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

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Last 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 trained and qualified in a leading City firm where he worked for a few years before moving to a large commercial firm in Bristol. After that, he worked in a smaller firm for a period, where he was joined by Temple Bright’s co-founder Justyn (also a former City lawyer).

These experiences in a variety of different firms led Tim and Justyn to conclude that the traditional “pyramid” model for law firms was no longer the best structure for most legal work. In particular, technology had made it possible to adopt a streamlined approach which was more client-friendly and gave the lawyers the freedom to advise and charge in a more entrepreneurial way.

Tim and Justyn launched Temple Bright in 2010 on the basis of these insights. The firm grew fast, operating an innovative business model which the founders call a “chambers practice” – a solicitors’ firm structured like a barristers’ chambers. Senior lawyers work in teams from the firm’s offices and advise clients in person, enabling a higher level of service and greater creativity than the traditional model.

By 2013 the firm had 15 Bristol-based partners and a growing focus on the technology sector. The model had proven a success and Tim moved to London to open an office in Tech City. A year on, the London office also has 15 partners and covers all the main practice areas. The firm’s sector focus in London has broadened beyond tech to include clean energy, real estate and financial services among others. Temple Bright is competing successfully with City firms and working opposite them on substantial deals and projects.

There are a number of innovative, tech-enabled firms around but Tim believes that Temple Bright is unique among them, for its focused approach and the fact that it is doing sophisticated, City level work.

 

What did we learn?

The traditional legal firm model has developed over a long period. The use of assistants and delegation began for good reasons but the structure has become primarily a way to boost the earnings of those of the top, and has grown to proportions which only make sense for the very biggest deals. For the vast majority of legal work, clients do not need to pay for a standing army and the model is inefficient.

The advent of better technology and the use of a fresh business model has made it possible for Temple Bright to move into City territory with a more nimble approach which traditional firms find hard to copy.

So the Temple Bright story is about how to use City knowledge and skills, combined with lateral thinking and technology, to subvert and compete effectively with traditional City players.

When building the business in London from scratch, Tim said the secret was to have an offering which you believe in and which is genuinely distinctive. Then network like crazy!