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25/11/22-The stories behind the legal sector news

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The joys of setting up your own firm

The questions

For this week’s feature, we thought it would be interesting to ask law-firm founders about the freedoms they feel they have gained since going it alone and setting up their own business. We put the same four questions to all our respondents:

  1. What has been the thing that has been most freeing about setting up your own firm?
  2. What do you do less of now and don’t miss?
  3. Do you spend more time on client sites/with family/with your hobbies/winning business than before?
  4. What one line would you use to encourage others to take the leap?

The answers

First of all, a big thank-you to everyone who shared their thoughts with us. Here is what our entrepreneurs had to say:

Vicky Grobbelaar, founder and director, Ethiqs Legal:

  1. Being able to make decisions about how things are done and how customers are treated, and give personal attention to clients and not pawn them off to a junior.
  2. Commuting
  3. More time with family, building strong relationships with clients (time to get to know them better) and learning new, exciting things about running a business. Also growing my network and all that entails
  4. Here’s a two-liner 😉 There is a great life winking just beyond if you are prepared to take the leap / you can still be a great (or even better) lawyer outside of what you thought you have to conform to. I have proven the best of both worlds is not only possible but desirable.

Benedikte Malling Bech, founder and partner, North Star Law:

  1. Answering only to who really matters – namely the clients. I have always been hardworking and conscientious, but it has nevertheless been liberating to not have someone to report to in a firm and have them meddling.
  2. Early team meetings
  3. It’s been too long so it’s difficult to compare, but I probably work more now, not less.
  4. None, because I wouldn’t want to encourage others. I love it and have never regretted it, but starting a firm is not for the fainthearted, and comes with financial worries and much greater responsibilities for those you employ and whose careers you become responsible for. It can be a lonely road. If a person is a finder and a doer as well as being able to cope with the financial uncertainty, it may be perfect for them. But it’s not an easy road.

Michael Burne, co‑founder and CEO, Bamboo:

  1. Being able to “do it my way” and build culture, values and mission… then to find out it could be a way to help others avoid the pain by extending the model. I’m free (an Are You Being Served reference) and can help others to be too…
  2. Record time, answer to inefficient partners, be measured on input not outcome, and work with dinosaurs (as opposed to mentors who are wonderful).
  3. I spend all my time in the company of enterprising people looking to change legal. Then, when I’m off – I’m off, as my photos on LinkedIn suggest!
  4. Look first and make sure you understand the leap (many don’t understand or leap – hence Bamboo and Carbon. Other washing powder brands are available) and then JUMP, because you’ll fly free.

Peter Burgess, co-founder and partner, Burgess Mee:

  1. Being able to set my own agenda for my career, and only working with people and clients I like.
  2. Office politics! I have a very different perspective on it than before, as I only have to manage sideways and down.
  3. Probably more with family and more winning business. But I was an associate before and wasn’t a partner, so that makes sense https:/
  4. / is

a lot of work and responsibility, but also a lot more fun.

Alistair Wells, co-founder and director, Tend Legal:

  1. That we can quickly turn new ideas into reality without having to get anyone else’s approval.
  2. Commuting. We’re fully remote, so suddenly I gained 10 extra hours a week.
  3. The amount of time I spend working hasn’t gone down much (the early days of a new business were always going to be intense), but I do spend a lot more time with family as well.
  4. Think about why you’re doing it, make sure that the numbers stack up and then go for it.

Stephanie Paterson, co-founder, Ramsay Paterson

  1. Being able to focus on what I’m really passionate about. Being really clear about your own purpose is so liberating – it gives you permission to say no to whatever doesn’t fall within that.  My purpose is supporting organisations that are purpose and values-driven – helping them to thrive by truly living their purpose and values in all things people-related.
  2. Working to billing targets. I don’t miss that one jot!
  3. I spend more time building and investing in relationships – with clients, potential clients and my network. As I don’t have to worry about chargeable hours targets, I can be more relaxed about having catch-ups over a cuppa (often virtual) or walking and talking with my contacts – with clients, potential clients and my network generally. Clients have fed back that they really value that time investment and it’s nourishing for me personally.
  4. If you’re keen to do law a bit differently or are passionate about delivering a specific purpose, then taking the leap and carving out a specific niche for yourself might be the way forward.

The conclusion

So there you have it, folks. While our founders are upfront about the difficulties that starting up a business can and inevitably does involve, they are also quite clear about how much freedom and independence they have reclaimed.

Yes, it is hard work – but let’s face it, nobody enters the legal profession for an easy ride, and you will have to put in the hard yards to be successful whether you remain employed or forge your own path. But the rewards of entrepreneurship are very different and cannot be measured merely in financial terms.

