Business Law & Compliance
Absolute Barrister: Is it time to make “lawtech” a thing? This legal service thinks so
9 min read
13 April 2016
Having been named the Friend to Business at the Everline Future 50 2016, Real Business spoke with Absolute Barrister’s co-founder Simon Gittins, who discussed the digital legal service’s growth, future, and working alongside his partner and wife Katy.
We revealed Britain’s most disruptive and inventive companies of 2016 at our Everline Future 50 event. Going a step further, there were six special achievement awards up for grabs and Absolute Barrister was able to stand out and impress.
Winner of the Friend to Business award, the service uses tech to connect enterprises and individuals to barristers, who are experts in an array of fields. Speaking to Real Business, co-founder Simon Gittins suggested it’s time for “lawtech” to become a thing – well, we’ve got fintech, adtech, martech, edtech and foodtech, so why not?
“We can provide you with the expert legal advice you need on almost any topic, draft something specifically for you or your business, supply a considered legal opinion or represent you at a hearing. We work quickly, with some cool tech, and we are cost-effective,” he said.
With cost in mind, one notable case saw Absolute Barrister provide a customer with a quote of £7,000 but was able to charge just £3,500 because the matter was resolved so quickly. For context, another service provider originally quoted the individual £21,000.
Founded just two years ago, Gittins launched the company with his wife Katy and said that particular marital dynamic is a terrific benefit, especially when it comes to family.
“We have young children and spend all our time with either them or the business. All of it! They’ve missed out on holidays, but never our time. There’s no point being billionaires in 20 years’ time and saying we wished we’d spent our time differently,” he revealed.
“Early on I remember a watershed call Katy made with an important client with the children playing in the background. They, of course, were there to be absolutely heard and not just seen!”
Gittins explained that Katy was completely transparent to the client, another business owner, who admitted their own children were just next door. As he put it, looking after children and being successful aren’t mutually exclusive in today’s working world.
Additionally, working with a spouse means relatable work issues, and “a quick debrief at the end of the day” – his words.
Gittins said that working with companies and individuals is a key part of the operation, whether it’s protecting an employee or trademark. “Our niche is expertise as opposed to any one area of law,” he said.
Although the firm launched in 2014, it originally opened 18 months before that – but the company, then called “You2Bar” was unsuccessful due to it being too forward-thinking.
“We saw the future of enabling expert advice a bit like DirectLine cutting out the broker, and that there was likely to be a very happy marriage between the tradition of the Bar and the advent of new tech, but the market simply wasn’t ready and we had to return to our day jobs,” Gittins admitted.
“The emergence of others, non-lawyers, bringing other models to the market for their own benefit rather than that of the experts or clients spurred us into action and we changed the name and pressed ‘go’.”
With a difficult period already overcome, Absolute Barrister has a large vision to be named a top ten UK legal services provider for revenue in the next ten years.
“We say service provider because we don’t believe the biggest will be actually be solicitor ‘firms’ or ‘big law’ by then,” he said.
Noting that the nation’s law sector is worth almost £30bn, Gittins believes the business stands to command a significant slice of the pie. “There’s almost nothing legal we can’t do. There are things we don’t do yet and a few things that most barristers won’t do yet, but eventually, there is very little of anything ‘legal’ that we won’t be able to do. It’s just a question of time,” he detailed.
The company is already achieving impressive growth, with turnover doubling year-on-year. Gittins attributed that to “doing the basic things correctly” – focusing on clients in Absolute Barrister’s case. Continuing to achieve scale will be done with recruitment, the introduction of tech advancements and sector expansion.
“There are sectors we haven’t even begun to target yet for fear of not being able to fulfill the work. We only have to be one-third of one-tenth of one per cent of the market to have an eight-figure turnover. The opportunity is huge,” said Gittins.
Commenting on the accomplishment at the Everline Future 50, he’s proud the business has made it alongside other companies that want to push boundaries.
“There is nothing else like it. For Absolute Barrister to be included in an award that counts former alumni like Funding Circle, which the government uses, and Transfer Wise, which Richard Branson has invested in, is just terrific – although the pressure is on!
“It was an enormous surprise and then, to be presented with another award for helping support other businesses was much more than we could have hoped for, and we owe a very big thank you.”
Explaining why he feels the Friend to Business Award was presented to Absolute Barrister, he said it’s a matter of supply and demand for enterprise customers.
“Why isn’t the supply of legal services as easy as other web services? We will develop our CloudCounsel brand further and back it up with a UX-centric case management system that will knock the socks off almost any other,” said Gittins.
— Absolute Barrister (@AbsBarrister) March 3, 2016
“We sought out the geeks and the nerds, wherever they were in the world, to make something that includes tech on licence from MIT, and other tech which wasn’t available even a few months ago, to deliver something that will make both business use of legal services and the management of legal services as simple as using social media.”
With an ambitious and seemingly bright future ahead, the Gittins’ are preparing to open a new office, quadruple staff and deliver a new version of the product within the next 12 months.
Gittins added: “We will consider whether to seek a round of investment – we’ve had quite a bit of interest following the award – and we hope to make at least two other very exciting announcements later in the year, but you’ll have to wait for those.”