A direct access service providing the public and businesses with fixed-fee unbundled access to barristers, claims to have doubled its turnover in each of the last two years and expects to grow next year.
Whereas it had about a panel of about 40 barristers soon after launch in 2013, Absolute Barrister now has “at least 200” on its books, according to its co-founder.
The firm carries out paralegal work while barristers provided regulated advice.
The brainchild of husband and wife barristers Simon and Katy Gittins, it was recently named on the 2016 Everline Future 50 list, which highlights the UK’s most disruptive businesses. It also won the ‘Friend to Business’ award.
Absolute Barrister is about to go live with bespoke case management software that it commissioned and developed itself, which it says provides a unique ‘user experience’ focus and is the first system designed specifically for direct access work.
Mr Gittins told Legal Futures that the company approached software designers first rather than technical experts, in an inversion of the usual development process. The result was extremely fast database access software that its barristers could use to deliver services quickly using mobile devices.
“Most casework systems are designed to put the business user first – and that’s the lawyer. If you do away with the principle that case management systems are tools for the lawyer, [you can] focus very much on the client,” he said.
He said software to allow clients to sign documents electronically was part of the new package and, in future, Absolute Barristers hoped to adopt facial recognition software to provide extra security.
A requirement of the designers was that the new software was usable “without an instruction book”. He continued: “It’s a very intuitive user experience. What we are trying to do is make the supply of legal services as effortless as any other services that we all use on the web…
“We’ve got technology that makes the whole process 25% faster when you are doing this sort of thing over the Internet. It wasn’t available six months ago.”
Mr Gittins said that a keen appetite for advice from barristers, particularly among businesses, was the reason Absolute Barristers was growing fast. He said that while income was “steady” in 2014, the first full year, it “doubled in 2015 and will double again this year”. It would increase further next year, he predicted.
He said: “For businesses and individuals the model is successful. Our clients know their onions, they know what they’re talking about, they know how to use technology.
“Many of them are small business start-ups themselves. What they are missing is the expert part of it. They need to know the answer.
“I think it’s a matter of historical accident that there’s a lot of expertise in the legal system in the UK that exists at the Bar – particularly with contentious matters – and that is something our clients are interested in.”