British Legal Awards – the winners

Congrats to the all the winners and those who got shortlisted (including our clients). Here’s a round up of the winners from the night:

  • The winner of the General Counsel of the Year was credited with navigating “a transformational transaction of epic proportion”. Congratulations to Adam Hirschovits from The Roald Dahl Story Company!
  • The GLL In-House Legal Department of the Year was lauded as “progressive” and “innovative” – well done to the Royal Mail Group!
  • The gong for Strategic Legal Operations Team of the Year went to CMS for implementing behavioural change across the organisation.
  • Travers Smith won ESG Initiative of the Year for its wonderful pro-bono work on behalf of domestic-abuse victims. Amazing job!
  • A big round of applause for DLA Piper, who won the CSR Initiative of the Year category. The firm has created a ground-breaking nation-wide portal via which Afghans and Ukrainians caught up in war can access legal information.
  • TLT came out on top in the UK Law Firm of the Year after an amazing year of growth and a huge recruitment drive that saw the firm increase its headcount by 400 people – well done TLT!
  • Well done to Katten, this year’s Transatlantic Firm of the Year winner for their work on a number of high-value deals across several jurisdictions.
  • Congratulations to Goodwin, the International Law Firm of the Year winner. The firm achieved a meteoric 63% rise in turnover after implementing its investment and growth strategy over several years.
  • Northridge Law lifted the Boutique Law Firm of the Year for its involvement in some truly major deals in the sports market – well done to them!
  • Congratulations to Pinsent Masons for winning TMT Team of the Year. The firm was recognised for its work on a landmark case that set new standards for class-action claims in the data space.
  • A resounding round of applause for Fred Banning, who took home International’s Editors Choice Award. Fred was recognised for his dedication in the face of adversity to improving the legal system. Such a well-deserved win for an outstanding human being!
  • The win for Restructuring Team of the Year (UK company) goes to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – congratulations!
  • Well done to Herbert Smith Freehills for winning Property Team of the Year!
  • Venters Solicitors were awarded the Private Client Team of the Year win for what judges described as “difficult, unpleasant but important work”. Congratulations!
  • Pinsent Masons was two times a winner, as the firm also took home the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team of the Year – Large Sized Firm win for its deal involving 16 different jurisdictions and the coordination of eight major law firms. Well done Pinsent Masons!
  • This year’s M&A Team of the Year (Large Deal) winners came from a joint submission from Northridge Law, Simmons & Simmons and Pillbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman – well done to all three firms!
  • Travers Smith took the accolade of Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team of the Year – Small-Mid Sized Firm for its work on the widely-reported “tech trial of the century”. Congratulations Travers Smith!
  • Brabners is the winner of the Crisis Management Team of the Year title in recognition of its successful and “practical approach” to one of the biggest media trials (Wagatha Christie) in recent years. Congratulations!
  • Last but by no means least, a big round of applause for Addleshaw Goddard for winning the Banking and Finance Team of the Year!

News stories of the week to care about

Did you know?

We’ve been looking at the Legal Business 100 this week and a few things leapt out at us:

  1. Stewarts Law (founded 1990) is now almost as large as Burges Salmon (founded 1841)
  2. Slaughters is the only major UK firm where revenue per lawyer exceeds £1m per head
  3. Ampa (home to firms including Shakespeare Martineau) is on the march under Sarah Walker-Smith’s leadership and has overtaken Forsters, Fladgate and Birketts, and has Slater and Gordon and Browne Jacobson in its sights.

Dates for your diary

  • 26 November – Law Fair 2022-London – The law fair where prospective law students can meet top UK law providers to discover undergraduate and postgraduate course opportunities for the 2023 intake and beyond. The fair will be held at the Wellcome Collection near Eustace Station.
  • 1 and 2 December – AI & Big Data Expo – A showcase of next-generation technologies and strategies from the world of Artificial Intelligence & Big Data, an opportunity to explore and discover the practical and successful implementation of AI & Big Data in driving forward your business in 2022 and beyond.

6,000 attendees are expected to congregate for the event, including IT decision-makers, developers & designers, heads of innovation, chief data officers, chief data scientists,  brand managers, data analysts, start-ups and innovators, tech providers, c-level executives, venture capitalists, and many more.

The event will be held at Olympia in London

  • 2 to 5 December – Court staff on strike over Common Platform IT system– Strike at HM Courts and Tribunals Service in a dispute over the rollout of the IT system Common Platform. The Public and Commercial Services Union says the new courts case management system is ’fundamentally flawed’ and has sent work-related anxiety and stress levels among court staff ’through the roof’. Today’s walkout affects courts in the South West, North West and Wales.

Have a lovely weekend when you get there!


Si Marshall

Legal marketing expert – I love lawyers, their stories and how they help clients | Marketing | PR | Digital Marketing | Business Development | LinkedIn training | Directories | Awards | Research | #SimonSays

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