We do not distinguish between lawyers and nonlawyers when we seek to fill a role. Instead, we say “these are the services our customers want us to deliver to them,” and then we ask “what roles do we need in order to deliver those services, and what is the profile of the person needed to fill that role?
Riverview Law is a legal advisory outsourcing and managed services business that offers a range of services to global corporate clients. It specializes in recurring activities, like commercial contracts and obligation management, regulation, employment, and litigation. It also licenses its knowledge automation and case management platform to businesses.
Riverview Law only exists because customers of AdviserPlus, which provides HR advisory outsourcing services, asked it to extend its HR model into legal services. We were led by customer demand so, with the exception of what we’re doing with technology, we don’t think there’s anything really new or disruptive about what Riverview Law does. Our business model and approach only looks disruptive from the perspective of the legal market, which tells you a lot about the legal market and how unused to change it is.
We’re focused on the 60-70 percent of the legal work that large organizations do every day of the week, every week of the year that can be packaged into long-term contracts, such as commercial contracts and obligation management, litigation, HR, property. We set up dedicated teams for each account to be sure that each team member truly knows the customer. We enter into long-term partnerships with our clients — agreements typically have a three-plus-year term, which gives us great visibility of earnings and allows us to invest in the relationship. We use effective end-to-end technology and workflow systems to enable our legal and support teams to work flexibly and efficiently. Our technology and operating model helps us to manage information and data, and provide business insight to our customers that pre-empt risks, improves legal support and reduce costs. We use the data to go back into the business and improve how the business operates. Our technology enables us to scale, quickly and globally.
We applied for an ABS license for two reasons. Firstly, so that we could have just one operating structure, one set of reporting lines, one salary banding scheme, one career development program, one marketing scheme and website, etc. Operationally, this has allowed us to become even more effective and efficient then we were before, and we have really reaped the benefits from that since we obtained our ABS license.
The second reason we wanted to become an ABS was that it makes things easier when we speak with prospective customers and lawyers. They ask us if we are regulated, and we say “yes,” whereas before we had to enter into a lengthy discussion about our structure, which was distracting.
The application process to become an ABS was challenging for both us and the SRA. Because we were not a law firm, we were unusual and did not fit into the typical SRA model. So they asked us many questions. There were moments when it was a bit frustrating for both sides, but we expected that going into the process.
At Riverview Law, we do not distinguish between lawyers and nonlawyers when we seek to fill a role. Instead, we say “these are the services our customers want us to deliver to them,” and then we ask “what roles do we need in order to deliver those services, and what is the profile of the person needed to fill that role?”
For example, at a senior level, I am the CEO, I am not a lawyer; our COO was a barrister but hasn’t practiced for 20 years; our HR Director has a background in HR and used to work at Tesco; our Finance Director comes from an outsourcing public company background; our business development director is a solicitor. Our Legal Services Director and COLP obviously is a solicitor and that role by law must be filled by a solicitor. We have a potent mix of skills and experience that make us a strong team.
With the exceptions of DLA Piper and AdviserPlus, all of our shareholders are individuals. At the moment, members of our Board and of our senior team, about 25 people in total, hold shares through a share growth program. We are in the process of putting in place a broader share ownership program for all employees. We want our managers and employees to own shares because it aligns all of our interests, and it gives them a long term perspective. We see this important to the sustainability of the business. We are building a long-term sustainable business which has long-term contracts with blue chip customers and high renewal rates. To deliver this it’s important we align all our people to these goals through appropriate reward models.
For example, save for a very small number of exceptions, we do not pay individual bonuses. We pay the same bonus across the board to all employees, based solely upon company performance. This bonus is not proportional to an employee’s salary — it is the same amount to each person. Think about the culture this creates. Our culture is one of our major differentiators. Over time people may be able to replicate our technology, our processes, our model … but even if they do they can’t replicate how we do things, how we use the technology … culture is the key!
Prior to December 2014, Riverview had three principal services to companies: (i) legal advisory outsourcing, which is our long term managed services contracts with large corporations, (ii) legal counsel, which is annual contracts with fast growing businesses, and (iii) and litigation and representation, which is one-off projects for businesses of all sizes.
In late 2013 / early 2014, we noticed that every time GCs and company legal teams visited us, they asked if they could license our technology. They saw how we manage our business, from the management of instructions, through triage, case management, to analytics and the underlying data, and they said that they would like to replicate and tailor our model to their own in-house counsel functions.
And we thought, why not? So we set up Riverview Law In-house Solutions. This allows us to serve even more our primary customer, which is the in-house counsel function of large corporations.
This now gives a general counsel the choice of either outsourcing to us and/or or implementing and licensing our technology in-house.
We have also realized is that our technology platform can be applied in functions outside legal – HR and finance, for example. So, we are setting up a separate technology company to hold and license the intellectual property to third parties.
We recently entered into a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University of Liverpool. We want to leverage the University’s artificial intelligence expertise in the legal market. We are expecting this partnership to enable us to apply a range of computer science expertise in the areas of artificial intelligence, text processing, network analysis, computational argumentation and data mining. Our objective is to automate some of the cognitive abilities of knowledge workers to provide our clients with intelligent decision support tools.
Let me give you a practical example of its deployment: imagine you are a lawyer working for one of our clients, and you have all the contracts relating to a particular area of their business. Imagine that all those contracts need to be re-negotiated to be sure they are in compliance with new regulations and a new company risk profile. And we also have to consolidate the number of suppliers that we have. How on earth do you start such a task? You have to find the contracts, you have to analyze them, you have to decide the strategy. It is amazing what technology can do — we can put all of the contracts in front of you on your screen, showing you how they connect, and suggesting which ones needs to be re-negotiated first. The lawyer then needs to review it and decide if that is, in fact, the right way to do it. What we are doing is short circuiting the decision making process, and making it better. You don’t take out the human interaction — quite the opposite — what we do take out is the foundation work that comes before, in order to present it to the lawyer in a way that they can interpret it and make the analytical decisions. It is really powerful stuff.
This is a very exciting time, a phenomenal time, to be in the legal market. This is a moment when you can create something very special. The direction of the market is very clear, and there will be big winners as well as big losers. The biggest winners are the customers. For decades they have been paying far too much for legal services because they have not had a choice. Now they have a choice.
Ironically, the things that have protected lawyers in the past and allowed them to earn big unsustainable margins — regulation, myth, a cozy monopoly — are the same things that will prove their undoing because it’s created complacency. The longer the U.S. and other jurisdictions take to change their rules, the better it will be for U.K. companies like ours because it provides us with a window to build a competitive advantage.
Long may the US resist ABSs. Long may it carry on protecting the status quo. The US defenders of the status quo are giving the global market to the countries who have accepted ABSs. If you look at the amount of legal work on a global basis that does not need to be done by lawyers, all the US is doing is giving that market to the countries that have adopted ABSs. I’m delighted. Let it continue.
The US is the greatest economy in the world, the greatest center for entrepreneurialism and what do we have? Self-preservation and protectionism. This is the best market I’ve ever been involved in.
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