Challenging the legal convention

“When people think of law firms, they have this John Grisham image – the senior partners on the golf course with the associates locked in a dungeon for 18 hours a day. That’s the popular image and it’s not the reality – but it’s not a complete fabrication either. A lot of the real work does get done by juniors burning the midnight oil, and the results aren’t always that great for the clients.”

Tim Summers, co-founder of Bristol law firm Temple Bright is talking to WestBusinessNews about the pyramid structure that most commercial law firms employ. He and Temple Bright co-founder Justyn McIlhinney have come up with an alternative that clearly works.

“We take our inspiration from Apple, not from law firms,” continues Summers. “Receiving legal advice should be like using a Mac – elegant and simple, with no bells and whistles or menus of options you’re never going to use. So we don’t write rambling defensive letters with the clock running. That can be hard to avoid in the pyramid structure, if you have juniors supervised by associates supervised by partners, all of them recording every minute to pay the rent on a big glass building. Instead we have low overheads and with no juniors involved we can fix the price and get to the point quickly.”

Temple Bright has been a game-changer on its own terms. Its answer to the challenge of standing out in a crowded market was to create something familiar but different.

“We created a solicitors’ firm structured like a barristers’ chambers, with only senior lawyers who work for themselves but as part of a tight knit team,” says Summers. “It really works because what clients think they are choosing when they instruct solicitors is the character and skill of particular individuals.”

Having launched with three partners in 2010, the firm now boasts 16, split between its flagship Bristol office and a new London base in the heart of the Old Street tech community.

Deploying technology to work smarter has also paid off. The firm’s technological innovation has meant outsourcing most of its infrastructural functions to online providers, cutting overheads and increasing efficiency into the bargain.

This article appeared in WestBusinessNews on 22 May 2013.