents and will talk to you for free.
  • Negotiate hard: Start your conversation with any firm by saying you require price certainty. If they won’t agree, walk away, there are plenty of lawyers out there who will.
  • Prevent not cure. Don’t wait for the worst to happen; take a pro-active approach to your legal affairs by reviewing the areas of your business affected by legislation and getting a legal health check or document review which can reduce/remove future issues. The LSB research found that having a legal retainer was strongly linked with problems occurring more frequently but having a lower financial impact and indicated the value of legal services provided in this way.

Riverview Law works with thousands of SMEs providing free advice via its online legal library and a free call with one of its lawyers so that SMEs can test the service. Additionally it provides fixed price annual contracts covering all legal requirements SMEs typically have. It also offers fixed price quotes for ad-hoc legal requirements if businesses do not want an annual contract. Customer case studies can be reviewed here.

What lawyers can learn from travel agents!

Our recent presentation at Georgetown Law’s Symposium on The Shrinking Pyramid: Implications for Law Practice and the Legal Profession was the culmination of several months’ collaboration with three other industry leaders in the United States to produce an accessible academic paper comparing the effects of disruptive innovation in the travel industry with current trends from the emerging legal services paradigm. The paper, entitled ‘Even in a data-driven world, we still need travel agents… and lawyers’ features a case study of Riverview Law and was co-authored by the head of our North America office, Andy Daws, along with Renee Knake (MSU College of Law), Silvia Hodges (TyMetrix) and James Peters (LegalZoom). The presentation was extremely well received at the symposium and it is anticipated that the accompanying paper will be published in a leading law journal later this year. Here’s an extract from the Introduction: ‘The mid-1990’s witnessed the peak for retail travel agents and brick-and-mortar law firms the likes of which are unlikely to be experienced again. Over 20,000 travel retail locations closed in the past two decades, and the legal profession shed thousands of jobs. Both of these professional service industries were disrupted by technological innovation, in particular sophisticated online access and high-level data aggregation. There are lessons to be learned from travel agents for lawyers at all levels of service, from solo practitioners to large, traditional firms … This article explores ways that the legal profession can learn from the travel industry’s path of innovation in an era where significant components of law practice have been (or soon will be) displaced by technology and do-it-yourself services. We identify and assess two of the early entrepreneurs in online retail and in-house procurement of legal services based upon data aggregation, concluding with several recommendations for the profession drawn from the travel industry’s experience’. If you’re interested in reading the Riverview Law case study and learning more about the lessons the team identified for lawyers at this pivotal time for the industry, you can read the paper here.

Riverview Law and social media ‘a winning combination’

In this episode of Star Radio 107fm The Social Media Show (Number 8), radio hosts Ann Hawkins and Eric Swain discuss how professional firms can get new business and give a better service by listening to what clients want and show how using social networks to communicate transparently and authentically is a winning combination. They interview Kelly Anstee from accountancy practice Tyrrell & Company, Paul Hutchinson from Blackletter PR and Lucinda Acland from Riverview Law. Follow #TSMShow for more news and link to The Social Media Show.

Riverview Law are proud to be part of Team Justice Gap for the London Legal Walk

We’re delighted to be walking as part of The Justice Gap team at the London Legal Walk on Monday 20th May 2013. The walk, organised by The London Legal Support Trust, saw 6,000 people take part in the 10km walk which raised over £540,000 last year. The money goes to law centres and legal advice agencies ensuring vulnerable people have access to legal advice. This year there have been a record number of team registrations and we are delighted to be part of this fundraising effort. For more information on the London Legal Support Trust visit their website. For more information on The Justice Gap visit their website. If you would like to sponsor Team Justice Gap you can do so here.

