< News

Struggling finding the right external lawyer?

We recently met with Gareth Stephenson, co-founder of Top 3 Legal to find out how this tool can help in-house lawyers.

Top 3 Legal is an online platform that can help you manage your relationships with external lawyers and help to instruct the right lawyer for each matter.
It works like a database for lawyers so you can find a lawyer that has been endorsed by your colleagues and wider network for a particular skill or work type.

Why did you move from practicing law into the crowded tech market?

I always knew that I wanted to be out of private practice by the time I was 50.  I had no particular plans but had always wanted my own business and when my co-founder, Richard Fleetwood, suggested Top 3 Legal to me, I was intrigued to give it a go.  Although the legal tech market is crowded, I don’t believe anyone else provides what Top 3 Legal does.

What was the idea behind developing this system?

It’s a combination of factors really.  I’ve never liked or rated the traditional legal directories and all of our market research pre-launch confirmed that both law firms and businesses are equally frustrated with them and are using them less and less.  Also, from my time as a partner at Freshfields, I was very aware of how large corporates can find it difficult to find trusted lawyer recommendations.  I actually believe that companies can realise substantial gains by pooling, sharing and leveraging their combined knowledge of the external lawyers they use.

How can it benefit an in-house team?

The main benefit for an in-house team is that it allows them easily to pool and share around the world all their combined knowledge of the external lawyers they use.  This allows them to find the right external lawyer to instruct, informed by knowledge and trust - they can see the detailed profiles of all the lawyers and these are overlaid by their colleagues’ recommendations and (private) notes of their experiences of working with those lawyers.

For those companies looking to keep external instructions within their panel or relationship firms, the platform helps them to achieve that and thereby reducing legal spend and legal risk.

How does it work (I.e. – what is the set up process for Team Sheets) and how much time is actually required?

Client teams can very quickly and easily create their Team Sheet.  Either they - or us - can give their team members access to their Team Sheet and then they simply need to send an email (which we provide) to the law firms they want to invite to add their lawyers’ profiles to their Team Sheet.   We then follow up with the relevant law firms and import the lawyers into the Team Sheet.

Can it create a search based on D&I and CSR?

Not yet, but these are definitely areas we will look to develop as the platform grows.  One of the main principles behind Top 3 Legal was to create a level playing field for every lawyer - partners and associates - in the world to be able to develop their market profile and personal brand.

Do you have any case studies you can share?

 We have lots of examples of how the platform helps clients - including in ways that we never imagined when we were building the platform.  It’s been fascinating to see the different drivers for clients to use the platform - ranging from those companies who use it to keep external lawyer instructions within their panel firms to those who are creating their own virtual law firms by populating their Team Sheets with the best person they know for each particular work type - including with lawyers from alternative legal services providers.  

Have you applied any learnings into the system?

All the time!  We never stop receiving client feedback and, when you hear something mentioned by a few clients, you can soon gauge that it is also likely to be useful to loads more clients.  For example, we are just about to launch a new feature which will show whether lawyers in clients’ Team Sheets are from their approved/panel law firms to help those clients who want to restrict external instructions to such lawyers.

Are there any further developments in the pipeline?

I often feel there are just not enough hours in the day to build all the new features we have planned!  So, yes - loads!  In particular, we also want to re-define how law firms share information with clients by - for example - creating a noticeboard for each company that their external lawyers can post on (e.g. legal updates or seminars and events etc.).

Legal tech is a massive subject for discussion recently, from your experience in the market place, what are the main positive/negative issues you hear?

There’s a lot of interest and excitement about how tech solutions can help drive efficiency and therefore cost savings. However, it is often difficult to know which legal tech solution to trial as a lot of them are complex and it can be very time-consuming to work out which one is best-suited to a particular client’s problems.  Also, I often hear frustrations from clients about their law firms not being sufficiently innovative in bringing tech solutions to their clients and that, when they do, it is not at all clear how it has benefited the client as opposed to the law firm’s own profitability.  Some law firms are clearly better than others at this and their ability to collaborate with clients is a great differentiator for them.

And finally, how much would this cost my in-house legal department?

There is an annual subscription charge of £4,950 for up to 50 users (and prices for larger teams available on request).

To find out more about Top 3 Legal please click here.