've been living just outside the law for three decades now.
Maybe I should qualify that statement. What I mean is that since 1995 I have spent my working life in the field of ADR - persuading clients to use an arbitrator, mediator or adjudicator to resolve disputes rather than go to litigation.
Since starting Hunt ADR Ltd in April this year, my time is split across a number of clients, but the majority of it is spent working with the innovative SME law firm, LawBite.
I have always wanted to work in a law firm (I've kept that quiet over the years!) and I have had several offers to work in BD (with some household names (in "the City") but it is only now I have found the right firm with the right leader and it has really changed my view about what working in a law firm is all about.
I first became aware of LawBite through its founder and CEO, Clive Rich. Clive, author of "The Yes Book" and "Law for Small Business for Dummies" was a coach on the CEDR Advanced Negotiation training programme, and shortly afterwards became my business mentor. He set LawBite up to be different - to be accessible, reassuring and cost-effective - it was easy to join him and to live by these values.
LawBite is different - big City firm it ain't. There are five or six of us in the office and a panel of 15 or so experienced lawyers working from home. Our clients are SMEs and we specialise in providing them with accessible law at a price that won't hurt them in their pocket. Our current service rating from Feefo is 96%.
All well and good, but why has it changed my view? Well, in the days that I worked for CIArb and CEDR I was exposed (not literally) to a lot of lawyers and law firms of all types and from all across the world. The one thing they all had in common was that they and their clients were engaged in disputes. They were coming to me to appoint an arbitrator, mediator, adjudicator or other DR professional all because negotiations had failed and a contract clause or agreement had triggered the need for ADR.
Working with LawBite has allowed me to see a different side of the law. I see that our work is split - we deal with disputes, but we also aide SMEs at the outset helping them to avoid conflict and ensure that their contracts are legally tight just in case anything should arise in the future. SMEs can use us on an ad-hoc basis, or they can subscribe to packages which reflect where their business is at the moment and what sort of legal services they require at their stage of development.
Packages include unlimited access to every type of legal document you might need, to having access to a dedicated "virtual" in house lawyer, to unlimited 15 minute calls to a lawyer (we call them LawBriefs) on every new legal issue you have, all the way through to a free half day mediation! We also offer legal health checks and a contract checker service.
LawBite is a law firm of the future, in the present. We use technology and don't pass on huge corporate costs to clients, making our pre-quoted rates around half of what you would expect from a traditional law firm.
ADR and litigation have their place, and not only do we do both but we recommend them wholeheartedly where required, but they are reactive. LawBite's core services are proactive - prevention before cure.
I've lived disputes all my adult life (and in much of my youth). For once it's nice to be proactive and whilst I remain a huge supporter of all forms of ADR, it is refreshing to be involved at the stage before ADR kicks in and help to prevent the need at all.
If you are an SME interested in knowing more about how to keep control of your legal spend, or if you are a lawyer interested in knowing more about being a LawBrief, give me a call on 07454 977767 or email me.