Tell me a little bit about your firm and what it does please?
PF Solicitors came about as a result of work I was doing with various legal consultancies in the UK, and by extension in Ireland. In the UK, the model of delivering outsourced legal services to companies, with or without legal departments, is well established and is disrupting the market for legal services in favour of the client. In essence, we provide companies of all sizes with either ad-hoc advisory services, rolling month-to-month on-site or remote legal services, or a more long-term arrangement with consultants who can become an essential part of the delivery of legal services to a business.
What makes it different?
The Irish market is behind the times in terms of how in-house legal services are being delivered. While outsourcing has become part and parcel of everyday life in other areas of business, companies are naturally cautious when looking at the area of legal. In our experience, we have found that companies end up spending a small fortune on external law firms, or paying substantial sums to recruitment agencies for short-terms hires. There was nothing in the market that bridged that gap between these two, provided by experienced lawyers who understood the needs of businesses. We are now bridging that gap for clients on a daily basis. The advantage of this approach is that consultants can learn your business, and can input on both an operational and strategic level, thus increasing their value to an organisation.
What made you decide to start your own business?
I saw a gap in the market. It is as simple as that. When I initially spotted the gap, I thought it was so obvious that I must have missed something. So, in order to test the theory, I joined with similar consultancies throughout the UK to understand if the model was effective. Once I felt the concept was proven to my satisfaction, I felt that the only challenge would be one of inertia in the marketplace.
What challenges have you faced so far?
To date, matters have been relatively smooth sailing. The costs of operating a legal practice are very very high. In order to solve that problem, I decided that the best way to start the business, and to have proof-of-concept for clients was to be that proof of concept. As well as being the owner of the firm, I am its lead consultant. I know how it works, because over the last two years, I have established legal frameworks from scratch, for some very large multi-nationals. If I was to outline the costs savings for those businesses over the past two years, you would be shocked. A lot of zeros.
What challenges do you have?
The Irish marketplace is small (which is both an advantage and disadvantage). Thus far, it is working through clients one-by-one and sourcing consultants as we go which can be time-consuming.
How is technology impacting your business
While I would hope to add technology solutions to the business as I go, I refuse to add them for the sake of it. If the businesses does not absolutely need an additional cost (and if I cannot see any way that it directly benefits a client in terms of cost), then we are going to move very cautiously in this regard.
Law is notoriously resilient to change and innovation, would you agree with this statement?
In my view, resilience to change is directly linked with the fact that there has been no disruption in the marketplace which has benefited clients directly. My experience is that I hear a lot of talk about innovation, but I struggle to identify a clear and tangible benefit in practical terms, for those purchasing the services. All of technological innovations I have encountered in the legal tech space are about reducing costs for the law firm, and therefore the client. Whether that ever happens is very debatable. After all, technology products will only be developed for a marketplace that can afford to pay for them (the law firms). Our business model is about the ultimate ‘disruption’ to any market; charging less! In the end, the delivery of legal services is just that, a service.
When you speak to clients initially what is your value proposition?
I ask them about their current structure, and what they hope to achieve from outsourcing either part or all of their legal function. I then try to match their expectations with the services that we offer. While a reduction in spend on legal services are obviously a huge driver, we also offer to add value by providing the consultants with access to back-end databases, on-site interaction with the client on a structured basis, as well as our existing relationships with external firms (niche expertise will always be required). We would also offer training and project development services depending on the needs of the client.
What is your own background? And what have you learnt from it?
After an equal amount of time spent in both private practice and working in-house, I realised that there was a better way to marry the two for clients, rather than maintain the strict division which has traditionally existed. Having worked across a number of areas of law, rather than have focused only on one area, I am in a position of give a better overview of the legal requirements of companies than most.
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The material contained in this post is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought on any particular matter. No liability whatsoever is accepted by PF Solicitors for any action taken in reliance on the information in this post.