Why starting a successful corporate law firm is still possible

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IP and technology boutique Switch Legal is proving a focused proposition combined with value-based billing is a compelling offering for clients.
 
Formed two and a half years ago, Switch Legal aimed to provide a new type of value-based pricing proposition combined with top tier in-house expertise.
 
Speaking with Australasian Lawyer, director Melanie Noble said the business had really hit its stride over the last year as the message got out there to the market.
 
“A lot of our business comes from word of mouth and referrals and we are actually finding that it is a bit more difficult to get to the marketing these days because of the amount of work we have from referrals,” she said.
 
Noble said when the firm first emerged from NAB’s in-house team with a new offering, it had mainly serviced the technology ‘acquirer’ market, including banks. This was initially supplemented by some smaller supplier clients.
 
However, with a proposition that is meeting the needs of the market, that client base has shifted to a point where it is ‘very balanced across the board’.
 
“Over the last year or so the balance has shifted, and we have a lot more large supplier clients and more of the smaller suppliers as well,” she said.
 
Because of the firm’s cost model, Noble said the firm is able to offer a broader range of pricing options and models, particularly on high value work.
 
This is resonating with clients, who are becoming savvier about who they have on their panels depending on the type of work being outsourced.
 
“Our focus on our value-based approach has helped us. In this economic climate a lot of organisations out there are looking for both efficiency in terms of time and effort and in terms of cost, so the word is certainly getting around.
 
“In many cases they are choosing to have a mix of big law firms and some of the more specialist firms who do offer value billing and can offer the same levels of service at much reduced costs, who can handle it more efficiently.”
 
“Clients are under quite constrained budgets and that is part of the reason why firms are broadening their panel, we do see it going that way.”
 
The team’s in-house experience has also been popular with clients in the sector.
 
“We have all spent a lot of years in the big firms but also a lot of time in-house as well; clients see the value of that, as we do get the way they have to operate. We can behave more like in-house clients are expecting in-house lawyers to behave.”
 
Noble said while business has been strong in the last year, the firm is still wary of taking on new employees until it is certain how stable work flows will be.
 
“We don't want to leap too quickly. We have taken on a contractor, which has grown our capacity, but our desire is not to grow too big; we want to keep the business relatively small, so we can remain lean and flexible and fairly agile.”
 
Noble said the business is unlikely to more than double its size over time.
 
Switch Legal is planning to focus more on marketing its services in 2015, in addition to growing through referrals, though Noble said it continue to keep its overheads low and focus on maintaining work-life balance for its team.

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