Riverview Law launches licensing practice with eight leading lawyers

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, has launched a licensing practice with eight of the UK’s leading licensing barristers. Gerald Gouriet QC, Kevin de Haan QC, David Matthias QC, James Rankin, Jeremy Phillips, Gary Grant, Juan Lopez and Leo Charalambides all of Francis Taylor Building, will team up with Riverview Chambers in a move that will significantly boost Riverview Law’s offering to large corporates in the retail, hospitality and entertainment sectors. In line with the Riverview Chambers model, all eight will also continue to practise at Francis Taylor Building. The Riverview Law licensing team offers barristers with expertise at all levels of call. Their experience ranges from routine matters such as alcohol licensing, online and offline gaming and entertainment venue licensing through to major contested hearings for the UK’s leading venues. Gerald Gouriet QC says: “We’ve all been impressed with the way in which Riverview Law has successfully created a structure to take advantage of the changes taking place in the legal services market. We are excited about the prospect of being part of the Riverview team.” Adam Shutkever, the COO of Riverview Law, says: “The arrival of eight barristers of such prominence in this specialist field is a significant development for our large corporate customers. “The combination of their market-leading expertise and Riverview Law’s structure, technology platform and efficient workflow management means we can offer a highly efficient and cost- effective proposition across the spectrum of licensing work, from complex contentious work through to regular recurring legal activity. “Our customer-focused approach to legal services has struck a chord not only with large organisations but also with senior members of the profession, who have chosen to join Riverview Chambers.” Since launching a year ago, Riverview Law has attracted some of the leading names from the Bar. It now has 57 members practising across all areas of business law.

Riverview Law welcomes Mark Rainsford QC

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, has added internationally renowned corporate crime barrister Mark Rainsford QC of 33 Chancery Lane to its team.   A former head of litigation at niche City firm Bivonas, Mark brings a wide range of experience in corporate crime, civil and criminal fraud, proceeds of crime and international asset recovery work. He is regularly instructed by multi-national businesses, large international law firms, business advisory firms, regulators and high net-worth individuals. He took silk in 2006. In line with the Riverview Chambers model, Mark Rainsford will also continue to practise at 33 Chancery Lane. Mark Rainsford QC says: “Riverview Law has demonstrated an innovative approach to the provision of legal services that has struck a chord with senior general counsel. The team it has assembled and the range of work it is already attracting shows what a serious player Riverview has already become. I look forward to working with a range of clients across the full spectrum of corporate regulatory and compliance issues.” Adam Shutkever, the COO of Riverview Law, says: “We’re delighted that another QC of the highest calibre is joining Riverview Chambers. Mark’s forward-thinking and commercial approach perfectly mirrors that of our own and further enhances our services to large corporates in regulatory and compliance work.” Since launching just over a year ago, Riverview Chambers has attracted some of the leading names from the Bar. It now has 58 members practising across all areas of business law.

Riverview Law scoops award for best emerging firm

Riverview Law,  the fixed-priced legal services business, has won the 2013 Managing Partners’ Forum award for best emerging firm. The award recognises  “…the organisation whose willingness to blaze their own trail is bringing about disruptive innovation and market change.” The impressive shortlist of firms were: Gunnercooke, Irwin Mitchell, Law:Public, L&E Global, Obelisk, Premier Property Lawyers, Quindell, Slater & Gordon, Stobart Barristers and The Co- operative Legal Services. It is just over a year since Riverview Law launched, committed to changing the way businesses use, measure and buy legal services by bringing transparency and certainty through fixed price annual and multi-year contracts. This award follows earlier recognition from the Financial Times when it was selected as ‘Standout’ by the judging panel at the Innovative Lawyers Awards 2012 in the Legal Industry Pioneers category. Riverview Law Chief Executive, Karl Chapman, says: “It is immensely satisfying to receive another award in recognition of our work. However, we have always maintained that the real winners from the changes occurring in the legal market are customers. Our focus remains on ensuring that businesses of all sizes have access to cost-effective, fixed-fee, legal advice.”

Riverview Law scoops award for best emerging firm

Riverview Law, the fixed-priced legal services business, has won the 2013 Managing Partners’ Forum award for best emerging firm. The award recognises “…the organisation whose willingness to blaze their own trail is bringing about disruptive innovation and market change.” The impressive shortlist of firms were: Gunnercooke, Irwin Mitchell, Law:Public, L&E Global, Obelisk, Premier Property Lawyers, Quindell, Slater & Gordon, Stobart Barristers and The Co-operative Legal Services. It is just over a year since Riverview Law launched, committed to changing the way businesses use, measure and buy legal services by bringing transparency and certainty through fixed price annual and multi-year contracts. This award follows earlier recognition from the Financial Times when it was selected as ‘Standout’ by the judging panel at the Innovative Lawyers Awards 2012 in the Legal Industry Pioneers category. Riverview Law Chief Executive, Karl Chapman, says: “It is immensely satisfying to receive another award in recognition of our work. However, we have always maintained that the real winners from the changes occurring in the legal market are customers. Our focus remains on ensuring that businesses of all sizes have access to cost-effective, fixed fee, legal advice.”