Following the announcement that DMH Stallard and Riverview Law have signed a formal strategic alliance I thought it would be interesting to get Tim Aspinall’s view on this bold move. To read more about Tim please click here
What is the connection between Riverview and DMH Stallard?
DMH Stallard and Riverview Law have a shared vision for the way that legal services should be delivered. Like us, Riverview Law were keen to capitalise on the rapidly changing market and had innovative ideas for doing so. We have what Riverview Law needs to grow even faster, including a large experienced team with a great reputation for delivering services efficiently. Riverview Law has what we need to grow, including a strong brand, sales and marketing. Both of us believe in fixed pricing and Legal Advisory Outsourcing.
The truth is we have been working together for some time now having already undertaken a number of market tests where both DMH Stallard and Riverview Law pitched for work that neither of us could have won independently. The market tests clearly demonstrated that for a wide range of requirements – from complex litigation to high level technical advice – the alliance is a winning formula.
Who made the first approach; you or Karl Chapman (CEO of Riverview law)?
Initially it was me who made contact with Karl. It was clear from an early stage that Riverview Law’s outlook matched how we had been positioning DMH Stallard for some time. We know that the delivery of legal services needs to change so it seemed like an obvious conversation to have. As it turns out it was!
What do you both get from this arrangement?
That’s a good question.
Because of our shared philosophies the alliance brings a perfect arrangement to capitalise on the Riverview Law model and brand and DMH Stallard’s legal heritage and experience in areas such as M&A, commercial property, disputes, employment and other areas of business law.
It gives each business the opportunity to offer more services to customers, work together to win new business, develop existing business and create new fixed price products.
Added to this over time we can take best practice from both firms to create a very powerful legal force combining traditional law with modern delivery – exciting isn’t it?
Do you think the relationship will stay as a strategic alliance or could it become a merger?
The legal market is undergoing significant change and in order for both organisations to take full advantage of this change and provide customers with the services they need we have decided that there are some areas where it makes sense for us to work together Our strategic alliance achieves our goal of extending our offering to customers and right now the alliance is our core focus.
We will, however, both continue to win and deliver work separately and run independent businesses under our respective names.
What do you see as the main challenges for you both as you move forward together?
I think some people feel that expecting a traditional law firm to work alongside a disruptive innovator like Riverview will be our biggest challenge, but we don’t see this as an issue more of an exciting opportunity. Perhaps it will be dealing with all the extra work we’ll generate together, but that’s the kind of challenge we’d both like to have!
DLA Piper own 21% of Riverview Law – do think this will create any competition issues?
DLA Piper is one of the largest and most innovative law firms in the world and so we would be flattered to find ourselves competing against them. Riverview Law naturally briefed DLA Piper and their other large shareholder, AdviserPlus, and both organisations were and are highly supportive of the alliance.
Riverview have some very advanced technology at their disposal – will you be using any of it?
We have been investing in technology for some time now and have similar BI (Business Intelligence) software to them. Getting accurate management information to our clients is an increasing need that we have both responded to and are happy with the results. One thing we may look to leverage between the two firms is CRM. Riverview operate a very advanced version of Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM system which we are going to be taking a serious look at.
Will there be other strategic alliances in the future?
We have a strong working relationship with Riverview Law but we are both independent businesses pursuing our own strategies. Our focus is on making the new alliance successful, but who knows what might happen in the future.
If you have one message for the legal profession what would it be?
If you could take a sneak preview of the legal profession in 5 years’ time I think you would be looking at a completely different landscape than the one we have today. The legal world is changing at a frightening pace and those firms that can’t adapt in parallel are going to be left behind. I have no intention of letting DMH Stallard be one of them.
I happen to know DMH Stallard very well (they are a client) and as regular readers will know my relationship with Karl Chapman stretches back to the early 90′s so I will watch this relationship with interest in the coming months.
DMH Stallard are a well thought of traditional law firm with a great track record and a strong brand in the south east.
Riverview are a disruptive force in the marketplace especially in their use of technology and processes. By bringing the two together I would expect to see a very interesting hybrid emerge which could potentially be even more disruptive than either could achieve alone. Time will tell I suppose.
Silhouette Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Mrs Thatcher was probably one of the most divisive prime ministers in the 20th century.
Whilst she did do some things that I never agreed with I thought she took a country that was on it’s knees through years of weak government, union torment, poor business management and a criminal lack of investment and completely turned it round. I remember those pre-Thatcher days and they were truly awful.
She was a commitment not a focus-group politician who did what she believed in, always put Britain first and took on the male establishment and beat it. Say what you will but she was a truly remarkable person hence the state funeral (or as close as a commoner can get) and the world-wide plaudits.
I was born in a council prefab (we couldn’t even get a council house), went to a secondary modern school and had no access to family money or influence. Success didn’t come easy for me but much of what I have achieved was made possible because of the Britain Mrs Thatcher created. For that I am truly grateful.
