Interview with: Alex Cook, Partner
Helix Law Partner Alex Cook explains how Helix Law are leading in the use of technology in the litigation space.
What do you see as the main points that differentiate Helix Law Limited from your competitors?
We’re a firm of specialist litigation solicitors. We act nationally and only deal with commercial, construction and property litigation for domestic and international clients, working across England and Wales. To the casual observer, and even other firms, they might assume that’s our biggest point of difference; that we’re litigators, and that’s all we do.
In reality our DNA, processes and ambitions are closer to those of a technology company rather than a firm of solicitors in any niche. Our use of technology, data and automations, are what primarily drive our services and efficiencies allowing us to operate in significant disputes at scale, provide an outstanding service at competitive value, and to participate in sharing risk and reward. Our ability assess facts and circumstances in disputes quickly, enables us to participate in sharing risk and reward. Taking all this together you start to understand that we’re quite far removed from traditional law firms or litigation teams of any size.
Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?
We see growth in our core areas of work; commercial and investment related disputes, construction and property litigation. As a business last year we grew by approximately 40% and dealt with disputes broadly falling within the range of hundreds of thousands to tens of millions in dispute. There are a number of important drivers- we have developed and have positioned ourselves to compete for more complex work; as a brand; as a team. Equally a more challenging economy has led to growth in disputes and litigation; those who need, and who can afford to litigate, are less likely to wait to do so in the current climate. Patience is thin on the ground where asset values are likely to be diminishing and where borrowing costs are at 10 year + highs. We have also seen service expectations increase and in consequence are implementing internal processes geared around enabling our solicitors and fee earners to receive, assess, respond and/or action, information and documents quicker than ever. This is a constantly evolving process and we continue to evolve our systems and approach. To the lay client much of this is unseen, but our intention is to continue positioning our teams as leaders in their respective fields; with a level of quality, service, communication and outcomes, that are industry leading.
What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?
Embracing a culture of a lean start up and ignoring that we’re in business as solicitors- instead almost acting as a tech startup has enabled us to focus on client relationships. We embrace software and technology change and developments, quickly adopting multiple market leading solutions and developing custom bespoke solutions relevant to the services we provide and the needs of clients and our business. As a result we are able to move incredibly quickly through the various stages of an instruction- onboarding, compliance, document management. The lag time in our ability to get up to speed has never been shorter, and we are continuing to implement change to reduce friction enabling us to focus quickly on resolving the problem or issue. We’re constantly improving the quality of the service we provide and in consequence, the outcomes we secure for our clients. All of this leads to positioning ourselves as a team of litigators keen to be pitching for and increasingly instructed in disputes at the highest levels. We punch well above our weight.
Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?
Technology is changing everything. From marketing, to service and delivery, to communication, we consider we are living through a technological revolution that is changing the way we work, what work we can compete for, how we work, and who we deliver that work to/for. We now act for company and investor clients based nationally and internationally, communicating and delivering for them seamlessly, integrated within our team. We are increasingly instructed in disputes that would traditionally be the preserve of City firms.
Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?
We always seek to position our clients to ensure there is clear return on investment in legal spend. This includes sharing risk, and reward, and being prepared to back our own advice. Acting for a UK based company we creatively and aggressively litigated their dispute resulting in a 10x recovery against their expectations, and an outcome running into millions of pounds. Acting for a UK based shopping centre client we have used litigation tactically to improve their recovery rates and to better position them with other existing tenant occupiers to reduce the risk of (and need for) future litigation.
Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three year’s time?
Clients look for good service and litigators they can trust and have confidence in; those who will leave no stone unturned, whose advice they can trust, understand, and who enable them to make quick, sound, decisions. This is unchanged. Clients involved in any dispute are in some form of distress. Increasingly clients reasonably expect efficient use of technology and broader business protection, proactive advice, that goes beyond the immediate issue they are reacting to. Clients need, reasonably, trust and confidence that they have found a safe pair of hands and an experienced team with strength in depth to assist them. The value in that relationship often goes beyond the immediate dispute. Being able to act and deliver for our clients quickly, using technology in a way that makes lives as simple as possible, amidst all the stress and uncertainty of litigation, is especially invaluable.
My view is that currently perceived high level technical functions and understanding (AI, API’s, coding, use of software to change processes and communication) will increasingly become viewed as a basic hygiene factors. In 3 years time I expect the way we are working, and who we are working for, to bare little if any relationship to 2 years ago. Firms rooted in traditional workflows, who haven’t developed and upskilled their processes and teams, or who aren’t prepared to share risk and reward with clients, will find their market share in terminal decline.