Every little helps

What connects cycling to law firms?

At Setfords, we’re proud of the law firm we’ve built. We don’t just offer our lawyers a better work-life balance; we also give them some of the best support in the industry. The result is happier people who can really make the most of their careers. However, we didn’t become this kind of firm overnight.

To understand how cycling and the legal world are connected, we need to whiz back to the early noughties, even before Setfords became a thing in 2006.

To be successful, our founders, Chris and Guy Setford, knew they would need to employ people to help grow the firm. But, they thought, why would anyone want to work for them?

Big firms were in charge

Let’s face it, in legal terms, Setfords was a baby. Long-established firms were the top dogs. Every lawyer worth their salt wanted to work for firms that had some clout. Firms that had been around for decades, if not hundreds of years. Firms with prestige. Firms that paid good salaries.

Against this, it would have been easy for Chris and Guy to think they didn’t have a chance of attracting any lawyers at all.

What they did instead was realise they would have to work very, very hard to convince even a single lawyer to choose Setfords and its consultancy model over long-established firms.

Which is where cycling comes into the equation.

More precisely, it’s where Dave Brailsford comes into the equation.

For those who aren’t familiar, Dave’s a cycling coach. When he became performance director of British Cycling in 2003, just three years before Setfords pushed off, the organisation’s fate changed. Before Dave’s appointment, British riders had pootled along virtually unnoticed for over 100 years. Dave took British riders from also-rans to world beaters.

Bank on Dave

How? By making tiny adjustments. Tiny adjustments he called ‘marginal gains’. Dave’s marginal gains included redesigning bike seats to make them more comfortable. Giving riders electrically heated shorts to maintain ideal muscle temperature. Testing fabrics in wind tunnels for optimum aerodynamics. Getting a doctor to re-teach riders how to wash their hands properly so they were less likely to catch a cold (which could affect their performance).

Everything – and we do mean absolutely everything – was looked at. Small improvements accumulated. Wins soon followed.

Five years after Dave took charge, the British Cycling team dominated at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Four years after Beijing, the team set nine Olympic records and seven world records at the London Olympics. British Cyclists were now the top dogs.

Let’s pedal away from Dave and catch up with Chris and Guy Setford.

Setfords was among the UK’s original legal consultancies. Our consultancy model was introduced in 2009 and quickly overtook our traditional operations. It was set up because our founders believed, and still believe, this model suits the very people they want to attract.

In the ‘marginal gains’ zeitgeist of the early 2000s, our founders were confident they could take on any legal team by considering every aspect of their new firm. By introducing marginal gains aimed at lawyers looking for a better work-life balance, they began attracting talent away from the competition.

Setfords life

Like anyone else, lawyers working remotely need support. So, Chris and Guy created one of the biggest and best support teams in the industry. Now, our support is what sets us apart from the rest of the consultancy firms out there. It covers everything from admin to secretarial, IT to marketing, business development to compliance… and a whole lot more besides. Having a huge support team means our lawyers can focus on what they do best. And, unlike other firms, it’s all included in the fee split. Metaphorically, while our lawyers are in the saddle, our support team is in the car immediately behind them.

Optimum work-life balance

We even have a wellbeing team. You may think a wellbeing team could make very little difference. You may be right. The reason we’re so relaxed about this is because, as Dave Brailsford demonstrated, lots of little differences lead to success. Our wellbeing team may not necessarily teach our lawyers how to wash their hands to avoid catching colds. But they are there to listen to absolutely any concern our consultants may have to ensure they maintain optimum balance.

Do our little differences make us a success? Have we been able to attract talent away from bigger firms? Remember, in 2006, Setfords was a small local firm that wasn’t competing with the top names. A firm not unlike British cycling, pre-Dave Brailsford.

Check out our trophy cabinet

Since 2006, Setfords has attracted over 450 lawyers. We’re ranked in the top 100 law firms in the country. We’ve also stood on the winning podium a few times. Just look at our trophy cabinet that sits at the bottom of our website.

Or, listen to what some of our top talent has to say about us. Here’s Chris Sexton:

“If I need to organise my day to prioritise my personal life, I can. I like that I can fit in my work at different hours. Some days I’ll start work at nine, and I’ll finish about five. On other days I only work maybe two or three hours because I’ve got family to go and see. If I were still working for a traditional firm with set hours, I wouldn’t be able to do that very easily.”

Jane Lockyer is right behind Chris:

“You have more time to spend on the actual client transactions as there is less administration and no partners’ meetings to take up time. We don’t have formal targets. There are also no office politics to take up time and energy.”

Meanwhile, Sarah Gillbe is bossing it:

“I prefer to get on with things and do it my way. Setfords lets me do it. I don’t have to be at my desk nine to five if I don’t want to. I can see clients when I want to, go out for lunch and network on my own terms. I don’t have a boss that to report to. I’m the boss!”


Is consultancy for me?

If you want to find out more about becoming a consultant with us, get in touch. We are happy to conduct interviews remotely for suitable, UK-qualified candidates with five or more years’ experience. If you’re a good fit, you’ll be joining a team that was created for lawyers to do their best work.

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