Our backstory is typical of entrepreneurial businesses; a gap in the market and a huge desire to solve a problem. The problem was a lack of practical legal support and management, often left to an over-busy COO or CFO. The gap was fuelled by the 2009 financial crisis of slashed headcounts and budgets, as well as increasingly out of touch, expensive and specialist law firm lawyers.
With my business partner, Helen Goldberg, we knew we could pioneer a way to help meet SMEs un-met needs with a new model of flexible, affordable in-house business focussed lawyers.
Carving out our space in the market, we spearheaded a movement of lawyers on a mission to innovate legal services. Alongside other early “new law” adopters, such as Axiom and Lawyers on Demand, we became challengers within a very traditional, change-averse profession. Rather than disrupt our industry, we wanted to agitate it, to shake it awake with fresh thinking, flexible working frameworks and innovation. We’d re-imagined a way for legal services to work more effectively, as a virtual team for SMES, that’s more excited about offering its customers the right sort of legal services for their day to day legal requirements and its people a better work-life balance rather than the slavish route to partner in a law firm.
Nearly 10 years in, here’s how being that disruptive pioneer has helped our business.
How to be an agitator
Being an agitator is about identifying the gaps in your sector and working out ways to fill those, thereby creating new opportunities, finding new ways of working and opening up a marketplace in an impactful way. It’s about challenging the norms. It also means educating your customers about the new services you are providing and that it’s ok to do things differently, as long as it is benefitting them. We wanted to provide clients with a better, alternative service, one that truly fit their needs. This was our starting point.
Being an agitator may set the agenda for others to try to copy, which may seem disconcerting at first; but it’s good – it validates your business model and helps to open up the market.
Create a strong reputation in the market
By creating a new business model, customers, prospective customers, colleagues and peers can only sit up and take notice. You quickly become the one to watch and, as your business grows, so does your authority and credibility. You cultivate stronger relationships with other industry leaders as well as share insights, learnings and best practice – it’s a powerful way to drive your reputation through word-of-mouth.
Agitators tend to be unique in their offer too. So, for us, it’s providing flexible in-house legal support for fast-growth SMEs – something not offered by traditional law firms or the new wave of legal start-ups. Having a clear point of difference within a crowded market is how you ultimately stand out.
Be an innovative employer brand
The world of work is changing and a shift in people’s work-life expectations demands employers evolve too. In law, the long hours, the single route to partnership as the only available career progression and job dissatisfaction have made people look at other options. Our lawyers work flexibly, at a high level, and earn well without compromising on other pursuits, whether it’s family, travel or study.
Again, as an agitator, this means we can compete with bigger players for the best talent available. And the number of CVs we receive each month shows people are attracted to organisations that are happy to show creativity around the way they work, whilst helping build their careers.
Strengthen client relationships
Like all business owners looking to agitate, we have to stay on top of trends, incoming challengers, the next big thing, so that we can stay relevant and advise clients how to react and respond to it. And, as lawyers we need to be creative to identify more ways for our clients to excel and grow.
Being embedded in our clients’ worlds of fast-growth tech means we’re close to some amazing innovative thinking and tech. We actively refer across our clients and community to encourage new collaborations and innovation that provides that real added value.
Create stand-out for your business
As early players in new law, we founded our business for the long-game. We were looking to build a business that serves our SME client base better and more efficiently while shaping a new way of working – for us and others. And because we’ve been able to locate this space – within our industry, as business owners, it’s enhanced our credibility as advisors.
Meeting other challenger brands, we’ve found they too, haven’t set out to disrupt their industry. Rather, they wanted to open up minds to a different, more effective way to work. We’ve grown our businesses on these foundations, evolving with our clients, and showing that even in the most traditional of industries, there’s always room to excite and change.
Article originally published by SmallBusiness.co.uk on 5th June 2018.