A new way to think about legal services
SMEs face long-winded processes when looking for legal advice, but a new law firm is bringing much-needed innovation to this very traditional world...Matt Scott
When it comes to getting legal advice in business, the process has traditionally been lengthy, inconvenient and, ultimately, expensive.
It usually requires you to search the local area for a specialist lawyer, phone up to arrange an appointment and then attend the meeting – invariably at a time inconvenient to the running of your business – only to be told by a junior member of staff that they will look into whether you have a case and get back to you at a later date.
And all of this at a time when your business needs all hands on deck to respond to the legal crisis it is facing.
But things might be about to change. With his fresh and innovative approach to providing business legal advice, 2ndOpinionNow CEO Chaman Salhan may have the answer for small- and medium-sized businesses up and down the country.
“Traditionally, finding a lawyer has been a hugely time-consuming process and carries the added opportunity cost of having to take time off work and the expense of getting to an appointment,” says Salhan. “This shouldn’t continue in the modern age; we believe it’s unacceptable that business leaders are only able to get advice through such a long-winded process.”
At 2ndOpinionNow, Salhan has set up a digital law firm that provides access to 10,000 specialist solicitors, barristers and QCs through a simple online form that can be completed at a time convenient to you, wherever you’re located. For ad-hoc advice, prices range from £250 to £3,000, plus VAT, depending on the urgency of the query and the level of advice that’s required.
Salhan’s law firm, which is fully regulated, covers a variety of legal disputes – from simple income tax and health and safety queries to corporate manslaughter. And if you still want a traditional face-to-face meeting, barristers are available to travel and meet you anywhere in the country, whenever you need them.
What really sets 2ndOpinionNow apart is its corporate retainer system that can help SMEs budget for legal costs with certainty.
Research from the Legal Services Board found that 23% of SMEs reported unaddressed legal issues, leading to significant loss of income, with 6% being forced to cut jobs or close down altogether. And with UK SMEs spending more than £9 billion a year on legal advice, being able to drive down these costs is vital to their future growth.
“Rather than having to constantly feed the meter, which is difficult for SMEs with cashflow and time constraints, we said come to us and we will look at the potential legal requirements you’re facing and agree a figure you can afford in order to meet all those needs,” Salhan says. “We take on the risk that you may need more advice than expected, and you pay on a monthly basis. If you have a problem, it comes straight to us, allowing you to budget for those issues with certainty in advance of them arising.
“This approach means SMEs are not disadvantaged compared to large companies with in-house teams of legal counsel. All too often, businesses go to lawyers when they already have a problem rather than having a strategic business plan that can prevent those problems from happening in the first place.”
Planning that pays off
Most commonly, 2ndOpinionNow deals with contract disputes with suppliers and customers who may have breached terms or are refusing to pay their bills on time.
Here, Salhan’s team of lawyers can work to prevent issues before they arise by including penalty clauses that punish late payments or making contract clauses so tight that business partners think twice about breaking them.
For SMEs looking to invest in and grow their business, being able to budget confidently for legal costs not only frees up resources for use elsewhere in the company, but also helps drive down the overall costs of legal advice across the business.
“Having a good lawyer on call is alien to a lot of businesses because they think a lawyer only gets involved when there is a problem – that’s not the case,” says Salhan. “Start budgeting for legal costs and save on the opportunity cost of dealing with it when a problem arises; let lawyers deal with it within that pre-agreed monthly budget. Legal costs should be part of strategic business planning for any business.”
With a background in business and finance, Salhan’s law firm is set up to provide advice and expertise that is not available at many other firms, helping make clients’ businesses more robust.
“Most lawyers are poor at business, they don’t understand the mechanics of running a company,” says Salhan. “Lawyers need to adapt their service so that it’s conducive to how a business works. We have a strong background in business and finance, and our lawyers can see deficiencies in the legal aspects of a business and plug those gaps.
“Modern business needs a modern solution. Having access to an online source of 10,000 solicitors is unheard of elsewhere; we are offering a modern service for modern companies,” he says.
This is a sponsored feature that was originally run in the Autumn issue of Professional Manager. To get in touch with Chaman Salhan’s new-look legal business, visit 2ndopinionnow.co.uk or call 020 7936 3177
Photograph by Louise Haywood-Schiefer