A law firm with best-in-class ALSP features

I have written before about how the lines between legal service providers are blurring, see, e.g., Lucien Pera & Yvonne Nath, “What If… Chambers Ranks Law Firms Alongside ALSPs?,” Law.com, Aug 20, 2020 (discussing implications of Chambers issuing its first ranking of ALSPs), and I especially enjoy singling out particular NewLaw business models for a closer inspection to show you exactly what I mean, see, e.g., The Post-Pandemic Law Firm (forthcoming Nov 2021).

Today, I feature Radiant Law (with which I have no affiliation).

Radiant Law is a law firm regulated in England. However, Radiant’s application of lean processes and technology, their vigilant focus on perfecting one area of legal service delivery (contracting), and their global talent sourcing approach (finding the right talent, wherever they are, and seeking labor cost differentials), makes Radiant look more like an ALSP or a “NewLaw” firm.  Cf Post 205 (David Cunningham defining NewLaw as a “business model that any legal services provider can, in theory, adopt”); Post 253 (Anusia Gillespie defining NewLaw as any “significantly different approach to the creation or provision of legal services” compared to traditional methods).

Alex Hamilton & Ian Teague

I had the opportunity to sit down for discussions with Radiant’s CEO, Alex Hamilton, and Head of South Africa, Ian Teague, and tour their office in Cape Town, South Africa.

For the purposes of this post, I’ve organized my observations into seven topics: (1) firm structure, (2) services/products offered, (3) customer base & revenue sources, (4) operating model (processes, continuous improvement, scale), (5) technology, (6) culture, and (7) financial performance.

1. Structure

Radiant Law is a law firm based in the UK, but with most of the legal team in Cape Town. It’s not a partnership and has a very different management structure than a typical law firm.

The founder, CEO Alex Hamilton, is the majority owner, but all of the team receive shares after a year to have a stake in any sale (although that’s not currently planned). The company is regulated as an Alternative Business Structure under the Legal Services Act 2007, meaning that they are externally investable. To date, however, their approach has been to build out organically.  As a result, there are no external shareholders. Radiant Law is also a certified B Corporation, which is an obvious source of pride for Alex, Ian, and many other Radiant Law team members.

Radiant Law is now in a period of rapid growth, as the delivery team has more than doubled over the last year.  There are now about 40 lawyers total. The typical lawyer is South African qualified, but off the local roll, and between one to seven years post-articles (the mandatory apprenticeship following law school). The firm integrates a number of other allied professionals, including developers, legal engineers, and a data analyst. Compared to the lawyers, these members are often based in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.  Per Alex and Ian, there is a strong emphasis on working as one team and no “rank pulling” by the lawyers.

All of Radiant Law’s work relates to contracts, and although they are a law firm, they do little work that would be classified as a reserved legal activity under the English regulatory system. They support contracts around the world, often under US or Asian governing laws.  To ensure they get it right, they use carefully constructed playbooks, which place them under the supervision of their clients’ legal teams on local law issues. They are comfortable being described as an ALSP or a NewLaw firm but note that their clients like to know that they are dealing with a law firm.

2. Services

Radiant Law is focused on commercial contracts.  Per the lead description on their website, “We help businesses accelerate their commercial contracting.”

They’ve simplified their offerings into two core focus areas:

  • Managed Legal Services.  Providing an end-to-end solution to draft and negotiate high volumes of day-to-day commercial contracts (such as sales, procurement, NDAs, and licensing agreements).
  • Contract Projects. Contract review and remediation to fix existing commercial contracts, often in the context of regulatory changes.

Radiant also licenses out a set of Word extensions (RemarkableX – see below) which speed up contract reviews and mark-up responses.

Radiant launched in 2011 as a boutique supporting large outsourcing and technology transactions (they supported a billion-Pound deal in their first year), so they have a deal expertise that is higher than normal for alternative legal service providers that aren’t part of a law firm.

Regarding this expertise, Alex Hamilton, who cut his teeth as an outsourcing lawyer at Shaw Pittman and Latham & Watkins, recently published a book on improving the contracting process, Sign Here: the enterprise guide to closing contracts quickly (2021). Suffice to say, Radiant comes with opinions on how to improve contracting – their purpose is to fix the “contracting problem.”

3. Customer base & revenue sources

Radiant Law acts for companies that must deal with high volumes of commercial contracts. Thus, Radiant’s client base includes major public corporations — including some of the largest European banks — in the UK, Europe, and North America.  In some cases, the Radiant team supports contracts around the world.

Unlike many ALSPs, Radiant doesn’t generally work for other law firms. And there is likely a good reason why.

A recent article by Richard Susskind and Neville Eisenberg argued that the “vertically integrated law firm” (driving quality and efficiency benefits by combining law with allied disciplines) is the model of the future. See Susskind & Eisenberg, “Vertically Integrated Legal Service,” The Practice, May/June 2021. This provoked an essay response by Hamilton on LinkedIn, who argued that Susskind and Eisenberg were right about the vertical integration but wrong that  legacy BigLaw firms could make the transition.  See “A Different Road,” LinkedIn, July 1, 2021.  Indeed, Hamilton founded Radiant Law as a greenfield start-up in order to avoid this very dilemma. See Post 241 (recounting the Susskind-Hamilton dust-up).

