Meet rradar: One of Leeds’ most innovative law firms to watch out for
By Bruntwood SciTech
Law has always been a traditional and conventional industry, but as with all fast-moving tech and innovation, the industry is starting to digitalise. Legal firms are beginning to embrace new technology to reduce repetition, improve productivity and work more flexibly with clients.
One pioneering law firm doing this already is rradar - a commercial law firm that is modernising the way people can access legal advice and law services. rradar is that rare breed – a law firm that does tech, or perhaps a tech firm that does law.
Located at Platform, the home of tech in Leeds, we caught up with Founder Gary Gallen to hear more about how rradar is paving the way for a new approach to law in the 21st century.
Tell us a bit more about rradar
rradar is a specialist litigation and commercial law firm that uses legal expertise and digital tools to proactively manage, advise and deliver business solutions to reduce legal risk. But we don’t just stop at legal excellence.
We’ve got a multidisciplinary team at rradar; over 140 solicitors, legal advisors, IT and in-house developers, design and media specialists in four offices – Hull, Leeds, Birmingham and Glasgow - and their combined strength makes us a powerful advocate and champion for businesses. We help them navigate and evolve in an ever-changing environment of regulation, compliance and litigation risk.
I know it’s a bit of a cliché but my vision is “today, the UK, tomorrow the world”. There is huge potential in our model; it’s something that the world hasn’t really seen before and I think there will be a big demand for what we’re doing.
One of my key passions, aside from tech, is education; the whole concept of rradar is based on giving businesses the tools and the ability to educate themselves on what they need to keep abreast of the laws and regulations that affect their businesses. Ultimately, I want to be in a position to create a global platform that democratises legal risk management, governance and insurance services.
What sort of services does rradar offer to clients?
Our services fall into three key areas: Legal Services that provide professional legal representation and specialist advisory services, Digital Tools that help deliver our knowledge to clients through dynamic technology platforms, and then Business Solutions which are services beyond legal advice such as risk management and preventative business tools.
The world moves at the pace of business, not law, and companies face the challenge of getting fast access to practical, reliable knowledge written to business outcomes, when they need it, not when a lawyer sees fit to bestow it. If you’ve got the police or the HSE at your factory or your farm, you need advice now, before things get worse. That’s why we created rradarstation.
A lot of businesses, even the most successful ones, often don’t recognise the real risks that are out there – the legislation, the regulations, the pitfalls and traps that they can inadvertently walk into, not out of malice or because they mean to break the law, but because they just don’t realise how complex the law can be in their particular sector.
Of course, ignorance is no defence, which is why we created rradarrisk, which helps businesses to recognise the risks, score and rank them, prioritise the ones that can get them into real trouble and give them the advice they need to deal with them.
For a lot of businesses, especially those who don’t operate in the office environment, there will be occasions when they need advice on compliance with the law or regulations and they need it quickly.
Virtually everyone carries a smartphone with them, putting them in touch with their friends and the internet, so why shouldn’t they use it to access legal advice and guidance written especially for them in language they understand, available anywhere, any time? We thought it was time the law entered the age of the smartphone and that’s why we created rradargrace – an intelligent legal assistant who can answer queries or direct the user to the resources they need. On the go, on your side.
Health and safety in businesses – getting it wrong can be costly in terms of human wellbeing as well as the bottom line. Managing the risks, spotting the hidden trends, learning from the near-misses as well as the accidents can protect a business from future hazards and promote a safe system of work. With this in mind, we created rradarreport, designed by lawyers and health and safety experts to be a powerful tool in the hands of businesses.
How did you get into the world of Law and what was the journey like to starting your own business?
Like many, I came from humble beginnings; a working class family in late 70s Scunthorpe. I was the first in my family to go to University to study law. I then started my legal career as a criminal prosecutor.
One thing I did experience while working my way up through the legal system was the injustice faced by many people I was trying to help. There is an awful lot of bias, neglect, discrimination and hurt still present in the legal system.
What I saw in my early years in the law gave me the motivation, the determination to drive positive change, and the absolute conviction that I would work to ensure everything I did had an effect on society and was for a real purpose.
I’ve spent nearly thirty years practising law, helping businesses when they get into trouble and spotting the trends over the years, mapping them onto the way we in the law work with our clients.
So why is rradar so different?
We’ve ripped up the rule book – on which so many of the big law firms have built their operational models, and went back to the roots of what I felt the legal sector needed to learn. I wanted to build a new business that focussed on education – not rows of desks in front of a blackboard, but an interactive experience, giving businesses the power and resources to educate themselves.
It’s a model based on my experience of how the law works, but divested of the chains of tradition. It’s truly unique and I think it delivers real performance and value to our clients. The increasing number of businesses that are calling us, using our services, reporting positive outcomes to their queries, shows that I’m right.
I’ve always been a big fan of technology. For me, it’s a leveller – it puts incredible power into the hands of ordinary people and it’s where most, if not all the big discussions are going on.
