Dom Burch (00:14):
Welcome back to arch dot law’s podcast, delivering legal solutions differently. I’m delighted this week that Andrew is joined on the podcast by Ed Simpson, Andrew.
Andrew Leaitherland (00:25):
Thanks Dom. Hi Ed, how are you?
Ed Simpson (00:27):
I’m very well, Andrew, how are you doing today?
Andrew Leaitherland (00:28):
Yeah, I’m all right. Thank you. Nice and sunny, which makes a change for Manchester. So Ed, we we’ve known each other for, uh, probably a whole lifetime, really, but it’d be really useful if you could just introduce yourself to our listeners please.
Ed Simpson (00:40):
My name is Ed Simpson. I am the CEO of the Legal Director. Uh, the Legal Director is a law firm whose services to provide part-time legal directors to ambitious growing companies. Um, my background is I was a, uh, solicitor in private practice. I then went in house, uh, in the mid nineties, did, uh, a number of in-house jobs, um, and eventually set up, uh, on my own, providing a part-time legal director service in 2007.
Andrew Leaitherland (01:15):
You and I first came across each of the, when, um, I was actually a practicing solicitor and, uh, I think you instructed me in respect to some employment tribunal claims and, uh, I think we, we we’ve stayed in touch for the last 20 plus years and I was delighted, uh, that, uh, you asked me to join your board last year, uh, and, uh, I’ve really enjoyed working with you and the executive team in terms of understanding what the strategy of TLD is and, uh, and, and, and helping you take that forward. Um, think it’d be really helpful just to talk a little bit about TLD. Uh, you mentioned that, uh, you, you put general counsel into businesses, um, you know, w w what made you come up with the idea in the first place, and, uh, and how has that shaped up over the last 10 plus years?
Ed Simpson (01:55):
Having worked for 10 or a dozen years as an in-house counsel, I started to understand what the difference was between working in house and working in private practice and the skills that I developed, and the way that I advised the companies that I worked for was something that I saw could, could benefit any business lawyers, lawyers are expensive, and it’s, uh, certainly back in, in the mid two thousands, it was generally only the biggest businesses that were able to afford having a, uh, legal, uh, an in-house counsel on their staff. The inspiration for the idea for the legal director came actually from my brother who was working as a part-time, uh, finance director at the time, that was quite an established model. And I thought, well, if that works for finance directors, why couldn’t it work for, for senior lawyers, um, working with companies on a part-time basis. So, so that’s, that’s where it started. Andrew.
Andrew Leaitherland (02:53):
Can you, just give us a clue in terms of size and scale of the business. Now, you know, what’s, what’s it growing to?
Ed Simpson (02:59):
We now have a team of last count 39 lawyers. We are a, uh, a distributed dispersed, uh, platform model. Uh, so all of the lawyers in the team are self-employed, we’ve grown in the last, I guess in the last three or four years is where the real growth has come. I think four years ago, we were just a dozen people
Andrew Leaitherland (03:21):
You’re a regulated law firm as well. What made you go down that route?
Ed Simpson (03:24):
I spent a few sleepless nights back in 2007 grappling with, with the whole regulatory and insurance piece. And at the time we didn’t have the opportunities that there are now to go down and an unregulated route. And I couldn’t get comfortable in my own mind with providing legal advice, but not being regulated. I do think that there is a, a benefit not only to clients, but also to the lawyers that come onto the platform. Think there’s, there’s some security for them as being part of a, uh, a regulated firm.
Andrew Leaitherland (03:58):
So obviously the Legal Director is a collaboration partner with arch.law. Although we both provide legal services. I think we were probably focused at slightly different elements of the market. ,
Ed Simpson (04:09):
I think the collaboration with arch is for us is really exciting because whilst a general counsel tends to be, have a broad range of legal matters that they’re comfortable dealing with. There are always going to be certain areas that, that you would not want to deal with yourself. An in-house lawyer will always have relationships with, with other law firms that they will ask for expert advice on, uh, and we’re no different from that. So I think arch offers us a number of sort of exciting advantages. One obviously is expertise in specific areas. I think also the ability to access a more junior resource. So we don’t have have junior lawyers on our team. We don’t have paralegals, but often the solution that our client needs would require, always is best delivered by using more junior resource. So being able to access a junior resource through arch, I can see being a great benefit to us. And then also some of the technological solutions that arch is developing, I can see also being a benefit to us in that they could play, play part of the solution, the right solution for our clients.
