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Notes from last night – “The Temple Bright story – a different law firm”

BoGYeEvCcAAv4w4.jpg-largeLast night keen would be lawyers, lawyers, ex-lawyers and those interested in innovative business models gathered at Bathtub 2 Boardroom to learn from Tim Summers (co-founder) and Nadim Zaman (partner) of Temple Bright.

Tim began by talking us through his route to starting Temple Bright. He completed his training contract in the City and worked there for a couple of years before having a “decision” moment where he woke up at his desk at 4am and realised he needed a change!

Tim moved to Bristol to work for a large firm there before moving to a smaller practice where he mainly represented SMEs (small and medium enterprises).

Tim’s escape initially developed as he realised there was a gap in the market for advising SMEs and entrepreneurs with City standards. Tim and his colleague Justyn launched Temple Bright in 2010, initially as a “City firm for SMEs”. The firm grew fast on the basis of an innovative business model which the founders call a chambers practice – a solicitors’ firm structured like a barristers’ chambers.

By 2013 the firm had 15 lawyers and a tech sector focus, plus a number of larger clients. As such, Tim made the leap of moving to London to open an office here. A year on, the London office has 7 lawyers and is shortly to be joined by 4 more. It is competing for work and clients with traditional firms up to a very high level in the ranks.

What did we learn?

Being a lawyer can be a good job – it’s the traditional legal firm model that is broken, not law itself! Objectively, being a lawyer outside of this structure can be a great role.

  1. It is well paid and you get to use your brain;
  2. Once you have a client base of your own and the necessary skills, the work isn’t all that stressful; and
  3. These skills take years to learn so don’t give them up too hastily – try to find a role where you can use them in a more stimulating way.

Temple Bright decided to figure out what people hate about lawyers and do the reverse by making 4 promises to clients, which are now found on the “how we work” page of the firm’s website. In summary:

  1. Maintain City quality
  2. Reasonable fees
  3. Senior lawyers only
  4. Accessible and responsive

Tim branded their model as a “chambers practice”. This means senior lawyers operating within a self-employed structure. Combining this model with low overheads (including minimal support staff) resulted in an ability for the lawyers to charge clients less while earning more.

When building the business in London from scratch, Tim said the secret was:

To have an offering which you believe in – a good concept which is well branded, and of course a great quality service.

Network like crazy… coffees galore, talking, talking, talking and business cards!

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Tim (left), Nadim (right)

Nadim Zaman has recently joined Temple Bright.

He shared his journey and some wisdom regarding his decision to move to Temple Bright.  He said that he was now experiencing a novel feeling of waking up and looking forward to work!

His main decision drivers were:

  1. Back the management team – Tim as a founder has bundles of energy and ideas which is vital to build a successful business;
  2. Back the principles of the firm – Nadim believes in Temple Bright’s 4 promises to clients; and
  3. Back yourself! Once you have learned your craft you develop the confidence to take a leap of faith.

Nadim also said it was a good idea to ensure you had some buffer savings to start if you are working on a self-employed basis.

Gems of Wisdom

You have to nurture your skills if you want to work in the law in a more entrepreneurial way – do your time in the traditional firms, cut your teeth and get to know the market, develop the clients and knowledge. Once you have all that, you will have far more freedom.

The more you put in at this stage, the bigger your rewards later on.

[Note from Rob: You can read more about Tim's story here. Massive thank you to Tim and Nadim for an excellent talk.]


This post was written by Jane Pendry. Jane will begin her escape later this summer starting with running and catering for yoga retreats in Italy followed by a trip to learn about the food of India. 

[Check out her blog at www.supperscran.com]

[Check out our upcoming events here: http://www.theescapeschool.eventbrite.co.uk/]


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  • http://www.outbased.co.uk Simon Lee

    Hi, thanks so much for the talk last night, it was very inspiring. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to ask these questions last night but wondered about how the work is structured:

    1. How is work won distrbuted between lawyers?
    2. Do lawyers keep those clients?
    3. If the client has a piece of work outside the lawyer’s expertise, how is that treated?
    4. Without support staff, is the number of clients that a lawyer can serve limited?

    I’d really appreciate any information you can give me! I’m one of the guys starting an accountancy practice (www.outbased.co.uk) very much focussed on exceptional client service and delivering useful work to support the business as opposed to the usual statutory filings which are frankly useless!

    I have a similar structure in mind and I’m hoping that the answer to these questions will help define the final shape.

    Thanks

    • http://www.templebright.com Tim Summers

      Simon, it sounds like the best thing would be to have a chat some time. How about next Monday or Tuesday?

      • http://www.outbased.co.uk Simon Lee

        That would be amazing Tim, thank you! Tuesdy would be great, perhaps I could buy you a coffee in Shoreditch?

        • Rob Symington

          Decaf!

          • http://www.templebright.com Tim Summers

            Rob, before 2pm is fine for the real thing! Simon, a call is best – I’m in Bristol those days and marginally less flat out there, than I am here. How about that?

          • http://www.outbased.co.uk Simon Lee

            Absolutely, really appreciate the time Tim. I’ll call your office then, is there a best time to call?

          • http://www.templebright.com Tim Summers

            Great Simon. Tuesday 10am? Have a great long weekend meanwhile.