Obi and I are often asked what made us decide to set up a law firm. It was not as if our experience ticked all the boxes. We were not from private practice, we did not have a list of existing clients who would follow us. We were in-house lawyers, who worked for technology companies and large corporates. Commercial lawyers who specialised in IT, technology and data privacy. Why on earth would we want to go into private practice?
Obi and I have been friends for years. We met in 2006 when we both worked at BT. I remember one day sitting in the open-plan office and this guy landing in the chair next to me. We ended up working in the same team and that was that.
Over the years we went our separate ways. I chose a sole legal counsel role in a niche technology company, with the challenges that come with being their first in-house lawyer, setting up processes and templates, and negotiating contracts and managing the challenges of quarter-end and year-end deadlines. We moved on to different roles in technology companies and finally worked together again at DHL.
Invariably came the discussion about the next challenge. It started on a plane ride to a business meeting. Would we move on to different roles in the corporate world? The one thing about in-house teams is that the structure is very flat. A move up invariably means more managing and less legal work. We weren’t sure we wanted to do that. We are both deal lawyers, who like the cut and thrust of negotiating contracts.
It was then that Obi suggested we start our own law firm. By the time we got to the hotel, we had a plan. We would set up our company, apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for authorisation and take it from there. If we gained authorisation, we would do it. Our grand plan was to set up a niche technology law firm to cater to the SME market. Big companies had access to the larger firms which SMEs might not be able to afford. We agreed that we needed to live what we preached, so we used technology to automate processes and keep overheads low.
We did the usual thing new businesses do and networked. Very quickly we realised that business networks were not the place for us. Nobody understood what we did, nor did they require our services. We grew our client base through Obi’s brilliant ability at business development. The man knows so many people and it’s hard to forget Obi once you’ve met him.
We worked with some great people on our marketing strategy, branding and using social media to introduce ourselves to the wider world.
Looking back now, we were absolutely crazy to do it. Even crazier to do it in September 2018 with Brexit looming around the corner. Little did we know that, having survived the early months of Brexit and then doing really well towards the end of 2019, that Covid-19 would rear its head and hang around for 18 months. Initially, what carried us was the optimism everyone had that it wouldn’t last for long. Then it was that it would get better in 2021. Followed by, it will get better once we have a vaccine.
Through it all, our wonderful clients continued to work with us and we signed on new clients without ever meeting them face to face. We have now come out the other side and are feeling very optimistic about the future and we turned three!
We have learnt so much in that time. How to run a business. How to use different applications and technology. Marketing ourselves, marketing the firm. Most of all, being in control of our own destiny. If we knew what it was going to be like these last 3 years, would we do it again? Absolutely!