Ignition Law is a fast-growing UK legal startup. Rejecting the opulent offices and long-hours culture that typify the sector, the firm is taking advantage of new technology to build a nimble, flexible business that focuses on delivering top-notch services to its clients at a fraction of the cost associated with more established law firms. “Why should clients have to pay through the nose to cover the cost of their lawyers’ swanky offices?” says co-founder and partner Alex McPherson. “Good relationships, first class lawyers and responsiveness are what’s really important to them.”
Based in a leading London technology hub near Liverpool Street, the firm uses cloud-based systems to run its operations ‘virtually’. Lawyers and other staff are given MacBooks pre-configured to connect securely to the firm’s various operational services, so they can log in and work flexibly from anywhere. A key component in the set-up is Ignition’s branded MeetingZone audio conferencing facility, which is allowing the firm’s dispersed employees to keep in touch, collaborate and – crucially – ensures lawyers are always on hand to speak to clients when needed, at the touch of a button.
Having only opened for business in January 2015, Ignition needed a reliable, economical and easy-to-use conferencing system that could be put in place quickly, without unnecessary set-up costs, and scale up as needed. At the same time, the system had to allow the company to present a professional face to clients, complete with its own branding.
Unlike traditional legal firms, which expect lawyers to commit to full-time working and long hours, the company saw an opportunity to make use of some of the many highly talented legal professionals who wanted to work more flexibly. McPherson says: “Of the eight lawyers we currently employ, three are mums who all have stellar legal backgrounds but who now aren’t able make the time commitment expected by more traditional firms. Yet they were still eager to do top-end, interesting client work.”
With its lofty ambition to overturn the sector’s traditional business model, embrace flexible working and dramatically reduce costs for clients, it made perfect sense to take advantage of cloud-based systems and services rather than investing in its own IT systems. But although this would make the firm far nimbler than most of its competitors, there was a danger that reliance on disparate cloud services could make it seem nebulous and impersonal to both staff and clients. “Technology can sometimes have a dehumanising effect, but the conferencing system had to be intensely personal – presenting the right face to the world and allowing both clients and employees to reach out directly to the people they need, as and when they need to speak to them,” says McPherson.
McPherson already knew MeetingZone from another start-up he’d helped set up previously to offer university entrance exam coaching. “I’d been impressed by the company’s friendly, personal service and the reliability, cost-effectiveness and scalability of their pay-as-you-go conferencing service, so I knew it would be ideal for Ignition.”
The firm opted for MeetingZone’s “white-labelled” service, which allows it to brand the conferencing facility as its own. “Clients logging on to the service are greeted with a message that welcomes them to the Ignition conferencing service. This is a great touch that allows us to convey precisely the friendly, professional image we’re after,” says McPherson. The service also allows the firm to offer far-flung clients a dial-in number local to them, which McPherson says “creates an awful lot of goodwill”.
RESULTS AND BENEFITS
Ignition’s use of MeetingZone has helped give the company’s employees unparalleled flexibility to work and collaborate in the way that best suits them, while keeping operational costs to a minimum. “It doesn’t matter if people want to work for an hour at home or a day in the office – the system just works when they need it,” says McPherson.
MeetingZone works seamlessly on employees’ Macbooks alongside the company’s other cloud-based systems for billing, file storage and so on, and makes it easy for the firm to track fundamental metrics such as how much time people are working on particular accounts, without the need for time-consuming form-filling.
The scalability of the system has allowed the firm to grow its client base from a standing start to around 180 clients in less than a year. These range from early-stage start-ups to multimillion-pound FTSE-listed companies, although the largest group are entrepreneurial tech businesses (serving a wide variety of vertical markets). “These owner-managed businesses fit particularly well with our way of working and really appreciate the way we’re keeping costs down for them,” says McPherson.
Because of its low cost of operations, Ignition charges hourly rates that are typically 50-60% lower than those of its more traditional competitors. Just as important, it doesn’t add extra, often unexpected, charges to a client’s final bill – so-called ‘disbursements’ (of which conference call charges often form a hefty part, along with things like paper and printing). “One of our larger clients moved to us from a traditional law firm because they were fed up with being charged £10K for disbursements on top of an £80-£90K bill. A lot of traditional firms have expensive, inhouse conference calling systems they have to charge for, but because MeetingZone is so economical we don’t need to pass those costs onto our clients,” says McPherson.
The approach is going down a storm, and Ignition is in the process of putting together a new website which will bring all its tech-enabled services, including conferencing, together in an easy-to-use dashboard for clients. It’s also planning to add screen-sharing abilities to the conferencing service, so people can instantly pass on or view particular files or documents being discussed.
The firm’s plans to disrupt the legal industry, then, are not only working but seem set to accelerate. “And since MeetingZone and our other technology allows things to run so smoothly, we can just get on with it,” says McPherson.