In April 2011, Family Law Partners was formed to provide a specialised family law service. We aimed to do one thing and do it really well: advise on family law matters in a rounded, nuanced way that delivered benefits to our clients and their families beyond the narrow remit of ‘legal advice’.
We knew at the time that we were being innovative. I suppose you could apply the term ‘holistic’ to our endeavour. The term would not be out of place, but in hindsight I can see that our desire to be ‘different’ from most legal firms burned very brightly indeed.
Nothing happened by accident in those early days. Or since. We had a very clear, bold image of what we wanted to be and we threw away most of the crutches of a ‘traditional’ legal practice to achieve our ambition. Here is what we did:
- We moved our operations to ‘the cloud’.
- We banished paper (even though other lawyers kept sending it to us);
- We gave each team member two indecently large screens to accommodate the leap into the digital world;
- We banished doors. To stop them being closed. Open-plan working ruled.
- We invested in every online platform or fancy bit of IT kit we could find so we could offer its benefits to our clients.
- We brought in a business coach from the retail sector to knock out what may remain of any stuffy, obstacle building, lawyer-like quibbling that could hold us back.
- We banished fee earning targets for our lawyers so they could focus on our clients instead.
- We created, from scratch, the best physical space we could imagine for our clients to get the most out of their mediation, collaborative meeting, or arbitration session.
- We took risks. Not with our clients but with our money, energy and time. We kept investing. More and better. And still more, whatever it took for our clients. We knew that sometimes we would fail. But we gave ourselves permission to do it and we learned a lot in the process.
- We ripped up our perfectly acceptable website and created a new one, piece by methodical piece. You’re looking at it!
The list could go on. Seriously, for quite some time. Each item could be a blog post in itself – probably would be for other firms. But for us it is all ancient history. We had the t-shirt and wanted to move on. At a recent Directors’ meeting, our business coach pulled us up and said: “Take a breath for one second. Think about what you have achieved in just 5 years. If you were a child, you would only just be starting school.” We laughed. She was right. So we thought about it. For at least 10 seconds, which we thought respectable, before moving on to the next agenda item.
And yet… The invitation to reflect upon our progress, our achievements, gave us no satisfaction. We wanted more and we wanted it now. It got me to thinking why we were incapable of resting on our laurels for even a second. I thought about the conditions we had created back in April 2011. The fire we had started in ourselves had not burned out. We still had an appetite for change, which was large and impatient. This impatience is about all sorts of things that we find frustrating because they impede our ability to offer the best service we can conceive of to our clients. Some of the frustration is with family law legislation, or the lack of political will to effect the changes that most commentators say is desperately needed to improve the lot of separating or divorcing couples, especially for their children. The frustrations are many.
But I would like to talk about one aspect of this appetite for change, motivated by frustration: this driving desire of Family Law Partners to constantly innovate. Our refusal to stand still. It is the use of technology. Not theory, not conjecture. Hands-on stuff. This is technological innovation that we have conceived and created. We created it because it didn’t exist. We couldn’t buy it because it wasn’t around and we got fed up of waiting. The very existence of a specialised firm that just does one thing and strives to do it really well creates, almost by default, an imperative – a passion – for innovation.
Technology is a thread I will return to in subsequent blog posts, when I will share with you some of our tech-based family law projects. Some of the projects I have written about before in other places. Some you will learn about for the first time here on this site. I will share our technology journey with you and give you a glimpse of where we hope it will take us in the future.