Radiant Law retains its identity as a law firm while it expertly deploys many ALSP/NewLaw methodologies. Since its inception, Radiant Law has kept no timesheets. They charge for managed legal services on a subscription or per-contract basis and charge fixed prices for projects.

In addition, they offer subscription-based access to the RemarkableX technology they’ve created.

4. Operating Model

Radiant Law operates in a leaner, more systematized and scalable way than most law firms. Part of the reason they have achieved this is that they have taken such a singular focus on one area: contracting.

a) Lean and systematized processes

Radiant Law has adopted lean methodologies, drawing upon a South African professor of lean to support them. Their recent emphasis has been on speeding up the delivery process, and they are now turning around 85% of contracts (either drafting or responding to a mark-up) in half a day.

In order to achieve these half-day turnarounds, they block out parts of each day, with each block of time dedicated to performing a specific type of work and achieving a specific goal.

They’ve also removed the unnecessary.  So the team can work without distractions, email notifications automatically are turned off. There are no phones in the office. Clients can email Radiant attorneys, but if they need to speak with someone, they book a video call.

They are also focused on the overall time to deliver services. While some law firms take a couple of days to a week to clear conflicts, Radiant’s policy is to clear almost all of them in one hour.

b) Continuous improvement

Radiant Law is also very focused on continuous improvement. Radiant places a strong emphasis on the “Radiant Way” — a consistent way of working that everyone at the firm contributes to improving.

Radiant conducts client interviews twice a year and collects Net Promoter Scores (NPS) on each deal they support. Their NPS has increased as they have reduced turnaround time to half a day. Their NPS is now about 85. Before, when they were operating on a two-day service level, it was about 50. Cf. Post 118 (discussing NPS and noting scores above 70 are considered excellent).

As an example of how they build in a continuous improvement ethos, new hires, after the onboarding process, are tasked with improving the process for the next round of new hires.

c) Scaling the team

With Radiant now growing fast, there has been a strong emphasis on hiring, onboarding, and training. They are working with training experts to build a program for new joiners, who often find the ways of working at Radiant an eye-opening, and refreshing, experience compared to working at traditional South African law firms.

5. Technology

Radiant Law effectively has two IT systems. Most of the work done for clients uses Office365. But within the company, they prefer to use collaborative systems such as Slack, Google Apps, and a wiki. Emails and Office documents are banned internally. Every contract they create uses document automation (either Docassemble, which is free and open-source, or Contract Express, which is owned by Thomson Reuters).

Radiant Law has built “Flow,” which is the workflow system they use for their division and tracking of work. Rather than a “push” system for delegating work, they use a “pull” system that allows employees to take things off the line.

They also created RemarkableX, a suite of macros they initially built for their internal use to speed up the mechanical tasks involved in contract drafting. They have since made this available to the market for purchase on a subscription basis. Below is a sample of its user interface.

Image courtesy of Radiant Law

6. Culture

Per Alex and Ian, here are some of the key Radiant Law differentiators:

  • Hierarchy. Flat. No titles except for a few in leadership.
  • Compensation. Everyone receives a 10% annual bonus. Salary increases are correlated with productivity (higher output, the ability to work on higher-value contracts) as well as overall contribution to the company, especially through leadership and participation in continuous improvement.
  • Entrepreneurial atmosphere. Everyone receives growth shares in the company. Each person is encouraged and expected to think of ways to make any facet of the company better.
  • Talent.  Radiant Law’s interview process values the attitude and values of the prospective employee over everything else. (For a job description of a Senior Outsourcing Lawyer at Radiant, see here.)
  • Professional development.  Employees receive real-time feedback on their work. They are invited and expected to contribute ideas for improving service delivery and the company. For instance, anyone is allowed to edit the company’s Wiki used for internal knowledge sharing.
  • Transparency. One can see from the content Radiant Law shares with the industry that they just put their knowledge and processes out there for the world to see. Are they concerned about competitors taking this information? No. By analogy, Ian shared the example of Toyoda’s loom. One can steal the loom but not the knowledge that went into creating and understanding its operation. Competitors haven’t lived in Radiant’s trenches or learned why they do things the way they do (which may not work for other companies).

7. Financial Performance

In discussing their financial performance, Alex and Ian quote Jeff Bezos’ “all overnight success takes about ten years.”

Ten years after launching, Radiant is on track to grow its revenue by about 40% this year. It is profitable and they appear to have created a scalable approach that can keep growing as the market opens further to the possibilities of managed legal services.

In short, stay tuned.

Editor’s note:  In addition to being a talented consultant, Yvonne Nath is also a digital nomad.  See Post 249.  Below are a few of her Cape Town photos.

[Click on to enlarge]