The new face of the law?

The times they are a-changin’ for the legal profession. Solicitors have traditionally been associated with pinstripe suits, rows of leather bound books, obscure Latin phrases and a nasty habit of not telling you how much their fee will be. A new firm recently established in the centre of Bristol, Temple Bright, is seeking to remedy the image problem.

Tim Summers says: “Having been in the legal culture for many years and inside many different kinds of firm, we have tried to see things from the outsider’s point of view. Our business model is a deliberate effort to address the most common client complaints.”

It’s a business model that involves a radical stripping down of the traditional (and expensive) law firm infrastructure. Temple Bright has no marble reception area, no armies of support staff or tiers of highly paid juniors. The firm comprises senior lawyers only – all of whom are partners – using technology to work efficiently from serviced office premises off Park Street. The firm uses online providers for functions such as the law library and accounts.

The result is guaranteed exclusive attention from an expert with many years of experience, for a lower price which is generally fixed from the time of the initial instruction. The partners believe that these are the qualities that make Temple Bright a sound choice for its clients – who are primarily owner-managed businesses and entrepreneurs. The firm provides these clients with corporate, commercial, litigation, property and employment advice.

Summers continues: “International mega-deals require large teams of people and a massive infrastructure. But we don’t operate in that arena. So we would say to the entrepreneur or business owner: why pay for the law library? Is it really acceptable for your lawyer not to commit to a fixed price, or to delegate everything to a fresh-faced recent graduate charging £200 an hour?”

The firm was launched in March and has grown rapidly – with new approaches and instructions each week. The website identifies 30 core clients. More strikingly still, despite the ongoing economic uncertainty, the number of partners has already grown from three to five – with the addition of Jonathan Poole, a corporate lawyer from Thring Townsend, and Richard Norwood, a litigator from Eversheds.

The website makes a point of advertising the absence of hierarchy or politics and highlights a resolutely informal and unstuffy culture – which all the partners are committed to maintaining. There’s not a pinstripe suit or leather-bound volume in sight – and Latin is never spoken!

Summers concludes: “We’re practical and down to earth. We want to roll up our sleeves and get involved, without being either daunting or dull. We think a visit to the lawyers should be a pleasure, rather than a chore where you know the meter is running.”

This article appeared in the Clifton Times on 16 October 2010.