The prospect of the first football-related alternative business structure (ABS) moved closer to reality this week after a Norwich law firm set up a football agency.
Leathes Prior has also launched Raptor, an innovative litigation risk analysis tool that it hopes to license to in-house lawyers and others.
It is the latest in a series of separately branded ventures that form the innovative 14-partner firm’s response to the changing legal market.
Earlier this year Leathes Prior spun its sports law practice into Full Contact , whose chairman is well-known former sports journalist Will Buckley, who started his career as a barrister and worked at London firm Olswang, and has now returned to the law. Former footballer Paul McVeigh and former cricketer Luke Sutton are consultants, and the firm has just recruited footballer-turned-agent Lee Payne to run the new agency.
Though other law firms have associations with agents – and some lawyers are registered agents themselves – Leathes Prior is thought to be the first law firm to employ an agent. Partner Dan Chapman, who heads Full Contact, said there was a clear career path for Mr Payne and he could in time become an equity partner of Leathes Prior if the business succeeds.
Though the firm has no current plans to become an ABS, Mr Chapman said it would do if there was good reason, such as to bring Mr Payne into the partnership.
Sports clients include the Caterham Formula One team, the British Horseracing Authority and several cricketers, including England fast bowler James Anderson. Mr Chapman said that Mr Payne had already brought in three footballer clients in the last week, observing that footballers prefer to deal with agents rather than lawyers.
Raptor  – which stands for risk assessment probability tree outcome representation – is a tool that turns the user’s analysis of the issues in a case and their judgment of the chances of success on each one to produce a ‘probability tree’ and calculate the overall litigation risk in percentage terms and the financial value, or cost, of the case.
It was developed by partner Martin Plowman for use in mediations but is now being offered for disputes more generally. Mr Chapman said Raptor is of great value to those who need to justify decisions taken to settle or continue with a case, such as insurance companies and insolvency practitioners. “Clients pay a lot more attention to the Raptor analysis,” he added. “Their lawyer saying it to them is not as persuasive.”
An individual Raptor session costs just £40, and Mr Chapman said they plan to monetise the system by licensing it out to in-house lawyers at companies and public authorities that have large amounts of litigation. They also hope to persuade legal expenses insurers to make it a mandatory part of the process so that if the policyholder rejects an offer that Raptor says is a good one, the cover would stop.
Leathes Prior has several other separately branded businesses: TrafficLawyers.co.uk, mediation-1st, employment law service employmentor, Debtcollector, intellectual property service LPip, and online dispute resolution service go2mediation.
Mr Chapman said that these allowed the firm to build national brands beyond East Anglia without rebranding the practice entirely and in doing so alienating its traditional local client base. “We realised a while back that our days were numbered as a traditional law firm if we did not expand into innovative, new areas,” he said.