MATTHEW Briggs, the former chief executive of Minster Law, launched his new fixed-fee legal service this week in a bid to shake-up the long-established legal market place.
The new venture, Brilliant Law, is backed by Andrew ‘Bert’ Black, the gambling entrepreneur who founded Betfair, and chaired by Jeremy Fenn, the former chief executive of Sports Internet Group, which was sold to BSkyB for £301m.
The business is targeting smaller companies with fixed-price packages “to introduce transparency and trust” to the sector.
The legal industry, a major employer in Yorkshire, is bracing itself for a wave of new market entrants after the Government paved the way for non-lawyers to own law firms. Regulators gave their approval to Brilliant Law at the start of the year.
Mr Briggs told the Yorkshire Post: “What we are hopefully doing is bringing in competition to the legal market. It is a challenger brand for existing law firms.
“It brings in what the consumer has always wanted – affordable and easy accessible legal services on their terms.”
He hopes the business will “disrupt” a service sector renowned for being expensive, complicated and skewed in the favour of lawyers with their billable hours.
Brilliant Law’s packages include comprehensive employment, commercial, and health and safety components plus advice. They are designed for SMEs and start-ups.
Mr Briggs said: “As price becomes more sensitive – and it will – our model will allow us to hopefully venture into other areas and maybe climb upstream in terms of higher end corporate work.”
Brilliant Law, based in Leeds, will have no highly-paid lawyers commanding big fees, said Mr Briggs. Instead, qualified solicitors and paralegals will operate a “fulfilment platform” with work coming in via different digital, affinity and partner relationship channels.
“We will pay them a very healthy salary, but there won’t be equity partners,” he added.
Partners at top law firms in Leeds and Sheffield earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. They are having to look outside the region to maintain their fee income. Meanwhile, cost pressures are driving consolidation between lower-tier firms.
Mr Briggs was CEO at Minster Law, which has offices in York and Wakefield, between 2007 and 2009. The firm has a corporate structure with non-lawyers as directors, he said.
“We created a very lean, efficient fulfilment platform. We were the first law firm to go 24-7,” he said.
After Minster, Mr Briggs held executive roles at Capita, RAC and Aviva.
He said the idea for Brilliant Law came from a conversation with Jeremy Fenn, the serial technology entrepreneur and a former managing director of Leeds United Football Club.
Mr Fenn saw opportunities in the legal sector and the two men were introduced by a mutual friend. “We decided to take advantage of the liberalisation of the legal market as a result of the Legal Services Act,” added Mr Briggs, who is 44. “We set off on a journey to launch a law firm from the ground up, not inherit an existing player... with certain amounts of baggage, whether it is cultural, systems, individuals or partnership structures.”
Mr Fenn took the lead on fundraising and the pair presented “Dragons’ Den style” before seven or eight potential investors before choosing Mr Black, said Mr Briggs.
“We chose who we thought could add the most value above and beyond the capital outlay, somebody who fitted what we want to do and bring other attributes to the table,” he added.
Betfair is the world’s largest betting exchange.
Compare the market
MR Briggs is an investor in Wigster.com, the legal price comparison website.
Founded by Hull lawyer Nick Miller, the platform allows users to compare and contrast different legal firms according to price.
Users can also rate firms based on quality of service.
“We think it is the UK’s only real-time price comparison set for legal services,” said Mr Briggs.
It is early days for the company, which was launched in 2010 and is yet to make a profit.
Mr Briggs is one of a number of shareholders who invested in the business, which aims to empower the consumer.