Law firm Rradar is pursuing global growth after disrupting the legal sector. Lizzie Murphy meets its chief executive and founder Gary Gallen.
When was the last time you walked into a law firm and saw a putting green? Or swings? Or arcade machines where you can play Space Invaders?
It might sound like the head office of Sky, Facebook or Google but in fact it’s Rradar, one of the fastest-growing law firms in Yorkshire which has its headquarters in Hull.
Chief executive Gary Gallen, 50, says the unusual interior is a reflection of him. “I suppose it’s a little bit of my DNA,” he says. “Why can’t we be creative and have personality? We’re not boring people.”
It becomes apparent very quickly during our two-hour conversation that Rradar is not your average law firm and Gallen is far from your average CEO.
Training and meeting rooms are named after inspirational figures including Shakespeare and Einstein. One even has 3D images of mountains on the wall.
Each room has a different smell – bread, chocolate, coffee are among the aromas – aimed at stimulating employee productivity.
The company offers language and music lessons to staff – the office even has its own piano. “We’ve got over 40 musicians and singers in the business,” says Gallen. “At the moment we’re creating our own Rradar theme tune.”
This multi-sensory approach to the workplace is inspired by Gallen’s 16-year-old son, Daniel, who has additional needs which include autism, a rare type of Down’s Syndrome and thyroid conditions.
“I’ve met some fantastic people who use senses to teach people,” says Gallen. “They are the same sorts of skills that I’m trying to bring to Rradar and to make people feel like they are part of something much different.”
Gallen has spent the last seven years dragging the legal sector into the modern business world.
In 2012 the corporate defence lawyer left his job as a partner at international law firm DLA Piper to set up an innovative, disruptive new force in legal services.
His vision was to challenge the negative stereotypes routinely associated with the legal sector and offer customers – charities, organisations and small businesses – simplicity, accessibility and affordability.
The specialist litigation law firm, which has a £7m turnover, is built around legal risk management expertise, knowledge-sharing and technology.
Gallen believes that lawyers should be proactive as well as reactive. “For me, the next generation of legal services will educate and advise people – sharing their knowledge – rather than just coming in when everything’s gone wrong,” he says.
The business has its own coders and developers creating in-house technology products to help charities, organisations and small businesses.
Its training and education consultancy arm is designed to ‘educate and empower’ clients to do things for themselves.
The firm uses a range of digital tools, from online information resources and advice lines to podcasts and webinars.
In 2017, it launched its Grace app, named after Gallen’s daughter. The automated legal support assistant interacts with clients and answers their queries.
Until five years ago, Rradar was a one-man operation based in Gallen’s conservatory. He unsuccessfully applied to 29 funders to back his business before finally remortgaging his house and using his life savings to fund the growth himself.
“We work at an intersection of insurance, law, technology and teaching. Trying to get people to believe in that model was pretty difficult,” he says.
He adds: “The only way to prove it was to fund it myself. I taught myself coding, built the first website and then tested the model on businesses I’d worked with before for free. Once I’d got my first company, it went from there.”
Gallen’s next mission was to persuade insurance giant, AXA, to let Rradar provide legal services for up to 50,000 policy-holders who hold its business management liability policy.
“It was hard work to prove the model and build momentum,” he says.
The hard work paid off, however, and proved to be a turning point for the company.
Over the last 18 months, Gallen has almost doubled the business and expects to double turnover again over the next 12 months.
The firm employs over 100 staff in the Hull office, 24 in Leeds and eight in Glasgow. About 55 per cent of its staff are non-lawyers.
Gallen’s unique approach led him to work with IBM and Microsoft. He recently caught the eye of Amazon and has also joined the London Stock Exchange ELITE programme.
Inspirational messages on Rradar’s office walls, which include Star Wars quotes and Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, are a key part of the company’s ethos.
“I want to stop people looking at the world from a text book about law or coding. We try to build things with stories and themes because that’s what people relate to,” he says.
Gallen believes the ethos of the business is about the education and empowerment of people running organisations and small businesses.
“I say to staff, ‘We’re the Jedi lawyers. We’re bringing balance back. We’re helping the little guy against the state’.”
As we speak, Gallen is in the middle of two acquisitions – one in Yorkshire and the other in London – to keep up with customer demand.
He is also planning to open two UK training and education centres plus an office in Ireland this year.
Rradar was recently listed as one of the top 100 fastest growing technology companies in the UK – the first law firm to ever make The Times list.
The father-of-three is relentless in his pursuit for further growth of his company. “We’re five per cent of what the vision is. We’re a global business, we just happen to be in the early stages of growth,” he says.
The driving force behind this determination is his family. “If I get this right, there will be a trust to pay for the right kind of care that Daniel needs in the future,” he adds.
Title: Chief executive of Rradar
Date of birth: April 14, 1968
Education: Sir John Nelthorpe School in Brigg; Business law degree from Coventry University
First job: Setting up and taking down market stalls; glass collector and a paper round. I had three jobs at the same time that I fitted around school.
Favourite holiday destination: New York or Oahu in Hawaii
Favourite film: Star Wars: A New Hope
Favourite song: What a Wonderful World, by Louis Armstrong
Last book read: Solo: The North Pole: Alone and Unsupported, by Pen Hadow
Car driven: Volvo V90
Most proud of: My children.