Life in Law: The Jerry Maguire mission statement

The Legal Review is a video news platform for the UK legal profession with weekly releases of the Life in Law 1:1 interview series. In one episode, Robert Liddiard asks Alex Hamilton, founder of Radiant Law, about his “Jerry Maguire mission statement” to the Executive Committee of Latham & Watkins, and why he had no choice but to co-found a new firm and to kill off the billable hour.

In this episode, Alex Hamilton reflects on his career to date and explains why he believes that changed expectations among clients over pricing is one of the key elements driving disruption in the legal market, and why law firms need to provide clients better value and service through use of technology and process.

Alex Hamilton founded Radiant Law in 2011, with a vision to set-up a firm that was ‘less lawyer like’. Before founding Radiant Law, Alex was a Partner at Latham & Watkins and co-Chair of Latham & Watkins’ global Technology Transactions Group. Frustrated by his partners’ lack of interest in innovation, Alex wrote and sent a memo (known internally at Latham & Watkins as the “Jerry Maguire Mission Statement”) to Latham’s Executive Committee urging it to implement innovations that could improve client satisfaction and profitability. When his recommendations were ignored, Alex Hamilton resigned his partnership, set up a new law firm and began marketing Radiant Law on a technology and “no billable hours” basis.

“We were all frustrated that Big Law couldn’t, or at least wouldn’t, meet clients’ demands for better value services. Our view was that there were many better ways to support clients, but that the combination of the partnership decision making structure and the billable hour were blocking any real progress. It seemed easier to set up a new law firm than try to reform the firms we were coming from.”

The “Jerry Maguire Mission Statement” is available here: “Innovation Opportunities”

In the memo, Alex Hamilton, considers the arguments on possible future changes to the legal industry and argue that there are opportunities for Latham to implement innovations that can improve client satisfaction and profitability, that will hedge against the risks of change happening and that will be of benefit irrespective of whether change does occur. The opportunities would be consistent with Latham’s focus on high-end legal services and should be implemented as optional resources. But, for Latham to take advantage of these opportunities, it would need to put in place the right structures, which are currently missing, that will allow the firm to encourage, resource and leverage innovation.

The memo does not suggest a move from the firm’s high-end legal services; it is about how to provide the same legal services more effectively and profitably. It highlights three reasons why innovation should be prioritised:

  • innovation is good for the client,
  • it can lead to higher profitability, and
  • there is plenty of evidence tha the market is really changing, and firms need to keep upp.

If a firm focus on delivering the most cost-effective, efficient as well as excellent legal services to the clients, in a way that is profitable to the firm, the other things will fall into place. Only through offering the client what it wants, firms will thrive. The expected change has the following two main elements:

  • the cost of legal services,
  • and the way services are experienced.

Even though the memo is now almost five years old, it is still interesting and could be a source of inspiration for many law firm managing partners and business development managers.

That Alex Hamilton was right in his visions can be concluded from the success of Radiant Law and all awards the firm has been recognized for. Just last week, Radiant Law was again shortlisted in the Financial Times 2014 Innovative Lawyer Awards in the category of ‘Most innovative law firm in client service’. Alex Hamilton has also led six projects which have been recognised by the FT’s Innovative Lawyer Awards and was shortlisted for the FT’s 2010 Innovative Lawyer of the Year award. Read more in this “Interview with Alex Hamilton, CEO of Radiant Law, Winner of the Financial Times Legal Pioneer Award”. Radiant Law has also recently been awarded its licence as an alternative business structure: “Retailer turned law firm chairman: pricing demands pushing change”.

If you want to learn more about Alex Hamilton’s innovative and rewarded work, do not miss the opportunity to participate at the upcoming VQ Knowledge and Strategy Forum in Stockholm in October, where Alex Hamilton will talk about “Aligning incentives with clients to create true value”.

What if law firms were incentivised financially to create true value in the clients’ contractual relationships and had the systems, processes and tools to enable it to work for a volume based fixed price? In his presentation at VQ Forum, Alex Hamilton will share how Radiant Law has aligned their incentives with the clients and how they are focused on delivering projects quickly and effectively. By building an organisation based on fixed pricing, the firm has been able to innovate rapidly in how they deliver legal services and to focus on areas that truly add value to the client rather than just taking longer to do.