Andrew Leaitherland (05:21):
I think from our side, we’ve been really clear that, you know, it’s a solutions based business and we’re looking for the right solution for the client. And that’s where we see TLD coming in is, is the ability to put a general counsel or a former general counsel into the client’s business. Let them have a really good look around, let them understand what it is that needs to be done and insert them. I think we’ve had a few opportunities recently where we’ve been able to put a general counsel to a client, and they’ve been looking at recruiting their own general counsel or their own first legal director. And just having that stepping stone with the legal director really helps them understand what it is that they are looking to recruit and, and helps them get the right person.
Ed Simpson (05:57):
And a number of client relationships we’ve had over the years have started with a client thinking they wanted to recruit somebody full time, uh, and us absolutely playing that role. And then sometimes that is the, the outcome is that the client, um, recruits a full-time in-house lawyer, but what we can do is help them understand really what their needs are and how best to, to provide those.
Andrew Leaitherland (06:19):
You kind of operate in that sweet spot of five to 50 million type turnover. So it is very much the SME marketplace, uh, or where you’re focused, where either they’ve got a very small in-house team or they’ve got no in-house team at all. And having that flexibility to have the Legal Director come in and help them shape what they need moving forward, or indeed service remotely, I think is, uh, you know, certainly for our clients as a fantastic opportunity and solution. You founded the business, you will have gone through all of the various challenges that founders go through that I found really quite interesting, uh, over the last seven or eight months, I think you’ve been privy to a number of conversations with me around that. And any words of advice for people who were thinking of setting up their own business, you know, what to look out for?
Ed Simpson (07:01):
Yeah, I, I, and I say this, um, well, having been a business owner for now many years, I would not have regarded myself before setting up TLD as remotely entrepreneurial, but I would say the things that I’ve learned, the things that really helped me are understanding that there’s, there’s a network of people out there who want you to succeed, and they are, I’ve been amazed at how generous people have been over the years with their time and their willingness to help me. So I would say don’t be, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Number one. And then number two is if you are thinking of having a business partner or business partners, do your homework, and, and in many ways it’s like going into a marriage, um, taking on a business partner. So, so be absolutely clear about, uh, what each of you is going to provide, make sure you’re the right fit for each other
Andrew Leaitherland (08:01):
Really good advice. And certainly when I was, uh, during the Legal Director’s chair, you were, despite the fact we’ve known each other for over 20 years, you rightly still did your due diligence around that. You still still did your profile analysis, et cetera, which I was really impressed with because it shows that you are very serious about keeping that objectivity, which I think has to be the right thing to do. Can we talk a little bit about culture? You use the word distributed before, which again, we use it as you know, um, although we have our collaboration hubs where people can go in and meet socially. And the vast majority of what we do will be done from home, uh, uh, from the client’s offices, as when locked down allows, protection of culture, building of culture, setting of values. It’s something that I know the Legal Director is really big on. Just give us the benefit of your experience around what you’ve managed to achieve and how you’ve managed to do it.
Ed Simpson (08:46):
The whole culture piece, Andrew is something that’s, um, really important to me personally. And as, as we’ve grown over the years, that’s the one thing that I’ve taken a lot of time and care, and we’ve put a lot of effort and resource money, um, into building. It’s one of those things like a reputation. It takes, it takes a lot of effort, a lifetime of effort to build, but it can, it can be lost. It can be lost immediately by doing the wrong thing. As time has gone on. I’ve recognized that actually it’s, it’s the most important part of, of what we do and of, of my role. How have we got there? It’s a, a million little things. Um, I think being open and honest and transparent with the people in the team, it runs through, into recruitment and making sure that the people that we recruit that we bring into the team, share our values and share our vision.
