Andrew Scott set up his own law firm a year ago. Here he explains the challenges he faced and how he has developed his own legal technology to improve productivity.
What prompted you to set up your own practice?
I’d spent over 25 years working for large law firms and I felt I needed a new challenge. I wanted to break free, try something new and to indulge my interest in legal technology.
What’s been the biggest mistake you’ve made?
I don’t think I’ve made any howlers. The business has only been going for a year, so there’s plenty of time yet! But, it’s gone better than I could have hoped.
What’s been the best decision you’ve made?
Hiring the right people. They’ve lifted some of the weight of work off me and enabled me to focus on building the business. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to take the time to develop the technology.
What’s the technology you’ve developed?
I’d been working in document assembly and other areas of legal technology for about ten years before going out on my own. My idea was to help clients in day-to-day legal work, especially where the processes can be supported by technology.
I wanted to create a platform onto which I could put all my years of experience to support clients in their contractual needs. I’ve had a piece of natural-language processing software called Repindex adapted for the legal market. I’ve also devised another piece of software that allows clients to model any aspect of a contract and enables users to automate ‘playbooks’.
So, for example, clients can run all their non-disclosure agreements through Repindex, which will highlight problematic clauses. They can then refer to the playbook to find out whether, and if so, how they should amend those clauses.
Essentially, it helps improve productivity.
How easy was it to get PI insurance?
It was really straightforward. I was introduced to Richard Brown at Miller, who handled it all and made it a completely painless experience.
The big challenge is taking the business to the next level. I need more volume of work to generate the revenues that would allow me to hire more full-time staff. I’ve proved the concept in the first year, but to develop the technology further will entail a lot more cash, which is why I need to generate more volume.
What’s your ultimate ambition?
The business is ticking over quite nicely right now, but my objective is to get it to the point where I can sell it in three to five years’ time. I want to build up a sound base of good-quality clients that provide regular revenue, which are either buying the software or buying the service underpinned by the software.
What advice would you have for those thinking of setting up as a sole practitioner?
Don’t be overambitious. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
Have some clients already onboard before you do it. You’d be very brave if you took a leap in the dark thinking you’ll just pick up business.
The first year is crucial. It’s easy though if you have foundation clients who will support you. Then you decide what you want to do with the business from there.
I have some very loyal clients, including a large retail fund management company, and a tech firm, without whom I couldn’t have gone out on my own.
Finally, be clear about what you want to achieve, and be very clear on what you want to deliver. Focus on depth, not breadth, otherwise there’s a risk you’ll spread yourself too thinly.
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