Reinventing customer experience in the legal sector – Interview with Karl Chapman of Riverview Law

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Following on from my recent interview, Extreme Trust and why it’s important for your customers and your business – Interview with Martha Rogers and Don Peppers, today I want to share with you an interview that I recently conducted with Karl Chapman CEO of Riverview Law, a new type of law firm and one that is reinventing customer experience in the legal market.

This interview makes up number twenty-one in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that I think that you will find interesting and helpful in growing your businesses.

There were a number of things that excited me about talking to Karl. One was one of the first things that you read when you arrive at their website:

“THE PROBLEM WE’VE SOLVED When you pick up a phone or meet our lawyers you don’t have to worry how much it will cost”

Also this very short video that they have put together explaining their view and approach:

Below are some highlights from our interview:

  • Riverview Law provides fixed price legal advice and guidance to organisations of all sizes
  • Their aim is to change the way businesses use, buy and measure legal services
  • We have built a legal firm that starts from the customer up not the partner down
  • The customer experience they have created is based on understanding that customers just want their problem solved
  • Customers want legal services at the right time, by the right with the right client experience, fixed prices and transparency. Riverview Law has designed a customer experience that delivers just that
  • Customers are driving and will continue to drive all change in the market by voting with their feet. This is becoming particularly true in the legal services market where regulation is allowing new entrants into the market and alternative pricing and service models are now being offered
  • Riverview Law is trying to change how businesses buy legal services by being more customer focused and delivering fixed pricing as well as a better customer service experience
  • The legal sector is facing a huge amount of change. Much of it will happen quicker than many law firms are ready for
  • Key question to start with when moving to a more customer focused business model is: What business are we in?
  • Subsequent questions are: What do customers value? What are they willing to pay for? How do you organise yourselves to deliver the things that customers want?
  • The trap many lawyers fall into is that they focus on the quality of technical advice
  • Now, whilst that is a key element in the overall experience it is only an element
  • From a customers perspective they don’t care how good the technical advice may be or not…if they don’t understand it then they won’t value it
  • Technology is key in reinventing and delivering a customer focused business model but it doesn’t replace people
  • There is a danger that when firms are designing a new customer experience and are about to start that change that they start with technology. That is like putting the cart before the horse. Always start with people, culture and behaviours
  • All that technology does is change the nature and frequency of customer interaction
  • Technology is fundamental to our business model but it is a means to an end and it is people that make the difference
  • However, we must realise that change is hard and can take time
  • Riverview Law sped up the process by starting with a blank sheet of paper
  • Creating a great customer experience or a more customer focused firm, particularly in the business services market, is not a technology project it is a service project. If you start with technology then you are in danger of having the ‘tail wag the dog’
  • When dealing with legacy people, process and systems it can be hard to move a whole organisation. However, if we realise that change is coming why not create a ‘skunkworks’, a separate division where you can pilot and learn about new business models that deliver a new and different customer experience
  • Care needs to be taken when setting up a separate division to minimise parent company interference
  • Riverview Law have done just that in that they have DLA Piper and AdviserPlus as minority shareholders but they have no management control or say in how the business is run
  • Both DLA Piper and AdviserPlus as businesses are doing very well but by taking a stake in Riverview Law they are learning about alternative business models and have a stake in the future
  • To keep up to date Karl has a great team that are great filters/sifts of information but says that you cannot replace getting out and meeting people whether customers or suppliers
  • There has been an explosion of legal activity in social in the last 6-9 months with some fantastic bloggers like Stephen Allen (blog and Twitter) and Tom Kilroy (blog and Twitter)
  • Karl believes that the UK legal market has a fantastic international opportunity given some of the changes that have recently taken place in the US legal market
  • Social media has allowed Karl to open doors and meet people that he may not have been able to meet otherwise being prevented from speaking to them by gatekeepers etc

About Karl (Taken from the Riverview Law site)

Karl Chapman Riverview Law

Karl is Chief Executive of Riverview Law and has a long pedigree in starting, growing and managing successful companies.

After reading law at Birmingham University, Karl joined Guinness Mahon Investment Management (GMIM) in 1985. In 1987 he was Money Observer’s top-performing UK unit trust fund manager.

He left GMIM in 1989 to set up CRT Group plc (CRT), a consultancy, recruitment and training business. Under Karl’s leadership his team grew CRT, both organically and by acquisition, to a market capitalisation of over £600 million, sales in excess of £400 million with 2,500 employees operating from over 200 locations. In 1996 CRT sold 50.1% of its equity for £109 million to Knowledge Universe, a private US-based company whose major shareholders were Larry Ellison and Michael Milken.

Karl left CRT in 2000 and set up AdviserPlus Business Solutions in 2001. AdviserPlus is a leading advisory outsourcing organisation providing HR, employment law and H&S solutions to organisations ranging from FTSE 100 companies to SMEs. He joined LawVest with effect from 1 June 2011.

Karl is excited by the changes taking place in the legal market: “Rarely do market opportunities like this arise. The legal market is large, fragmented and has few brands. New entrants like Riverview Law*, with no baggage and a total focus on the customer, stand a very good chance of building big and sustainable businesses.”

Karl is based in London and Lincolnshire and couples his passion for business with a long-standing love of Chelsea Football Club where, over more than forty years, he has experienced the lows and highs that come with an irrational attachment to a football team.

You can connect with Karl on Twitter here, Riverview Law at their website and on Twitter.

*Riverview Law is a trading name of LawVest Limited.

Thanks to chrisinplymouth for the image.

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