Legal Business

Into the mainstream: another big New Law exit sees EY acquire Riverview Law

Into the mainstream: another big New Law exit sees EY acquire Riverview Law

Mere months after New Law pioneer Lawyers On Demand (LOD) secured private equity backers to position itself as a global player, fellow alternative legal services business darling, Riverview Law, has been acquired by Big Four accountancy firm EY.

The financial details of the deal, announced today (7 August), were not disclosed, but Riverview’s turnover is believed to have risen to more than £10m since it launched in 2012, meaning the acquisition is expected to carry a hefty price tag.

For EY, the purchase is touted as a means by which the accounting firm will look to enhance and scale its EY Law managed services offering. EY global head of alliances for tax, Chris Price, will become chief executive of the rebranded EY Riverview Law once the acquisition has been completed later this month. He will be working closely with the existing Riverview leadership as EY looks to service clients across the globe.

The acquisition also sees global law giant DLA Piper offload its stake in Riverview, with the firm previously owning 21% investment in the parent company, LawVest. That stake reduced to 14% after Riverview demerged with Kim Technologies, its highly-rated AI platform, in September 2017.

Riverview’s long-standing relationship with Kim was established when the New Law provider invested in the company in 2014. DLA has maintained a small minority stake in the technology platform following Riverview’s sale.

After launching in 2012, Riverview’s turnover has risen from about £200,000 to what analysts estimate is more than £10m. Riverview invested millions into Kim before the AI platform became separately funded as a global software business.

Speaking to Legal Business earlier this year, Riverview chief executive Karl Chapman (pictured) commented on law firms’ adoption of legal tech: ‘It is fascinating, there is a complacency driven by the profitability and margins that law firms make. It will take three to four years for that to really come home to roost and there will be some big winners in that changed environment.’

‘Corporate legal departments are moving at a much faster pace, they are adopting technology much quicker, and law firms will be required to catch up because the customer will require them to catch up,’ he said.

Cornelius Grossman, EY global law leader, commented: ‘Legal managed services is one of the fastest growing segments of the legal market. This acquisition underlines the position of EY as a leading disruptor of legal services; it will provide a springboard for current EY legal managed services offerings and bolster the capabilities that we can help deliver for EY clients.’

DLA’s decision to maintain an investment in Kim contrasts with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP), which sold its entire 62% investment in Lawyers On Demand (LOD) to buyout house Bowmark Capital in May.

Chapman added: ‘Put simply, we are excited by the next stage in our journey. We believe that the combination of the Riverview Law operating model, operating platform and people, alongside the EY brand, EY clients, existing legal services offering and global scale is a winning formula for the legal market.’

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

For more on EY and the Big Four’s push into the legal services market, read  ‘Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Four? – Inside the accountants’ assault on law’ (£)

Legal Business

Siri meets GC? Riverview bets big with the launch of a ‘virtual assistant’ for clients

Siri meets GC? Riverview bets big with the launch of a ‘virtual assistant’ for clients

After spending the last 18 months investing in automated services for in-house teams, Riverview Law has created a virtual assistant to help legal teams make ‘quicker and better decisions’.

The package dubbed Kim – standing for knowledge, intelligence and meaning – combines Riverview’s services with automation, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).

The new platform contains Riverview’s existing suite of services, such as its US-based knowledge automation business CliXLEX, which it acquired in June this year; its ‘Solutions Prototyping Consultancy’ launched in September to help global corporations and mid-sized companies improve their technology; and document review tools. According to Riverview, the technology is designed to be configured and made active for in-house teams in one day.

The launch is a key moment for Riverview, which is aiming to establish itself as one of the leading New Law brand names alongside larger rivals such as the US-based group Axiom. Having initially launched in 2012 to target small and medium-sized businesses with a range of fixed fee products, Riverview has increasingly focused on handling routine-heavy contract and compliance work for sizeable institutional clients, arguing that its focus on technology can see it outperform law firms. The Wirral-based business now has 150 staff and revenues of just over £5m, according to its 2014 accounts.

Riverview chief executive Karl Chapman argues that virtual assistants comparable to systems like Siri, Cortana and Hive will increasingly be used to assess and handle legal issues.

