You’ve had an illustrious career in the legal sector including founding Rouse (the UK’s leading International IP law firm) in 1990; having your book “Every Relationship Matters” published by the American Bar Association and most recently in the role of CEO of 7 Bedford Row. How have you seen the legal sector change in that time?
The biggest shift I have seen is what I think of as the “emancipation of the client” epitomized for me by the BUPA advertising campaign “Your patient will see you now”. Lawyers once enjoyed the gratitude of clients for even considering taking on their work – the boot is well and truly on the other foot now, at least at corporate level. We are in a service business and it is imperative that we offer what clients want to buy.
What have been some of the most interesting challenges you’ve had to face?
The greatest challenges have involved seeing past my own conditioning and the limitations that conditioning imposes. Open mindedness and free thinking are not traits much encouraged in the law where precision and process can swamp the big picture. The willingness to see things differently and then to embrace the changes that vision suggests, that is always the greatest challenge.
You have now set up Bar Select...what is it?
Bar Select is an online channel through which barristers with availability for advocacy or capacity for “papers” can be matched with clients. Bar Select will provide the means to manage conversations between client and barrister and then agree a booking form that becomes a diary entry; movements on that case are then reported to the client as they are entered in the diary.
You’ve teamed up with Bar Squared and LEX...what was the thinking behind this?
The Bar Squared “LEX” product was the one selected for 7 Bedford Row and so I already had confidence in the product and above all the Bar Squared team and their appetite for enhancing LEX for the benefit of their users. For Bar Select to work it needed a web based diary management system to underpin it and one capable of handling all kinds of work and billing. I also knew from my experience at 7 Bedford Row that barristers are able to use it without special training. There is a great deal in LEX that can be exploited by those willing to learn how to use its higher level functionality and integrate that into their practice management and development. Users will have the scope to grow into a sophisticated software solution if they so wish.
What are the advantages for barristers in signing up to Bar Select?
These are listed on the Bar Select website (www.barselect.co.uk) as follows:
- Another potential source of work to fill gaps in your diary;
- A chance to be introduced to new clients;
- Affordable and simple charging structure;
- Advanced online services, secure and easy to use;
- Active promotion of public and licensed access as well as to international clients.
CEOs I have been talking to in leading chambers have quickly identified the potential for their members and chambers and are now actively engaging with their members to pursue this new opportunity to grow their practices and market share for the future.
OK, but what’s the catch?
Well perhaps the only catch is that, borrowing the Lottery proposition, “you have to be in it to win it”. The prizes will go to those who make this channel work for them by engaging early (there are real benefits to being one of the 300 founder members including an enhanced listing so long as they remain members); making sure their profile information is complete and well presented; responding promptly to enquiries, direct or through their clerks; and of course managing client expectations including delivering what is expected, especially when it comes to getting papers back on time.
This is one of the first “alternative business channels” for the Bar that we think is credible…what do you want to achieve through it?
What I want to achieve other than a successful and sustainable business, is an overall growth in work flow to the Bar; this means contributing as a market maker for the Bar. There has been so much focus on Alternative Business Structures (ABS) and the threat they represent to traditional ownership and reward models. I believe that our focus should be on the potential for service opportunities arising from Multi-Disciplinary Practice (MDP) and how we are going to serve clients while collaborating with other professionals. I see the Bar and its body of self-employed lawyers as a powerful model for today’s market where deploying skills where they are needed can be better that employing them full time.
Peter Rouse was interviewed by Guy Hewetson and Anil Shah, LPA Legal