Anyway, to celebrate the great lady here are my douzey-dozen Baroness Thatcher quotes – enjoy.
- Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.
- If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.
- I love argument. I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me – that’s not their job
- If you want to cut your own throat, don’t come to me for a bandage.
- To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning
- Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.
- Pennies don’t fall from heaven, they have to be earned here on earth.
- I came to office with one deliberate intent: to change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society — from a give-it-to-me, to a do-it-yourself nation. A get-up-and-go, instead of a sit-back-and-wait-for-it Britain.
- There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families
- I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end
- Defeat? I do not recognise the meaning of the word
- My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time; support the police.
Late in her life I was lucky enough to find myself in the same place as her. Long after her prime and despite her illness her charisma and power seeped from every pore.
RIP Margaret Thatcher.
Short answer is yes, but here’s a slightly longer one.
My first mentor was Mike Sparkes who started as my agent when I was freelance but ended up my friend and business partner before his untimely death aged 38.
During the time I knew him this is what he gave me: -
- Inspiration: I couldn’t wait to be with him because of how he made me feel
- Knowledge: he knew more then than I know now and he was utterly selfless in sharing what he knew with me and with others.
- Experience: he liked me to have a go and was OK with me failing provided I learned from the experience.
- Challenge: he wasn’t a great believer in comfort zones and the status quo. Always pushing and helping me realise my potential.
- Confidence: he always believed in me and was never shaken by my many catastrophes.
- Support: especially in the early days he was always there for me particularly when my confidence was low.
- Motivation: I just wanted to do more for him.
- Friendship: not really a prerequisite for a mentor but he gave me his anyway.
Since then I have had many mentors and each has provided one or more of the above. I have no doubt that a great deal of my success in business stems from the contribution these men and women made to my development over the years. Even better than that it hasn’t cost me a penny.
I hope I have repaid my debts down the line though (but you’d have to ask those I have tried to mentor of course) and I will continue to do so. I think it’s as important to give as it is to receive - be generous with what you know.
My advice then: if you don’t have a mentor seek one out that you can trust and who can help you become what you are capable of being. You won’t regret it and it will make a big difference to how successful you will be.
Why do it all yourself when there’s an easier way.
Did you know that humans and chimpanzees have only a 2% difference in DNA. In 2005 the University of Washington in Seattle sequenced the genome of our furry forebear and found him to be more of a sibling than an ancestor.
But that 2% difference accounts for penicillin, the space shuttle, computers, the Eiffel Tower and liquid soap whilst our hapless cousins continue to swing around in trees and throw poop at each other.
It just goes to show a little difference in composition can make a huge difference in production.
Why is this useful then?
Well, when we are trying to set ourselves apart from our competitors and rivals we always imagine we have to be vastly different – we don’t. A little more organised; a little more proactive, a little more creative, attentive, focused, reliable and visible all add up to a very different person to the one that can’t be bothered.
Want to stand out from the crowd? Look for small differences and nail them.
I think it might be.
You might not agree but I feel that the next few minutes could have a profound effect upon your life.
Why are you successful sometimes and not at others? Why do you have periods when you are you happy with your lot and at other times not? Why do you feel like everything is on track and at other times you feel your life is off the rails?
Welcome to the world of personal drivers.
If your drivers are being met you will be more successful and happier because your internal needs are being satisfied. It’s about what you need as a person but at a very deep level – it’s not about the next pay rise or holiday abroad or 10 minute mile.
So what use are they in the real world?
When you need to make a decision simply assess which of the available options best feeds your drivers and then choose that one. It’s more likely to be the right choice for you.
We enjoy doing those things that meet our drivers so we do them longer, harder and better leading to even more success.
When things aren’t going well for you or you just feel a bit cheesed off with your lot check which are of your drivers are not being fed and it will give you some idea of how to fix your situation.
Here’s the bad news though: that’s pretty much all I can give you because it’s not my field. However, I do have a couple of suggestions which should help you to at least begin discovering your drivers. Before that though here are mine (he said laying himself bare before his readers).
These caused me to like squash more than water polo; become obsessed with programming (won a nationwide prize for it!); take up bricklaying as a hobby but preferred using recycled bricks; built a successful recruitment business in the 90′s but failed to do the same again in the naughties and finally to end up as a business development consultant.
- I need to be in a place of discovery: I like new things: challenges; people; places and experiences. I can’t stand the status quo for any length of time.
- I need to be on a journey: I like it when I know where I’ve been, where I am now and where I’m going. I need to be on a mission; a man-with-a-plan.
- I need to make things that work: building something that, when it’s complete, actually does something really hits the spot for me.
- I need to renovate and improve: I like to take something that doesn’t work very well and reinvigorate it so that it does.
