Robert Taylor is the CEO and General Counsel of 360 Law Group, the first law firm to offer consumers and businesses the choice of regulated or unregulated legal services under the same umbrella organisation. Fuelled by a global network of industry heavyweights and investment into innovative technology, this virtual firm has found a way to keep the costs low and the quality of work high for their diverse client-base.
Having qualified as a barrister in 1999, Robert Taylor has enjoyed a prolific career, ending his employment as General Counsel – International for a NASDAQ quoted software and gaming company. Today, he sits at the epicentre of change in the legal industry, advising a wealth of SMEs around the globe while growing his innovative new firm.
In 2011, The Legal Services Act 2007 came into force, kick starting a new evolution in the legal industry.
The aim of the Act is to de-regulate the legal profession, allowing greater competition within the legal services market. The Act achieves this by restricting specific areas of law that can only be practised by regulated Solicitors and Barristers. All other areas of law can be practised in an unregulated capacity, in the main, by anyone.
The introduction of the Legal Services Act 2007 inspired an influx of new entrants, each taking advantage of the new rules to offer clients a new approach.
Yet, there remained a distinct gap in the market. Recognising the need for realistic pricing and quality assurance within the profession, Robert took advantage of the opportunities brought by regulatory change to create a new business model. Believed to be the first of its kind, 360 Law Group has been established to give businesses and consumers a choice about how they instruct their qualified lawyer; it allows them to have full control over their legal spend.
Under the umbrella organisation, 360 Law Group, sits 360 Business & Private Client Law and 360 Law Services. Businesses and individuals seeking support in specific areas of law that can only be carried out by a regulated practice can instruct Robert and his lawyers through 360 Law Services, whereas, those seeking advice on matters that can be carried out by an unregulated practice can cut down on the costs by instructing his lawyers through 360 Business & Private Client Law (and its divisions 360 Business Law and 360 Private Client Law).
It’s an idea that was born from a desire to disrupt the status quo for the benefit of clients; a business that grew from the need to demystify and simplify legal services; reducing the gross over-charging known within the sector, without sacrificing the quality.
Now, this approach is paving the way for a new era in the legal profession – but it wasn’t built in a day.
Long before 360 Law Group was established, Robert was busy running 360 Business Law, a virtual unregulated legal practice aimed at providing small to medium-sized enterprises with expert-level legal advice at a realistic cost.
Instead of setting up shop in a luxurious office and billing clients for the crystal Champagne glasses, Robert believed that he could reduce costs by creating a technology led business model that enabled 360 Business Law to work with only top-quality lawyers – all 5 years plus qualified. No paralegals, no juniors; just high-level expertise but without the extreme costs. He was right.
Operating via a virtual network through a secure IT infrastructure, 360 Business Law connected a distributed base of specialist business lawyers to service a fast-growing client base. These were companies who wanted more from their lawyers; organisations who were fed up of steep legal bills with little to show for their spend. Robert wanted to provide them with unfiltered access to high quality legal advice without breaking the bank – so that’s exactly what he did.
By removing the overhead of office space, he was already able to form an attractive offering. But Robert didn’t stop there. By harnessing advanced technology to tackle administrative and procedural work, he removed yet another overhead in paralegal and support staff. In turn, he was able to pass on genuine savings directly to valued clients in the form of reduced fees. No loss of quality of work and a faster turnaround.
Under 360 Business Law, Robert further introduced a subscription-based service for companies in need of on-going support. This gave clients a choice: they could choose to receive legal services at a reasonable hourly rate, or they could subscribe to the service on a 12-month contract and agree upon a fixed monthly fee for a set area of law. In any case, they could guarantee absolute transparency on costs – no rising fees, no bill-shock, no mystery. This has worked incredibly well.
Through word of mouth and recommendations, the company quickly grew, expanding first into the USA and Australia. Now, they have consultant business lawyers throughout Europe, The Middle East and Africa, representing clients wherever they trade.
The Legal Services Act envisioned a competitive market that placed the consumer at the heart of the service, but the industry still has a long way to go to educate the public on quality assurance.
While deregulation has allowed legal providers to offer increased flexibility and reduced costs, there are certain issues that demand the attention of an approved lawyer. Awareness of this, as well as the risks involved with instructing an unregulated practice, is critical in deciding which legal services provider to choose. Robert and his team now advise clients what they need to be mindful of before they commit to using an unregulated provider.
Instructing an unregulated practice can pose a risk if the client doesn’t have a clear understanding of how an unregulated practice operates. It removes the safety net of a watchdog to cover your back should things turn sour. Of course, Robert’s mission has always been to maintain an exceptional standard of service while innovating the business and pricing models. For both his unregulated and regulated practices, he only hires highly qualified lawyers with 5 years-plus experience in their chosen specialisms. In relation to the unregulated practice, this reduces the risk to clients and specific working contracts can be put in place to offer further assurances.
However, that’s certainly not the case for all unregulated practices. Therefore, Robert is keen to educate the market about the potential pitfalls of using an unregulated practice to an untrained eye. He wants everyone to be happy with their choice of service and wants to advise clients on what to look out for when they are making their choice.
Corporate clients are usually happy to continue “contracting liability” through 360 Business Law, but Robert knew that if he was to offer a truly flexible service, he needed to find a way to offer the choice of protection through a regulated practice too. Same principles: innovative, technology led, lower costs and a high level of service. Hence the birth of 360 Law Services, an SRA regulated practice – SRA Number 638684.
Now, through 360 Law Group the business provides clients with a choice.
Robert is always eager to meet with clients (either face to face or virtually) to determine the best approach for them – either working with his team through his regulated practice, or his unregulated practice. This depends on the client’s unique circumstances.
It’s a first for the legal industry and a milestone that he is proud to have reached.
The lawyers tackle challenges and solve problems for a vast range of global clients. Many of 360 Law Group’s corporate clients usually have a requirement to update, address or create new contracts on an urgent basis, be they complex customer contracts, HR contracts, or renewals, both in the UK and internationally. Of these clients, some have internal counsel, but they may not have the right experience to support the business with complex issues. To shift some of the weight, clients may have sought external support from multiple suppliers due to the types of expertise required and the global jurisdictions. As well as driving up the costs, this becomes tedious and time-consuming for in-house counsel to deal with.
With the introduction of 360 Law Group, clients can now tap into a pool of specialist resources with one point of contact. This enables them to focus on the contract at hand, rather than sourcing and managing multiple partners. Further to this, the fixed costs offered through 360 Business Law’s subscription-based service enables in-house teams to budget for legal support with regularity. From here, clients can build a much clearer picture of on-going requirements over a fixed period without worrying about rising fees.
The quality and credibility of the services offered are in the testimonials that clients provide, and the repeat business received. Nevertheless, Robert is always seeking new ways in which he can take advantage of technological advancements to increase efficiency and, in turn, client satisfaction. Where the traditional model once reigned supreme, outdated pricing models and archaic hierarchical structures are in terminal decline. The law firm of the future fits in with modern society while recognising the value and importance of preserving high standards; it truly puts client back in the driver’s seat where they belong.
In three years’ time, 360 Law Group will be at the pinnacle of the law sector, leading the way to fairer fees and better quality of work for all clients and a better quality of service. Their vision has always been to transform the legal sector, breaking down cost barriers for consumers and simplifying access to the law. As pioneers for industry change, they will continue to be the law firm of choice by offering flexibility, transparency and finally, a choice.