By Alicia Alinia, COO at Legal Futures Associate Pogust Goodhead
This month, Pogust Goodhead’s COO, Alicia Alinia spoke at the London Law Expo 2023, sharing her thoughts and reflections on the firm’s journey as a ‘first-mover’ in the group litigation space and the importance of taking a tech-first approach to legal operations.
Here are some of her thoughts:
At Pogust Goodhead, we’ve been able to chart our own path within the group litigation space. Driven by Tom Goodhead’s vision for the firm and the mission of expanding access to justice for ordinary people; we’ve had the opportunity to set the precedent for how class actions are done in Europe. In what was relatively unknown territory in the UK, over 5 years (and in the 1 ½ years I’ve been with the firm), we’ve established a foothold, despite the consumer law space having largely contracted.
Over the time we’ve been operating, we’ve seen courts become much more open to accepting class actions, aggregation methods for large cases have become more advanced and technology has enabled us to be much more agile in responding to growing portfolios and complex client management.
We’ve been on a journey as a firm. From what some have called a ‘legal unicorn’ in start-up mode, to building the infrastructure that enables us to service over 2 million clients worldwide. Finally, and where we find ourselves now, is the growth phase – spurred on by the business’ recent $525.5 million litigation funding agreement with Gramercy Investment Managers.
In what has been a whirlwind of a journey for the firm, the role of tech and innovation is easy to miss, but ignoring would be a major pitfall. One of my key takeaways from my time here so far, is that to do group litigation well is near impossible without technology in the hands of those who know how to use it.
I believe that, to a large degree, our use of technology to manage cases has been central to our success within the market and will continue to be instrumental in how we sustain our growth. Opt-out class actions often involve lengthy claim validation processes for clients, with some cases running for years. Keeping potential claimants engaged is a big part of the challenge, and part of how we do this is through tech and AI. At Pogust Goodhead, we use Chatbots and automated client portals, to ensure clients feel connected to their claim journey. We also rely heavily on mobile communications to reach a large number of our clients. For instance, in our case against BHP concerning the Mariana dam collapse disaster, many of our clients are based in remote, hard-to-reach areas of Brazil. Because of this, being able to communicate with clients via WhatsApp is invaluable.
Tech-led marketing to reach and attract new clients is also increasingly important in the world of class actions. Our data teams use real-time reporting to adjust our approach to media outreach campaigns, analysing engagement levels to ensure that we’re continually optimising our content to reach the right audiences and meet potential clients where they’re at.
Finally, we work hard to ensure that our business operates on a low-touch service model basis. While our lawyers and operational teams are based physically in offices all around the world, we put emphasis on being a paperless organisation. Keeping as much of our operations online as possible allows us to engage with client more easily, it keeps our carbon footprint down and enables us to keep operational costs as low as possible.
My closing thoughts would be that levelling-up operations in the class actions space isn’t just about throwing tech at the problems, but technology in the right hands can enable a much greater reach, functionality and efficiency – and ultimately, bring more clients on the journey with you.