- I need recognition and to be valued: I’m not proud of this but I need external validation such as being paid for what I do, having my achievements recognised and affirmation that I am good at what I do. I see this a weakness in myself.
- I need to be good at what I do: If I can’t be good, or better yet great, at something I’m not interested in doing it.
- I need to leave a legacy: it’s like “Mike Ames was here”. Leaving my mark on whatever I am involved with.
Underpinning these drivers is my Foundation driver that has to be in place all the time: -
- I need familiarity and security: I absolutely have to have my back to the wall. Mrs Ames says that’s why we’re still married after 30 years when my drivers would suggest that I should have been a flighty piece. I think she’s right.
So all I can offer you is chapter 5 on needs, passions and talents in Stephen Covey’s otherwise less than inspiring book The 8th Habit of Highly Effective People. Not worth buying it for that though – borrow a copy if you can.
Alternatively, you could make a list of everything that you were successful at and enjoyed (the two usually go hand-in-hand) and another that you were terrible at and hated. Start from your earliest recollections (our drivers don’t really change) and come to the present time.
Then look for common needs being met/ignored in each list; it takes time (about 9 months in my case) but you will find them. Then you can test them out by taking situations and seeing whether your drivers were being met or not. Keep reiterating this cycle of observation and testing and eventually you will arrive at an accurate definition of what drives you. Well worth the investment of time and effort if you ask me.
Find your drivers and it will change how you make decisions and ultimately how happy and successful you’ll be.
So was it the most important post I’ve ever published I wonder?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This is a true story.
It highlights three highly important aspects of business development that could have a positive effect on your ability to win more business in the future.
Here we go then.
In a previous life I owned and ran an IT recruitment company. One of our targets was a water company who we conservatively estimated spent £15m ($22m) on contract IT people each year and we badly wanted a piece of that action.
The person who gave out the work, we’ll call him Brian, and I didn’t really get on. Our moral compasses pointed in different directions and I wasn’t prepared to do what others did to secure business from him. He would mess me about no end: cancelling meetings at the last minute and breaking promises but I pressed on.
Then two things happened at pretty much the same time.
Firstly, a contractor who was working for me and had worked at the water company before, let’s call her Alice, was contacted by her old agency to go back to work on a specific project that she had extensive knowledge of. She refused to go back unless it was through me.
Secondly, Brian called me up to say he had good news and bad news: good news was they would let Alice come back through me (whoopee); bad news was they had just installed a supplier panel for 3 years and I wasn’t on it (booooo). He also added that he was moving to another part of the organisation, I took this as more good news but didn’t let on.
Then a new resource manager turned up, why don’t we call him Pete, who I only got to see because I had Alice on site. Had I not then he would have given me the brush off like all the other wannabe agencies (lesson #1).
My relationship with Pete was different from the start: identical moral compasses, the same interests and an amazingly similar sense of humour. Added to this early on he gave me a really obscure technical requirement that his panel suppliers had drawn a blank on and after working solidly on it for 2 weeks I found somebody. Our relationship entered a new phase as a consequence (lesson #2).
Roll forward three years. We had over 70 contractors on site making us the second biggest provider of contractors even though we could only get the requirement 3 days after the panel suppliers. I also had excellent working relationships with Pete and all the hiring managers (lesson #3).
So let’s summarise those key lessons: -
- The difference between zero and 1 is greater than 1 and a hundred. Being on the sales ledger makes all the difference so do what you need to in order to make it happen. Had I not had Alice on site I would not have got to see Pete and you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.
- Do something exceptional. The other agencies gave up because the requirement I satisfied was hard and one of many so they just pressed on to the next easier one. I didn’t. If you succeed where others have failed great things can happen and frequently do.
- It’s all about strength of relationships. When it comes down to it people buy from those they like, trust and feel valued by, Pete certainly did and it helped me to overcome the strictest of supplier rules. Added to that I also established a relationship with all the line managers who actually had the need for IT contractors. Relationships based upon trust and affinity will always trump those based on process and rules.
For what it’s worth this is the best of several very similar stories from that era that all deliver the same key messages which are as relevant today as they were then.
If you have time I would really like to hear comments from anybody with similar relationship-based success stories. Thanks you.
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Bryan Hughes Interview
Bryan Hughes is the CEO of Eversheds an international law firm planted well within the top 10 of the UK legal hit parade. He is an affable family man who claims to make a habit of losing golf balls and doesn’t look his 50 years (he tried to convince me he was 14 when he joined Eversheds in 1984) but underneath his pleasant exterior he’s a determined, focused and very switched on lawyer-turned-businessman. Read more about Bryan here.
Now, here’s how Bryan sees the world….
You have ambitious expansion plans – can you sum them up for me?
