Nadia Haque, Associate, Radiant Law

We all share the same ideal. We are driven not by making partner, but by wanting to see the business succeed.

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.

My career has not followed a traditional route, which probably explains why I am working for a non-traditional firm. After finishing law school, I worked as a paralegal, I travelled, worked abroad and did a Masters. Finally I joined a traditional firm and completed my training contract. Whilst in private practice, I did a lot of secondments in-house, in a national and international bank, for example.

It was from this experience that I realized traditional private practice was not for me. I did not aspire to become a partner, and I was not comfortable in the environment of a traditional firm. It is not that I am not ambitious or that I do not want to be successful — I do. But I do not think that partnership is the answer to that.

I had the opportunity to go in-house, but I was hesitant to do that because I think that once you go in-house, you become so commercially focused on “getting it done, getting it done” that you don’t necessarily get to build on your technical skills, which as a junior lawyer I wanted to continue to develop.

So when I came across Radiant and met with Alex and the others, I thought “wait, something’s going on here.” The people I met all had the same problems with a traditional practice as I did. At the same time, I was interviewing with traditional firms, and they were asking me questions about my billable hours, and I thought to myself “I do not want to be you, I do not want to be in this environment, I just want to do the job.” Because that is what the client wants — that you do the job as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I also wanted to be around people who were happy to be doing what they were doing. A lot of people I see in private practice are all miserable. Even the people who are utterly driven to make partner — once they get there, they are utterly miserable. I was driven by being in an environment where people are happy.

Don’t get me wrong — as a lawyer I am instinctively risk adverse, and I had my hesitations in joining Radiant — I wasn’t sure if I should get on board with intelligent mavericks who themselves had taken a huge risk.

What I like about working here is that I am trusted to get on with the job. I am given a lot of responsibility, with the expectation that when I need help, I will say so. Face time is not important — if I stay late, it is because I need to get the job done, but not just for show.

I also like the flexibility — if I need to work from home or from a train, it is no problem. I’m trusted to get the job done, and not let the client or the team down.

We all share the same ideal. We are driven not by making partner, but by wanting to see the business succeed. This is true of everyone, including the administrative staff. They are just as dedicated as everyone else.

My role is called a “Switch.”  Part of the work Radiant offers, involves outsourcing day-to-day contracts to the Cape Town office. As part of my job involves being based at a client’s office, I act as the interface between the Cape Town office and the client, so that for client the interaction is seamless whilst having the comfort that it has a legal team that understands its business. Radiant’s model is to use technology and resources to be efficient, while making sure the quality stays high. In that context, my role involves a degree of quality assurance. I am the person at Radiant who understands the client’s business the best, and can communicate that information. Because I am in the client’s office two days a week, we are able to be very proactive, very fast, in meeting the client’s needs.

Our clients are large international companies; many of them are household names. They are attracted to Radiant because of Radiant’s ability to handle a very large number of standard contracts. These companies don’t have time or resources to handle them correctly, but if they make a mistake with even just one of the contracts, it could create a lot of liability for the company. Our clients see that Radiant has developed a model that enables these companies to handle a large volume of contracts safely.

Examples of contracts are technology (like new software) agreements, marketing agreements, and general services agreements — the many types of agreements that a business needs to operate. Often these contracts are negotiated and signed on a weekly if not daily basis.

Because Radiant is such a new company and is still evolving, I feel that I have many opportunities here.

The traditional law firm that I worked for merged with another national firm. But they were all lawyers — there were no business heads in the merger. All they were focused on was becoming bigger, bigger, bigger. But they did so at the expense of quality and the expense of staff. I think in their minds bigger equated with being the best.

I don’t know how you can’t see that a law firm is a business. We are providing a service. How can this not be a business? And how can you not see the value in having a business person manage the business of a law firm? Lawyers are not trained in business. Managing a business requires a large number of skills that most lawyers haven’t worked on developing. And why would they — they are lawyers — they are primarily advising on managing risk.

I don’t understand the assumption that a business person will cause a firm to act unethically. That has certainly not been my experience.

My advice to anyone wondering about alternative structures: try it. Don’t be scared. Yes, it challenges your norm and it is normal to be afraid of things that challenge your norm. But you can choose to embrace it, and my advice is to embrace it. In an alternative structure, a person’s happiness and creativity can actually matter.

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