Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Jeremy Hopkins

Riverview Law's Jeremy Hopkins thinks that the "law firm partnership model" is well past its sell-by date. Chatting over coffee in Covent Garden with the former clerk of 3 Verulam Buildings, now Director of Operations at groundbreaking Riverview, I didn't know whether to call him Jeremy or @Jezhop - we've been happily exchanging tweets for the last year or so using our assumed Twitter IDs, but this was the first time we'd had a proper conversation in person.

I was keen to learn more about the Riverview phenomenon. It seemed like no sooner had they taken the legal world by storm at the start of this year with a unique fixed-price direct-to-barrister service backed by DLA Piper, than they were launching in New York! Phew! This brave new legal business really doesn't stand still! And the latest of course, is their FT Innovative Lawyers Award as 'Standout' legal pioneers. 

"I do think the whole partnership model for law firms is flawed. It means the centre of gravity of the business in the wrong place and puts everything out of kilter: law firms look at their cost base first, then work out how many billable hours they need to cover that cost and to start making a profit. Where's the customer in this picture? I absolutely love it when we're recruiting for our solicitor business and we tell candidates there'll be no billable hours. In fact we don't even record them. No time sheets!" So how do you measure activity in the business, I ask? The answer is far more radical than I expect: "We measure our lawyers' performance by client satisfaction surveys."

Riverview founders Karl Chapman and Adam Shutkever have an established pedigree turning established industry business models on their head and making a success out of doing things differently. Chapman for example set up AdviserPlus, a highly successful HR outsourcing business, before turning his attention to law. Personally I think Riverview's master stroke was the appointment of a seasoned clerk, Jeremy, as Director of Operations. I've long said that whilst barristers may be temporally behind solicitors when it comes to marketing and PR, having clerks at the centre of their business potentially puts them light years ahead: unlike many marketing professionals in big City and other law firms (there are exceptions and they know who they are) clerks are at the sharp end, at the very centre of where legal services are bought and sold. They know more about that key decision - why potential clients choose to go with one organisation/individual over and above the competition - than anyone else in the business. 

"I do feel that at Riverview I have the opportunity to put into practice all the ideas accumulated over some 25 years watching lawyers get the provision of their services so wrong, and offer a way to do it better." 

And do you know the story how Mr Hopkins got his dream job? He wrote about Riverview in one of his regular article contributions to The Lawyer magazine and on the strength of that, Riverview bosses rang him up to ask for a meeting and offer him the role of Director of Operations! That says a lot about the power of the media: to change the life of one man; and change the trajectory of an entire profession. 

The plight of my hunger-striking friend, Dr Narinder Kapur, has become something of a Twitter phenomenon. His campaign began with the more traditional end of the media - Daily Mail, Evening Standard, The Guardian and his local paper Cambridge Evening News - but quickly spread to Facebook and Twitter as people read these stories online and from there tweeted and Facebook-liked them. The Indian community jumped in to support him, the story reaching The Times of India among others, as did various human rights bloggers and tweeters. Nice to see The Good Doctor's story go viral.

He has now completed his 5-day hunger strike but is threatening to stage a longer one if his demands for a more open, fair NHS - one that listens to whistleblowers and others concerned for patient care and safety, rather than condemning and ostracising them - are not met. You can show your support for Dr Kapur by retweeting his story here.
Visiting friends at Weightmans, we found time to swing by the Turner, Monet, Twombly exhibition at Tate Liverpool. I love this idea: juxtaposing artists you wouldn't ordinarily think of together, to shake up your preconceptions of each. It really did make me look with fresh eyes at some pictures I've known all my life (Turner and Monet that is - didn't know Twombly until this exhibition).

A poignant note was added by a very enthusiastic guide who explained all the works shown were from the artists' last years. All three had achieved acclaim by this stage, so had nothing to prove as such. Exciting to think what great artists would do with this freedom. Trouble is, by this stage they were limited by their ageing, failing bodies! Twombly apparently had to wait days between thinking of an idea and being able to execute it in his studio, often tiring mid-brush-stroke. A salutary lesson for all of us; do as much as you can, while you can!

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