It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the UK Alternative Business Structure, Riverview Law. I regularly chat with their team over social media. I invited their Vice President for North America, Andy Daws, to speak at last year’s Clio Cloud Conference.
Why do I admire Riverview Law? It’s because they’re pioneers in the volatile UK legal market on issues of flat fees, project management, and customer focus. I’m not the only one to notice Riverview Law’s unique approach. In addition to many experts, the Financial Times listed Riverview Law as one of their most innovative firms in 2012 (PDF). Riverview Law has been so successful since launching in 2012 that they have seen double-digit growth rates in their revenues and increased their staff from 76 to 115. The true scope of Riverview Law’s approach was a bit of a mystery until a recent Harvard Business School case study on the company. Written by Heidi K. Gardner and Dr. Silvia Hodges Silverstein, the case study follows a fictional U.S. lawyer learning about the company and considering whether to join. It’s a classic fish-out-of-water story as the U.S. lawyer spends time with Riverview Law staff, seeing their daily and weekly operations. There are some key lessons that emerge from the case study, which I think law firms in North America can embrace as their own. These are:
Flat fees are preferred by customers
Good customer service must be built into your firm
Defining and measuring—process is key for firms to excel
Riverview Law only offers its service as a flat fee. They compete on price predictability, as well as trusting their process to provide services at 20% to 30% lower than their traditional competitors. However, I don’t think law firms necessarily need to discount their work. As we learned in July’s Clio Webinar with Lee Rosen on Flat Fees, customers value the predictability of flat fees on their legal budget so highly that they will even pay a premium for that security. What makes the flat fee so highly valued by clients is that it demonstrates a high level of commitment between a firm and their clients. You know that Riverview Law is committed to their clients when they “take it on the chin” when their price estimates are off.
Riverview Law has built customer service into their business. For example, each of their customers has a dedicated team that focuses exclusively on their matter. They communicate daily with their customers via email, telephone, and an online customer portal. Law firms can create this approach with their clients. Go out of your way to be accessible to your clients and take advantage of tools like Clio Connect to give your clients a similar experience.
In addition to predictable pricing and great customer service, Riverview Law has developed a strong process of estimating and measuring results for all of their engagements. They keep all of their data in one system, which allows all of their staff to create a series of reports that they can apply to internal process and their clients’ problems. A firm looking to recreate this approach should look at their own data processes. They should learn what items they’re tracking and how to apply that data. Are you using a central hub with which all of your data syncs? Does it make your data available in the form of reports and manipulable spreadsheets? When was the last time you reviewed the lessons hidden in your data?
There is a lot that law firms in North America can learn from the UK legal service explosion, and Riverview Law’s case study is a prime place to start. Learn more about these points and take a look at the financial outcomes from this pioneering service in their case study for yourself.