Interview with Karl Chapman, Riverview Law
LPOs - Rebels or the new kids on the block?
Karl Chapmann, CEO Riverview Law, offers great insights of an exciting new venture, both threat and opportunity for traditional law firms and their clients. Reading the interview is a must! Jvo was interviewed by Leo Staub.
Karl, you run a law firm as if it were an ordinary business. What makes you believe you can be successful by taking the position of a rebel in the law firm industry?
You are right: we are just running a business, which happens to be in the legal market! Until a few years ago, of course, the UK regulatory framework was not fit for non-lawyer controlled organizations to deliver legal services. But then the UK Legal Services Act 2007 entirely changed the industry-landscape. Encouraged by some of our clients at AdviserPlus we started to work on the idea of running a law firm in a non-traditional way, as an ABS. Being business people, we designed a law firm business model not thinking in-side-out but out-side-in. Hence, we consequently focused on the needs of prospective clients instead of developing a set of legal services by using the legal expertise of individuals who happen to work in a specific conventional law firm. Therefore our clients see us as a business partner, helping them to provide legal solutions they economically benefit from. As soon as a business relationship with a client is established we strive to seamlessly integrate into his business. Unlike most traditional law firms in the UK we are currently experiencing very strong growth!
What are the corner stones of your business model?
First of all, there is always a fix price to our services. We carefully evaluate the kind of work the client wants us to get done, and we most diligently analyze the client's work flow our services have to fit in to. This stage of the process takes weeks, sometimes months. At the end of the process we are able to deliver a very precise proposal. When finally a mutual agreement is achieved we form a team dedicated to serve the client throughout the contractual period. The team comprises lawyers, account managers, and IT-specialists. They work closely together with the aim of not only fulfilling the client's expectations but of exceeding them by providing most valuable business information deriving from our work.
What do you mean by "providing most valuable business information" for your clients?
I will give you an example. Let us assume a bank wants us to draw and manage all its mortgage contracts. In such a case we collect large amounts of data covering all aspects of mortgage contracts, including standard situations, and of course numerous aberrations from these standards. All this data can now be linked to basic facts we collect from the parties of these contracts. With the use of powerful IT we then draw conclusions and are able to deliver a clear picture of the contract design used for specific groups of clients to the bank. Surprisingly often this generates meaningful business data which is obviously beneficial for our clients. The bank in our example gets a better picture of various client segments, of territorial particularities, pricing models, account management means, and more. Furthermore, our IT systems allow clients to look into their case data from overview to every detail. Altogether IT is beneficial for the in-house counsel who will be praised by her superiors for her contribution to the business and for the reliability of the legal expense budget. At the same time she can concentrate on providing the mission critical role of the legal function by outsourcing the rest.
So, technology seems to be key and also strongly contributes to market differentiation of Riverview Law.
Quite so! We like to think of ourselves as being a legal service business using technology, but moving towards a technology business delivering legal service! This of course means substantial investments in IT! A pre-condition to effectively using IT is an intelligent and thoroughly optimized process design in our own workflow which in turn is crafted to perfectly match the client's workflow. So, every part of our activities, with or without direct client interaction, is consequently structured. This also makes it easier to integrate new people into our teams. The latter is a crucial aspect in an organization like ours which grows with great speed.
Talking about people: is a career with Riverview Law an attractive option for young talents? Do they not prefer to work for "big name" City law firms?
What I can say is that we so far have never had difficulties to find highly talented young people to join us. We are competitive when it comes to remuneration and we offer a most inspiring work environment in a thriving and innovative firm. Last but not least, in comparison with many City law firms and despite us all working hard we appreciate an overall good work-life-balance. (Remark of Leo Staub: I had the chance to talk to a group of young people working at Riverview Law over lunch time, with no executives present. They clearly confirmed Karl's statements.)
Karl Chapman is Chief Executive of Riverview Law, one of the law firms in the UK which is incorporated as so called Alternative Business Structures (ABS). After reading law at Birmingham University, Karl first worked as a trust manager and subsequently joined CRT Group plc, a consultancy, recruitment and training business. In 2001 Karl was the founder of AdviserPlus Business Solutions, an outsourcing organization providing HR, and H&S solutions to large, mid-sized and small companies. He joined Riverview Law with effect from June 1 2011 and has since received several awards for business innovation and development. Riverview Law offers a broad variety of legal services, including litigation services, predominantly to FTSE 100 companies. Karl was interviewed by Leo Staub.