Alexander Hamilton, CEO, Radiant Law

What makes us competitive is our combination of legal judgment calls with technology, design and better processes. We are open to external ideas, wherever they may come from, notably outside the legal profession.

Radiant Law combines legal service outsourcing with contract negotiation and dispute resolution for larger commercial contracts. It uses bespoke technology and processes to improve contracting processes and shorten sales cycles for companies with large volumes of commercial contracts.

I was partner at Latham and increasingly frustrated by the gap that I perceived between what clients needed from us and what I was actually able to do in that environment. I ended up writing a memo for the executive committee of Latham & Watkins. In the memo, I gave my analysis of the market and what changes were coming, and described the things that I thought Latham & Watkins could benefit from doing. That memo did not go anywhere, and I look back at my hopes for engagement as wonderfully naive!

I had never really thought of starting a law firm, but I ended up in a conversation with a friend of mine in New York about setting up their London branch. While that did not work out, it planted the idea in my head that you could actually set up a law firm. As I looked around the market and talked to people, I realized that the issues I raised in the memo were not Latham & Watkins issues; they were marketwide issues.

So there we were: five transactional, outsourcing tech lawyers. Our basic premise at the beginning was that clients want the judgment calls and the experience, so we would just be senior lawyers. We sent our junior work to an LPO [legal process outsourcer]. We progressively used technology, not just off-the-shelf systems, but also those we developed for ourselves.

We got rid of timesheets and billable hours, not just because clients were asking for fixed pricing, but also to allow us to completely re-engineer how we did things. It allowed us to focus on what clients need rather than our need to churn out hours.

All this set us on a journey that we are still on. We restructured ourselves as a real company with a CEO and executive positions, moved to salaries and bonuses instead of the traditional model of pulling money out at the end of the year. And we clarified our vision and strategy, with an absolute focus on creating business value by helping companies create great relationships through their commercial contracts. That simplification and clarification — of structure, of roles, of mission — became liberating, because it became obvious what we needed to do next.

We became an ABS in May, 2014. This permitted us to bring in Greg Tufnell as our non-executive Chairman. We are very happy to have him on board.

Greg used to run retail fashion companies. He brings with him an approach that you don’t see in law. In the fashion world, you are massively exposed to reality in a way that lawyers generally try to avoid. He has brought us rigor, business acumen, financial know-how, and overall knowledge on how to run a company and the discipline to do it.

We have implemented an employee share scheme. Not only is it a pragmatic way to ensure that our employees are aligned with the firm as a whole, it is also the right thing to do. We are now introducing team-led decision making, moving away from a management structure to allow the team to fully participate in figuring out how best to operate.

Our clients are multinational companies. We have a lot of work outside the UK, including with many US-based clients. We as a firm only practice English law, but around the world, a contract is a contract. Our clients’ in-house counsel will take a view as to whether local legal advice is required. Fundamentally, what we do can be boiled down to rules, and those rules can be reviewed by local lawyers.

What makes us competitive is our combination of legal judgment calls with technology, design and better processes. We are open to external ideas, wherever they may come from, notably outside the legal profession. The fact that we are outside the traditional partnership model is an advantage — we don’t have to worry about bringing people along, slow decision making, or technology laggards. We have freedom to experiment and we don’t have management that operates in fear of big rainmakers. We have an open culture where everyone gets to improve the way of doing things, but we do have a way of doing things — the Radiant Way. That is unusual in a law firm, where trainee lawyers have to learn to be actors, and do things differently for each partner.

Clients need help in ways that have not been available before. Law firms have left a huge space in managed legal services, so we expect to grow a lot. The growth will come by producing more products, tools and approaches, we’ll open in other countries, and we’ll grow in size. And we will at some point look for outside investment in order to really fuel growth.

I have heard the arguments that bringing a nonlawyer into the ownership or management of a law firm will erode ethics, but I see no reason why that should be the case. Such holier-than-thou arguments are out of place from an industry that has such a terrible reputation with its customers. Those arguments are guild-thinking and protectionism dressed up as ethics. The ethical system should be about protecting customers. Someone like Greg Tufnell is fundamentally customer-focused.

The current regulatory environment in the UK is very potent. It is outward-looking, from the UK to the rest of the world. Things can happen that can’t happen for US firms, like external funding, and it makes it easier to bring different experts into management. It would be a mistake for the US to wait to see the final results before it even starts its own journey. It’s not that the legal market can’t evolve in the US without the ABS structure; it can, of course. But the confluence of things happening in the UK makes it a much more dynamic and competitive market, and it will produce players that will be very potent, not just for the US but on the global stage.

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