Chapman told Legal Business: ‘[Kim is] very quick and easy to use and provides speed and savings in cost. We wanted to get to a place where using technology is a natural thing and came up with the name Kim. It’s a tool that delivers our solutions under one brand. This is about in-housers trying to do things themselves without using a third-party. Look at what Uber have done – they have put the power into the hands of the customer.’

The development also builds on Riverview’s partnership with the University of Liverpool earlier this year, which aims to apply cutting-edge AI, text processing and data mining to provide in-house teams with decision support tools.

‘Because the Kim technology is applicable to all sectors, we are running this as if it is a stand-alone business. In this context, Riverview Law licenses the Kim technology on an arms-length basis and exploits it in the legal market,’ added Chapman. ‘This allows us to productise our knowledge in ways that help in-house functions of all sizes, in all sectors, globally. We are very focused on scaling our business internationally using technology as the entry point into new geographies.’

While Riverview has been using the system internally for 12 months, Kim officially launches in the first quarter of 2016 and will be open to the legal market, initially targeting English-speaking countries and then European countries starting with Spain, and then Germany and France.

With the launch coming amid a growing debate regarding the role and prospects for artificial intelligence in the law, there will be much scrutiny of whether Kim can live up to Riverview’s emphatic sales pitch.

jaishree.kalia@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Deus ex machina: Riverview Law targets in-house with legal tech consultancy

Deus ex machina: Riverview Law targets in-house with legal tech consultancy

Alternative legal services provider Riverview Law has launched a new service in a bid to help in-house teams develop automated legal processes.

Referred to as its ‘Solutions Prototyping Consultancy‘, Riverview is targeting large global corporations and mid-sized companies with the aim of helping them develop a technology-driven operating model.

The firm will draw teams comprising lawyers, automation experts, data analysts, facilitators and project managers to develop a live prototype, configured to each organisation, covering instruction management, triage, case management, document creation along with activity, quality and risk reporting, under one umbrella.

According to Riverview, it will take just four weeks to create a live ‘proof of concept’, with the end result ‘an operating model that ensures legal work is undertaken by the right people, in the right place, in the right way, at the right time and at the right price, whether that work is undertaken in-house or by external providers.’

The statement adds: ‘It also enables in-house legal functions to establish a clearer understanding as to how technology, workflow automation, reporting and data visualisations can help make their function more effective and efficient on a sustainable basis.’

‘Most businesses are, or are becoming, technology-led. Riverview Law is no exception to this,’ said chief executive Karl Chapman (pictured). ‘However, on its own being a technology-led business, from automation and visualisations through to artificial intelligence, is of limited value without legal domain expertise…We are launching [this service] following demand from customers and after running a number of these prototyping sessions with global corporations. The results delivered in four weeks always exceed expectations.’

This latest development follows Riverview Law’s recent acquisition of New Jersey-based knowledge automation business CliXLEX, which allowed the firm to launch a second US office in August.

This consultancy launch follows recent push by major UK firms into non-legal services, with Eversheds expanded its consulting services business – Eversheds Consulting – in February this year, with the launch of a financial services regulatory compliance offering.

Bird & Bird and RPC also unveiled moves into non-legal consultancy, with Bird & Bird in February establishing an IT project consultancy, and RPC unveiling a new insurance sector consultancy business, focusing on management issues.

More recently, Addleshaw Goddard launched AG Consulting to provide a range of new services to general counsel and in-house legal teams, including panel and risk management.

jaishree.kalia@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Taking New Jersey: Riverview Law opens second US office and starts UK recruitment drive

Taking New Jersey: Riverview Law opens second US office and starts UK recruitment drive

Riverview Law, the fixed priced legal services business, is set to open a second US office with a launch in New Jersey in August as it looks to broaden its offering in the States.

The move marks Riverview Law’s first full blooded attempt to win business in the US, with its current office in Manhattan employing two people to carry out research and development. The New Jersey outpost will offer software and business development for US corporations needing English legal support.

Just 90 km away from its Manhattan base and close to the technology and entrepreneurial community surrounding Princeton University, Riverview Law is aiming to fill its New Jersey office with 10 staff before the end of 2015.

The firm, which has expanded from 150 to 200 staff including barristers over the past 12 months, is not yet planning to offer legal advice in the US but will offer side-services including analytics and legal tech. The opening follows a period of rapid growth that has seen the launch of Riverview Law In-House Solutions, which licenses Riverview Law technology, and a new partnership with the University of Liverpool to create artificial intelligence services for the legal market.