So I thought, how can we put technology centre-stage at rradar; not just a little room where the IT crowd live, but right in the middle of the office, sitting alongside the lawyers and those overheard conversations sparking new ideas, new ways of doing things. And do you know what? It worked.
rradar is that rare breed – a law firm that does tech, or perhaps a tech firm that does law. And that’s the point – there really shouldn’t be that dividing line. Everybody uses the internet, emails, texts, social media, but somehow, the legal industry seems to be set aside from all that – perhaps they think it’s beneath them? I certainly don’t. For me, our digital solutions, our tech genius is transforming the way we do law, and – by extension – the way people encounter the law and use it.
We’ve also been lucky to be able to work with some amazing partners – Barclays Eagle Labs, the London Stock Exchange ELITE programme, the Spectator Economic Disruptor Awards, the Sunday Times Tech Track 100, Tech Nation and of course, AXA, one of the world’s biggest insurers. We managed to impress them with our approach, helping them to write their Management Liability Policy that puts rradar’s legal services right at the heart of the client proposition.
What have been your biggest learnings and challenges along the way?
Right from the word go, I’ve been learning, all the time, about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, to have the vision and put it into practice. I think I have that stubborn streak, a good dose of northern grit. The more you tell me I can’t do something, the more likely it is that I’m going to do it and prove you wrong! For some people, that might be irritating, but for starting a business, especially in today’s climate, it’s an attitude that’s absolutely essential.
It all boils down to a few simple lessons that I think every business founder needs to remember:
It always takes longer than you think.
You have to have unbelievable faith in your vision
You need an incredible stubbornness to overcome obstacles and detractors
Setting up a business is a great personal and financial risk and you have to be willing to face that risk if you’re going to succeed.
You need to be willing to keep unlearning and relearning.
Collaboration is key
Your management style needs to be flexible enough to adapt to the way the business changes
Starting a business is very different from running a business
A start up is very different from a scale up and requires different skills
Tell us a bit more about rradar’s recent growth and successes…
Over the past year or so, despite all the knockbacks that 2020 has thrown at us (and 2021 looks like continuing to do so) I think we’ve achieved a massive amount and I’ve got high hopes for the future.
We’re actually seeing an unprecedented number of people contacting us through our Legal Advice Line and direct with our lawyers and our crisis line. Figures show that pre-emptive enquiries increased by 130% in March, compared to the previous year, as our team assisted with hundreds of issues as the country entered the first lockdown.
It's been very important for businesses to have accurate and timely advice in order to keep up with what’s happening. I remember talking to people after the latest government announcement – usually on a Sunday evening! – and working out how we were going to change our advice pages on the website so that every one of our clients got the right advice and understood what was going on.
I think that’s been a lifeline for a great many companies and it’s probably saved more than a few from going under. That’s a big achievement in my mind – it all goes back to helping people, which is what rradar was created to do.
As we move into the next phase of our development, we’ve established a 5-year strategy/ digital road map and transformation plan which will address the issues we’re going to face. I know from my study of other entrepreneurs and their companies that one of the key issues that needs to be addressed is ensuring that the company has the talent it needs to grow sustainably.
That’s why we’ve made several strategic appointments including a new Chief Technology Officer who will oversee our expanding Development and IT teams, focussing on driving and implementing our robust digital transformation roadmap against our 5-year business strategy. He will set the strategic and operational direction for rradar’s technology systems, both client-facing and internal, as well as innovation and infrastructure.
Tell us a bit more about your base at Platform. Do you enjoy being located there?
When we were looking for somewhere to set up our new Leeds branch, we were searching for a location that would be centrally located (important for our clients), connected to tech (vital for us as we do a lot of our business online and need that connectivity) and serviced for the benefit of the companies that worked there. Tech companies have very specific requirements that need to be taken into account when deciding on a workspace.
Platform, for us, ticked a lot of boxes; literally right on top of the railway station, a prime city centre location, meaning our employees could take advantage of public transport connections, a good-sized office with room for expansion, and excellent tech connectivity.
It’s also part of the Bruntwood SciTech network, which means we were in safe hands when it came to someone who understood our needs and what we were looking for in setting up a new branch of a very highly tech-focussed law firm.
Why is Leeds such an exciting city to work in?
There are some cities where you can feel the buzz as soon as you arrive. For me, Leeds is one of those places – there’s so much going on everywhere you look. The city has five universities and the two big ones – the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett are a valuable resource for a company like ours, which needs the best and brightest to continue innovating and providing first-class customer service. It’s also centrally located, with excellent motorway and rail transport links – it takes just over an hour to get from our head office in Hull to Leeds, and there are about fifty trains a day, which makes life a lot easier when you have offices in both cities.
I’ve had the good fortune to make a number of excellent contacts in the Leeds area, both in the legal sector and the tech community. I’ve learned a lot from them, and it’s given me the chance to invite people to Platform to show them how rradar works and where we intend to go in the future.
It’s worth noting that it’s easier to retain talent in Leeds; in the legal sector, as in the tech sector, nobody now feels they have to go all the way down to London to find good jobs or good opportunities. The city has a thriving tech sector and we’re ideally placed to take advantage of that as we move out of the lockdown phase of recovery and start to open things up again. We’ve been able to recruit from the local area.
For me, that’s very important – I’ve long taken the view that the North has been bypassed for a great many things and that’s not right – we’ve got grit, determination and heaps of energy and enthusiasm and I think the success of Leeds, and other northern cities shows that when we put our minds to it, we can match London – and give people a better standard of living for less.