The Changing of the Guard: The Rise of Consultant Solicitors

How tech and environmental factors have transformed law forever

Here at Setfords HQ, we always like to keep up to speed, not just with legal developments, but with developments in the wider world. Which does of course mean reading as much news as possible. A couple of articles caught our eye last week. Here’s our response to some of the comments made.

BY NATURE, change is unsettling. The most unifying phrase heard during the recent pandemic was that we just wanted to ‘get back to normal’. We like to know where we are. We like certainty. People like to understand where they fit into the world and how the world works. Most businesses are no different. Change can unsettle established firms as much as it can unsettle any individual.

Tesla (established 2003) has unsettled established car manufacturers with its astonishingly popular battery-operated cars. Klarna (est 2005) has changed the way we shop and pay for purchases online. We no longer queue in the cold for a taxi home: we tap on our phones for an Uber (est 2009) from the comfort of a warm restaurant chair.

Tesla terrifies traditionalists

Pre-2000, who would have foreseen any of that? Ask any established car manufacturer now if it’s worried about Tesla. Off the record, they’ll tell you they are absolutely terrified of Tesla.

In 20 years or fewer, established car makers like Mercedes Benz, Ford and Toyota have gone from barely noticing Tesla’s existence to mirroring everything it does. They can barely pack batteries into their cars fast enough as they sweat over Tesla’s progress.

Fake news

Which brings us back to those articles we mentioned at the top of this post. Two in particular, from LexisNexis and Legal Futures, implied dispersed-model law firms like Setfords would have little effect on traditional law firms.

Christopher O’Connor, director of solutions at LexisNexis, said: “The market is not big enough yet for traditional firms to be losing sleep over.”

It’s not difficult to imagine this exact quote being applied to car manufacturing 20 years ago. Why, in 2002, would Mercedes, Ford or Toyota have lost any sleep about an upstart battery-driven operator? Back then, it wasn’t that the market wasn’t big enough to accommodate Mr Musk’s motors, it was more a case that the battery-driven market didn’t even exist. Tech and environmental factors outside the control of the fossil-fuelled car giants allowed the new market to come into being.

Even outside of the car world, the more concerned we become about our environment, the more tech will help us deliver the solutions to overcome today’s challenges.

Zoom and zeitgeist

Which brings us to us! We couldn’t have existed before good broadband connection was widespread and platforms like Zoom allowed us to communicate as easily as if we were all working in the same office. Even environmental factors play into our hands. How? Because our dispersed-model means many of our consultant lawyers don’t commute at all. They help the environment by default. Increasingly expensive city-centre congestion charges don’t apply to them. Such factors will matter more and more to future generations of lawyers AND THEIR CLIENTS!

So, in environmental and technological terms, Setfords is dead centre of the legal zeitgeist.

The other thing we found puzzling about Christopher O’Connor’s quote was in relation to staff: “…they [traditional firms] are very worried about losing talent and they have to change things to make life more attractive to retain their lawyers.”

How can traditional firms be concerned about losing talent without being worried about business? We’re stumped. How will those firms conduct any business at all if they continue to haemorrhage team members? People, as we continually hear CEOs, are a firm’s most valuable asset.

While senior partners at traditional law firms have been asleep at the wheel as the world moved on, our growth accelerated like the latest Tesla model. It looks like some journalists have got into bed with those unworried senior partners. One reported our annual turnover at £18m. When he wakes from his slumbers, he’ll see our turnover whizzed up to £34m between 2020 and 2021. In those same years, an additional 217 experienced lawyers joined our ranks

LexisNexis also wonders how many of the lawyers joining dispersed firms have the business development skills to “feed themselves”.

“Being self-sufficient is the ideal but I don’t think it’s fair to say only lawyers who have a ready made following can become a successful consultant.” says Setfords Consultant Solicitor David Miers

“Most of my clients are one time service users and therefore my model is more about profile and raising awareness than repeat clients. I had a business development plan, but I needed support to bring that to fruition. That is where a firm like Setfords excels. By having their own business development team I was given enormous support to generate work. There’s a whole team brimming with marketing expertise here. They analyse data and drive traffic our way. In fact, I received approximately 3,000 new enquiries generated by Setfords in just under 3 years which is fantastic. The consultancy model is not for everyone, but for lawyers who want to take control of their careers, earn more money and have a plan on how to do that, the consultancy model is perfect.”

Is consultancy for me?

If you are interested in 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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        Currently, we can only work with lawyers qualified under one of these regulatory bodies