Andy Daws, North America vice president at Riverview Law, said: ‘Our US expansion, focused on business development for customers wanting access to the English courts, client management and technology, is a testament to our customer-centric business model. Working with our IT and legal colleagues in the UK, we’re transitioning from a tech-enabled to a tech-led business. We’re using existing and emerging technologies to develop easy to use solutions with unrivalled analytics capabilities, all designed to help our own teams and our customers make better and quicker decisions.’

Riverview Law’s largest office in Wirral, has also begun a recruitment drive in a bid to attract lawyers from Chester, Liverpool, Wirral and north Wales.

Riverview Law operates under an alternative business structure licence in the UK and became profitable in October last year. The firm, founded in 2012, expects to double its revenue to around £9m during its current financial year, which runs for the 12 months to 30 September.

Katy Robson, operations director at Riverview Law, said: ‘We can provide our team and new joiners with a long-term, secure career in a rapidly growing business that is helping to change the legal market.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Comment: The ABS dilemma – join them sure, but shouldn’t you be beating them?

Amid all the hype surrounding alternative business structures (ABS) one story that emerged last month stood out – the aggressively-marketed Riverview Law’s eye-catching alliance with 48-partner practice DMH Stallard.

In an ABS market heavily focused on the high street and volume insurance work, the deal stands out for aiming to provide something different to corporate buyers of legal services.

The firms, which are in discussions about the impending launch of new fixed-fee products, will offer their respective clients each other’s services on a permanent basis, following a four-month trial.

Riverview Law, which launched last year, has aroused a mixture of admiration and suspicion for relentlessly pushing its ‘market-disrupting service delivery model’. It operates through two arms – Riverview Solicitors and Riverview Chambers – around 70 lawyers split roughly two-thirds barristers and one-third solicitors. The proposition is focused on providing small and medium enterprises with fixed-fee, commoditised legal advice.

Whether this will be a success is too early to call. Its parent, DLA Piper-owned LawVest, posted a loss of £3.2m in its first 16 months of trading, due to marketing and start-up costs, generating revenues of £170,036 during that period. The flip-side is that it argues that this heavy investment will soon pay off with a multi-million pound pipeline of new business.

DMH, on the other hand, is an established south coast player, ranked in the LB100 up until 2010 and defined as a ‘regional heavyweight’ by The Legal 500 in the South East. However, the local legal market has always been fiercely competitive, no more so than over the last five years. Firms have struggled with the costs associated with operating around the orbit of the M25, while getting squeezed by competition from firms in London and the South West. The firm’s revenues for 2011/12 were down 9% year-on-year to £19.43m, against its record 2008 turnover of £24m.

The alliance says some interesting things about the legal market. On the face of it, a sizeable business aligning itself with a small start-up new to its market is odd. The obvious question is why aren’t more law firms using their resources and legal know-how to launch their own ABSs? The answer is largely fear of disrupting their own model but such short-termism could be fatal.

There is also the question of how credible Riverview is. On this, opinions vary. There are some very credible figures involved – including DLA Piper’s Sir Nigel Knowles – and Riverview’s marketing panache has often shown law firm rivals a thing or ten about how to push the brand.

On the other hand, not everyone is convinced Riverview has the substance to match the style. Such claims have been fuelled by a gap at times between its happy-clappy rhetoric on one hand and its hard-nosed attempts to control its own image.

Overall, the venture does appear to be a low-risk and imaginative response to turbulent market conditions. The challenge to making it work will be structuring the union so that both sides have strong financial incentives.

Still, even if such law firm/ABS tie-ups prosper in the short-to-medium term, the suspicion remains that ultimately these two camps are heading for a head-on reckoning.

Mark.McAteer@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

The ABS dilemma – join them sure, but shouldn’t you be beating them?

The ABS dilemma – join them sure, but shouldn’t you be beating them?

Amid all the hype surrounding alternative business structures (ABS) one story that emerged last month stood out – the aggressively-marketed Riverview Law’s eye-catching alliance with 48-partner practice DMH Stallard.

In an ABS market heavily focused on the high street and volume insurance work, the deal stands out for aiming to provide something different to corporate buyers of legal services.

The firms, which are in discussions about the impending launch of new fixed-fee products, will offer their respective clients each other’s services on a permanent basis, following a four-month trial.