Ignition Law: A Revolution in London's Legal Community

London
A laser beam touches the Gherkin from the Shard during the laser and searchlight show which marks the completion of the exterior of the Shard building in central London July 5, 2012. Olivia Harris/Reuters

Sponsored Insight | There's more to life than traditional law," says David Farquharson, one half of Ignition Law. "We're doing what we're passionate about. That passion is relatively new in the legal industry." Along with co-founder Alex McPherson, Ignition has set out to tear up the rule book on traditional law practices.

The traditional law firm model and culture that comes with it was long overdue for a disruptive change, they say. After meeting at a mutual friend's stag party, lawyers David, 42, and Alex, 34, found they shared a distaste for the money-driven culture of the industry. It was an interest in fostering real relationships with their clients that sparked the idea for Ignition Law – a joint venture with gunnercooke LLP. "We wanted to do something completely different," says Alex when I meet the pair at the fashionable, open-plan workspace Across the Pond – a digital production company and one of Ignition's clients in Soho.

They already have over 100 clients across industries ranging from media to energy to university and business school spin-out companies and SME (small-medium enterprise) startups. It's clear, they say, that people are fed up with the structure of the legal system as it stands. The pair see themselves more as partners to their clients than mere service providers. "It's not about short-term relationships," says David.

To reduce client fees, they're getting rid of high-salary senior partners, and have thrown out the traditional six-minute billing unit in favour of a flexible fee basis. They say the use of cloud-based technology also saves clients money by giving Ignition the flexibility to work from multiple locations in London rather than having one, expensive office space. They say the legal industry is in for exactly the same kind of disruption that the taxi industry has experienced with Uber – the popular taxi-booking app – so that clients are given a more cost effective and transparent service. "Equally, law firms are overdue giving solicitors and support staff a better and more flexible work-life balance, combined with more generous take home hourly rates and no firm politics," says Alex. "We've been in big firms. We've done it. So there is credibility when we say there's another way."

There has been bemusement in the legal marketplace, however, with the main question being: why walk away from the paycheque? David came from the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills and, most recently, Swan Turton. Alex, on the other hand, was at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, followed by Hogan Lovells. They're not getting paid a salary any more, but they say there's more to being a lawyer than just the money. "My highest earning year was the most miserable one in the last 10 years," says David. The same went for new dad Alex, who says that missing out on one too many barbeques was enough to make him reconsider his lifestyle. "My sister and friends would say 'your perspective is warped'. Family always keeps you in check."

David and Alex say their firm is designed to employ entrepreneurs, mothers and junior lawyers. The traditional structure of a law firm doesn't work for all women with children, who may not be able to commit to 80-hour weeks. Unless you're willing to work 12-hour days, five days a week, no traditional firm will hire you. They say they employ "brilliant minds" that have been cast out of the system because of seemingly conflicting priorities. One of their goals is to help build confidence in new mothers who want to return to law, as well as give junior lawyers the chance to cut their teeth without having to start climbing the ranks right out of law school. They say Ignition doesn't subscribe to the strict work-week regimen and is supportive of their employees having other endeavours, a level of flexibility that is a fantasy for traditional lawyers.

David is the chairman of the UK charity AfriCat, a conservation education charity, and Alex says he has worked for over 100 charities over the years. They say the idea of having more time to help out is important to them, and is built into the roots of Ignition: "It gives more perspective to our lives," David and Alex agree. According to them the traditional model is in desperate need of a radical overhaul and they think they can disrupt the market to begin that change. They hope to spark a change within the system by making it less hierarchical for lawyers and more transparent for clients. "It's empowering," David says. "We're pushing tradition to be better."

Ignition Law launched on 31 December 2014.

For more information visit ignitionlaw.co.uk and gunnercooke.com

Ignition Law: A Revolution in London's Legal Community