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Behind the Business with SRF Legal Services Ltd.

Bdaily goes behind the business with John Tait, Director at newly-formed Newcastle commercial law firm SRF Legal Services Ltd.

Synopsis of what your organisation does:

Our intention is to provide commercial law services in a new and innovative way. The initial focus is on commercial debt where we provide a full suite of professional legal services, from securing late payments and unpaid invoices to issuing winding up petitions. We remove the uncertainty from the commercial debt process by offering a fixed fee service for debts up to £5,000.

What key challenges has your company recently faced?

We are a new business created using the Alternative Business Structure (ABS) which allows law firms to be partly owned by non-lawyers. This has given the firm a fresh and commercially-aware outlook from the outset. However, the logistics in obtaining approval from the Solicitors Regulation Authority was neither simple nor quick!

What is your biggest achievement over the past 12 months?

We worked hard on the company’s corporate identity and website to ensure that we stood out in a somewhat conservative marketplace, whilst communicating the high-end professional services on offer. The website integrates a full online case management framework and allows both clients and debtors to pay securely online. Although we very much see our business as being service led, we felt that the investment in technology to make our clients lives easier is worthwhile.

What is your most important focus for the coming year, and what do you hope to achieve?

To establish SRF Debt as a major provider of commercial debt recovery in the UK before moving on to our next service area.

What excites you most about your industry and business?

Working within the legal market is often viewed as something rather old fashioned. But I believe this is simply because many law firms have adopted an “Us & Them” persona which harks back to a previous generation (or more often two or three!). With SRF Debt we have created the business on the practical experience and realities of today’s commercial landscape. We have taken commercial law back to what it should be – experts that help clients by providing clear value-led solutions to their business problems. From this perspective, every case provides a unique opportunity to improve both our business and that of our clients. What could be more exciting than that?

What do you wish you’d known when starting out?

Often businesses are worried that by pursuing late payments the business relationship with their debtor will be damaged. In truth, by not paying you, the debtor has chosen to break the very first rule of any business! There’s also the very real potential that if your debtor is not paying you, then neither are they paying any of their other suppliers. They may simply walk away, leaving a string of unpaid debts exposing many other businesses - to stand the best chance of recovery don’t delay, act quickly and act effectively.

What will be the “next big thing“ in your industry, and how do you plan to handle it?

All businesses work with a degree of risk whatever it is they do. Perhaps you are manufacturing a product which utilises components that are dependant on materials in a volatile market or subject to intensive and aggressive competition. Of course, your customers are unaware of these pressures, or even if they are, they don’t care. They simply buy your goods at a price that you have previously calculated will allow you to make a profit. Hopefully most of the time you win, but inevitably on occasion, you lose. For many years lawyers have been immune to these real-world commercial pressures by simply basing their final bills on hours spent on your case.

While this is in many situations the only way to charge for some professional services, we believe that the adoption of clear fixed-fee “Products” is both appropriate and fairer in many areas of commercial law. In the case of the recovery of late or overdue invoices, a fixed-fee arrangement means that the client knows exactly what his investment in the process is from the outset -regardless of the hours spent on the case. We believe that this real-world arrangement backed by the expertise of a fully-fledged legal team will create a revolution in the delivery of selected commercial law products and it is the cornerstone SRF Legal services Ltd is built on.

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