Ed Simpson (09:41):
And then I think regular touch points with people, but doing that in a genuine and empathetic way, whether it’s sending somebody a birthday card, whether it’s, um, holding, um, informal networking events, giving people the opportunity to network with like-minded colleagues, um, it’s being, it’s being interested in, in people. It’s, it’s understanding the challenges that they’re facing and the things that they’re worried about and helping them to find ways through difficult situations they might find themselves in. Um, it’s something that we work hard on. We continue to work hard on it. It’s a job that never ends, but it’s one that I say is, is, is really important to us. And especially as we grow, it becomes, it becomes more challenging when you’ve only got a 10 or a dozen people, it’s much easier, um, to keep your arms around it when we’re 40 people, um, it’s, it’s more challenging. And we have to think more creatively about how we can keep the same standards and, and maintain that same, same culture. And it will be an increasing challenge as we grow into the future.
Andrew Leaitherland (10:49):
Certainly in my previous experience, the D of DWF, Jim Davies used to always say to me, handwritten notes, you should be sending handwritten notes out every single month. And when it was 400 people, I could just about do it when it was a thousand people, it became more difficult when it was 4,000 people. It was really difficult, but, but he was right. And I got to the stage where there were, there were people – I used to have a preprinted cards – and there were people that would keep the cards with them because actually it meant so much, um, that I’d taken the time to do that. And I’m really keen to make sure with arch that I don’t make the mistake of leaving that, uh, type of touch behind because I think it is hugely important. So can we talk a little bit about the future, uh, you know, what does the future hold for the Legal Director? Um, uh, you know, is it UK based? Are you gonna go overseas? You’re just going to scale up?
Ed Simpson (11:32):
The current thinking Andrew is UK based. Um, we’re, we’re obviously looking to grow. We think we’ve built a successful solid platform, uh, and a great culture, which we think we can, um, scale. Bringing you on board was obviously part of, part of the thinking that, um, I think with the, with the current management team, we recognize our own limitations and bringing in some sort of expert help into the board with yourself with knowledge of, of how to grow successfully grow a professional services business is important. Um, look in, in the future, the model ought to be replicable in other jurisdictions, certainly in other common law jurisdictions. So, so that is a possibility, but for the, for the moment, we’re very much focused on, on UK. Um, I do think that, and it’s been accelerated by the COVID crisis, but I do think that the way we work is changing, there are more and more businesses who are becoming virtual and in the professional services sector, there are more and more different types of professional services that are starting to adopt. You’re starting to see businesses growing up, adopting this similar sort of model. And we’re noticing it, not only amongst clients who see, um, engaging with the Legal Director as a, as a totally legitimate way of accessing legal services, but, uh, interestingly amongst, um, lawyers as well. That was, that was probably the most difficult piece10 years ago, was convincing, um, lawyers that working through a business like the Legal Director was, was actually a really good stepping stone for their career, but for more and more people it’s now, seems to be an accepted way of doing things. So I do think there’s the opportunity to scale. I think there are going to be more and more senior lawyers looking to work in a, in a different way. And we’re going to be part of that part of that picture.
Andrew Leaitherland (13:41):
Yeah, I absolutely agree with you on that. I also think that, you know, the opportunity for us to work together with the broader legal ecosystem, as we’ve talked about, uh, with the Legal Director, providing that GC hub, uh, effectively, uh, in terms of our clients, particularly in the SME space is massively important for us and invaluable, but I can see that scaling really, really quickly as a consequence. That’s been great Ed. Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me and taking it out of your day and, uh, we will net out catch up very soon.
Ed Simpson (14:11):
Dom Burch (14:12):
You’ve been listening to delivering legal solutions differently. The podcast from arch.law. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, please leave us a review and don’t forget to subscribe. You can also find out more information about arch.law on our website, which is arch.law.
Dom Burch (00:14):