For many of us, the phrase in the title of this post evokes memories of the Beatles, the Monkees and the Animals. For the less musically inclined and more historically or literarily informed, these are words spoken by Paul Revere on that fateful night memorialized by Longfellow. It was on “the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five” that the silversmith from Boston mounted his horse and warned the Colonial patriots of the impending British invasion in anticipation of the battles of Lexington and Concord. As they say, “The rest is history.”
Almost two hundred years later when the legendary British rock bands brought their revolutionary sounds to American shores, the lighthearted jest of most observers was that the English had wreaked their vengeance through rock and roll with an invasion that would outwit Yankee ingenuity. Thus, the second British invasion would accomplish what the first had failed to achieve. However, a rock band arose from Idaho and Paul Revere and the Raiders helped swing the dominance of U.S. rock and roll back where it belonged.
Whether you believe that the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits and the other bands from across the pond achieved the goal of musical superiority or not, Paul Revere’s ghost can be heard sounding the alarm in a much more significant way today. The threat of a British invasion in 2012 is that of innovative legal services models that U.S. law firms are only beginning to consider. Legal process outsourcing, project management, alternative fees and many other innovations in legal services have achieved a foothold and begun proliferating within the boundaries of U.K., Canadian, Australian and other national footprints.
However, a full scale onslaught on the U.S. legal market has been empowered by the U.K. Legal Services Act (LSA) which became effective January 1, 2012.
The LSA permits ownership of legal service provider entities by individuals and businesses that are not licensed lawyers. As a result, private investors, banks and other professional service firms (I.e. accountants and business consultants) can now reap the profits of providing legal services by employing others who are licensed practitioners. The legal business model of professional colleagues engaged in mutually agreeable partnership activities is giving way to business practices taught in business schools and practiced by MBA’s. Venture capital is now entering the world of law practice management.
Recently, the Co-operative Group LTD in the U.K. announced it is expanding its legal services operations from 475 employees to 3000 providing fixed fee services as a consumer co-operative enterprise. The Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) subsidiary will become the “largest consumer business in the country”. CLS Group Chief Executive, Peter Marks is quoted as saying:
“We already have a first class reputation for delivering professional services,” he added. “We see the law as yet another area where a Co-operative solution can be successfully applied for the customer’s benefit. Over the next five years we want to fundamentally change the face of legal services and make access far easier – today’s announcement underlines that ambition.”
Now legal services will be added to the group’s huge supermarket, pharmacy, farming, financial and funeral services offerings. The Co-operative is the largest provider in most of these sectors serving as many as 20 million shoppers per week in its supermarket sector alone.
Well, that’s there and we’re here, you say. Now “they’re” here too.
Riverview Law launched its innovative legal services firm in February 2012 as an enterprise jointly owned by DLA Piper, a global law firm and Adviser Plus Business Solutions, a business consulting collaboration. Riverview Law exclusively provides fixed fee legal services on the following foundational principles:
To ensure that Riverview Law can provide high quality support, at fixed-prices, we’ve adopted and adapted the following principles:
- We’ve kept our overheads low
- We don’t have expensive city-centre premises to pay for
- We don’t have a large head-office or partner model to support
- We use effective end-to-end technology and workflow systems to enable our legal and support teams to work flexibly and efficiently
- We see legal services as just that, a service, and have deliberately swept the cobwebs off the traditional client/lawyer interaction
- We don’t reward our people for the number of ‘billable-hours’ they generate
- We measure success in how effectively and quickly our teams satisfy customer legal requirements
Now the part about the invasion. Riverview Law announces that it will bring its approach to legal services to New York. Providing fixed fee litigation, transactional and other legal business services to U.S. based companies doing business in the U.K. Riverview will address head on the “appetite” for legal efficiencies and cost controls. In announcing its decision to operate from the lion’s den of U.S. business law, Andy Daws will lead the U.S. office (former AdviserPlus Business Solutions client director). In Hildebrandt’s Newsletter post on the announcement, Daws notes:
“The interest we have received since arriving in America has been incredible,” Daws says. “There is a real appetite to eliminate the duplication of effort and open-ended nature of costs often associated with the English legal system. In the current economic climate, our proposition represents a rare win-win for general counsel and law firms here who are seeking assurance on both cost and quality.”
That’s an appetite that corporate counsel have been seeking to satisfy on both sides of the Atlantic.
This third invasion has the real potential for shaking up the legal business model globally. It is time to “hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch”.
Where’s Paul Revere when we need him?