A law firm which specialises in legal services for local SMEs is dragging the legal profession into the 21st century.
Paladin is owned by dynamic duo Neil Ashley and Marsha Robinson. It operates primarily across East Anglia, with a committed focus on the region’s small and medium-sized businesses. Paladin makes use of the latest cloud-based technology to ensure that its team can be more responsive, more flexible and more agile than their competitors. Unusually, the owners are a barrister and a solicitor working side by side in the same firm.
Neil Ashley is the barrister, called to the bar in 1999. He describes himself as, first and foremost, a trial lawyer with a ‘street fighter’ pedigree. His results speak for themselves and the leading legal directories of the last decade or so have been littered with accolades regarding his advocacy and courtroom prowess. He is described as “fascinating to watch” and “devastating in cross examination”. The fact that several local judges have recommended him to their nearest and dearest speaks for itself.
Marsha Robinson qualified as a solicitor in 2008. She explains that she is the ‘engine room’. She does a lot of the hard background work and manages the client relationships. Bette Midler would describe her as ‘the wind beneath the wings’ of their cases. Marsha has spent the last 10 years perfecting the art of leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of delivering outstanding outcomes for her clients.
With such complementary skill sets, it was perhaps inevitable that Neil and Marsha would work so well together. But they quickly realised that they shared much more than a commitment to do a great job. They were both frustrated with their professions and with the legal industry generally which, according to Neil, has been far too slow to adjust to modern client expectations and customer service standards. Thus, when recent regulatory changes finally allowed solicitors and barristers to join forces within the same law firm, the two didn’t hesitate: Paladin was born and with it began a concerted assault on an archaic profession.
“We’ve started with the basics,” explains Neil. “We recognise that when people have legal problems, they want them sorted. You can choose new clothes and have them delivered within 24 hours. You can run your entire business in real time sat on the beach. You can even organise a date with a simple swipe of your finger. So why should you wait for weeks and have to fight through dusty layers of bureaucracy to get quality legal advice? You shouldn’t, and with Paladin you don’t have to. Our touchstone is the provision of fantastic customer service, and that means being agile, responsive, cost-effective and delivering a great return on investment. We sort your problems and you get back to running your business.”
But great customer service is only the beginning. Solicitors and barristers working seamlessly together threatens to disrupt the centuries-long referral-type relationship which so often does a disservice to the client. As Marsha explained: “Clients are often quite baffled at the way in which the traditional client-solicitor-barrister relationship works. It is not uncommon for a barrister to attend court to present a case which has been conceived, structured and prepared by someone else entirely. Sometimes they won’t even have seen the case until the day before the hearing. That can be quite terrifying for the client. And as any barrister will tell you, they frequently find themselves having to argue X whilst thinking that they really would have approached it very differently had they been involved earlier on. On any view, it’s a bit too late by that stage.”
Paladin’s novel business structure overcomes this problem. The complementary skillsets of barrister and solicitor are pooled under one roof and each case receives the right input from the right person at the right time. It goes without saying that as a consequence, the client is considerably more likely to get the outcome they are seeking – and at a lower cost. As Neil pointed out: “By far the best way to ensure that you can deliver a spectacular end result for the client, is to ensure that you are there at the beginning and throughout. That is cost prohibitive with the traditional ‘referral’ model of old, but with our new model it is totally affordable. Other law firms can’t touch us.”
Paladin is now deploying this relatively new way of working to the advantage of clients throughout East Anglia. Their services centre on corporate and commercial legal services such as employment law and HR, shareholder and director disputes, intellectual property, commercial disputes and debt recovery. They also offer specialist investigation services so that businesses can outsource their complex and high-priority investigation work.
So what does 2020 have in store for Paladin? “We’ve established ourselves and our way of working, and demonstrated that it pays dividends,” said Marsha. “We now intend to build on those foundations by starting to shine a spotlight on all the ways in which some of our competitors are letting down the consumer. Fees are a great example. As anyone who has used a law firm will know, the costs of the fee earner running the case can quickly ramp up. Yet scrutiny of some solicitors’ bills will show a raft of other costs for senior ‘supervising’ partners, expensive trainees and unqualified ‘paralegals’ and almost-as-expensive secretaries. The view we take at Paladin is that value for money – and giving a return on investment – is everything. If the case does not warrant fees at hourly rates, we will say so and try to find a workaround. One size does not fit all.”
“Are local law firms worried about us?” asks Neil. “They certainly should be. We are going to call out mediocrity wherever we see it. We are going to show the consumer what great actually looks like. And we’re going to drive down fees. Other law firms will either change their ways or they will fall by the wayside.”