We have always had a 3 year business plan but during our last round of planning we decided to look further ahead, in fact to 2020 and not just so we could call it our 2020 Vision! Our short term objectives are to consolidate our global organisation by standardising our offerings, filling the gaps and turning our investment sites (they’ll be the ones that make a loss) into profit centres.
Our 2020 vision is about taking this platform and spreading the reach still further. We all know that there is an increasing movement of business from west to east but we still need to establish ourselves in the US so an American move is certainly a real possibility in the future.
What is your response to those who would say now is not a good time to invest?
Well they said that 3 or 4 years ago too but we carried on regardless and have continued to add turnover and profit to the firm. We know that if we invest wisely and stay focused we can steal a lead on those of our competitors who are “waiting for the good times to come back”. We believe in ourselves and our strategy so why wouldn’t we invest in it?
With expansion on the agenda why the recent redundancies?
Nobody likes to have to let people go; it’s always painful but we have realigned our business to reflect the market and the needs of our clients and we needed to staff up accordingly. Very sad but also very necessary I’m afraid.
What are the major challenges you’re facing with this strategy?
Pretty much the same as everybody else I’d say: we live in times where change is the new status quo and we have to keep up so we constantly need to refine our plans to keep ourselves on target. Added to that there is less business about which is being chased by too many lawyers and with new entrants turning up all the time it’s tough out there.
Bottom line: If you can’t give the clients a good reason to choose you they’ll simply go with the cheapest. High quality, great service and value for money are valuable assets that clients want and we just concentrate on making sure we deliver them.
You have a very progressive IT department – how does it add value to the average lawyer in the firm?
This question has two answers. Firstly our lawyers simply want to take IT for granted. They just want it to work 100% of the time wherever they are on the planet and they don’t want to have to think about the enormous amount of work it takes to consistently deliver this. Well why should they?
Secondly we see IT as an enabler; something to give our lawyers an edge in a market place where you need all the edges you can get. Whether it’s enabling a completely mobile working option or allowing people to link their own Smart Phone or tablet to our network our IT team are saying “yes” as opposed to the proverbial sharp intake of breath.
Lawyers are traditionally techno-phobes – how have you got round this?
Well our younger lawyers have been brought up on computers so totally get how important they are and have no hesitation about using them. Some of the more experienced lawyers have also made the leap into the information age with ease whereas others……. (stares wistfully out over St. Pauls)
In short what counts is their ability to provide great legal advice and IT is just one of many tools we use to help us do this quicker and more effectively.
You were the first firm to issue iPads to your lawyers – did this pay off and do you have any other projects coming up that you can share with us?
Yes I think it did on all sorts of levels. Sure there was some PR value to it but it enabled our people to use technology in situations that would be impractical if you had to fire up a laptop. They also improved our ability to communicate and engage with our stakeholders. Added to that the lawyers thought it was “fun-computing” if there is such a thing (I am an IT man so I told him there is – not sure he was convinced).
Moving forward we are working on a ‘Bonfire of the Bureaucracies’ project to reduce the amount of form-filling and unnecessary processes that have built up over the years as well as additional projects to enhance our HR, case management, practice management and CRM systems. We definitely like to get our money’s worth out of our IT department.
Law firms are having to change from passive BD to something that is a lot more proactive – what changes have you made in the way you win and keep clients?
This is an interesting question. To start with we have been running an extensive and very successful Key Account programme for a number of years which has contributed greatly to our growth and profitability. We train our people precisely how to look after clients as well as seek out new ways to help them and engage with them. This has, and still is, giving great results.
We are still winning new clients of course but we have a range of approaches to this including promoting our sectors and relationships with third parties.
Do you think every lawyer should have to do BD?
A perennial question Mike. Look, everybody has a part to play in securing business. It could be the lawyer that does an outstanding job and gets a referral from it or perhaps somebody who is as comfortable in a networking situation as they are in a boardroom. I believe that you should work to people’s strengths and not spend your time trying to make them good at something they inherently find difficult. Having said that each practice has their own business plan and each team member is expected to contribute; the business won’t win itself you know.
I always like to end with a round of quickfire questions so here they are.
Describe Eversheds in 10 words or less.
Relationship-driven; different in a good way; challengers of the norm (did him a favour and hyphenated the first two; Mr Generous).
Are you an ambitious firm?
We’re far too self-effacing for that Mike – we just want to be different and do it our way (yeah, sure like he loses a lot of golf balls too).
Reasons to: -
- Work at Eversheds: strong culture, meritocracy and the sky is your limit.
- Use Eversheds: easy; we’re obsessed with customer service and being aligned to their businesses.
- Competitors should beware: we’d rather they just ignored us really…. Until it’s too late!
During a time when many firms are talking about attacking the market and growing their businesses but not doing much about it Eversheds, under the urbane Mr Hughes, are making it happen and good luck them. Apparently fortune does favour the bold. Learn more about Eversheds here.