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We were talking about clarifying the thinking amongst the staff as to what we were passionate about. We have to know this. It is the core of all our subsequent strategic thinking. I’m afraid that it will take time to discover and to get everyone to buy in completely. But that is OK, this really is important and the process of discovery will not only tell you much about some individuals but it will provide a logic to support all manner of future decisions.

We will go into the whole subject in detail next week, but as a starting point I have outlined below the sort of paper we are working towards. Once this is agreed we would, as I explained look at what we need to do to be excellent at delivering on our promises. Let me know what you think.

Lawyers at STA (1) are convinced of 4 things:

  • The sole purpose of their professional lives is to help their clients
  • You are committed to identifying and satisfying their needs and to helping them succeed.
  • You will help them by the expert provision of essential professional services precisely when and where they add greatest value to them, even if this is before they realize it. (2)
  • You will go out of your way to help clients.
  • If you pursue this properly your own business will prosper and become differentiable from your competitors.

These convictions have led us increasingly towards identifying your ideal or target client. We know you cannot provide all services to all types of client. You can only be best, be sure of the quality of your advice and of your follow through by tailor-making your professional capability to the needs of a relatively narrow market, with which you are most familiar.

We have chosen that of the small to medium sized business, often owner managed, with turnovers up to £10-20 million, probably 10-20 key staff and a total of some 100-200 employees. The companies are mostly headquartered in London near to our own offices (3).

We are aware of the often relatively isolated position of the directors, of the owners of the businesses and also of the stress created by the everyday demands of managing small firms. We know we can add value at all levels of the company.

Our approach is to become effectively the “family” professional adviser, the equivalent of the in-house lawyer on call at any time to help the owners, directors, their key staff, and all their employees prosper, succeed and lead fulfilled lives.

Our service is built around a trusted relationship that allows us to understand, to anticipate and pre-empt problems, and to display all the available legal skills that may be required at any time and at any level within the company.

We are also keen to help the business prosper in any way we can via our own network of external business and professional contacts and associations.

  • How is our service delivered?
  • What is the range of skills available and how are the benefits given?
  • How do we charge for its service?

How do we deliver the Relationship Service

STA starts by choosing with the client the most appropriate member of the staff as the client’s lead advisor. The advisor role is to oversee the delivery, to coordinate, to ensure client needs are met, and to be effectively the in-house lawyer for them. The advisor is responsible for anticipating needs and ensuring these are met. He or she will be paid a retainer by the client on a monthly basis.

The Client Advisor begins with a core review of the company. This ensures that STA is fully briefed on:

  • performance – in terms of financial results
  • key current issues, key result areas and business plan
  • specific areas of potential need (4)
  • existing professional advisors (5)
  • key people in the firm and their needs (6)
  • employment and staff needs (7)

The initial review takes several days, introduces the Advisor to the firm in some detail, and results in an overview of the issues ahead in legal terms, the priority tasks to be undertaken and sets the scene for an agreed work plan with the key decision makers.

It may be that the Client Advisor will carry out this work plan in person; it may be that the work calls for other more relevant specialists (see “ranges of skills” below). It will be for the Advisor to ensure the work is carried out in a timely and relevant manner.

The Advisor will hold regular meetings with the client – often this includes attending some board meetings and strategic days during the year. The Advisors are available to the key decision makers on a 24/7 basis. All management of the client’s affairs by STA flow through the STA Client Advisor.

Normally the Client Advisor writes a monthly client report summarizing work done, benefits and value achieved, issues arising, future areas of need.

What is the range of skills available?

Our lawyers on call to the Client Advisor span the full gamut of services. No two company’s needs are precisely the same, however a typical year’s support could involve:

Corporate legal services: a review of core contracts; overseeing new supply arrangements; briefing, pre-empting, managing corporate litigation, overseeing real property, intellectual property and contract disputes; M and A; checking and underpinning insurance cover and potential for fraud, Risk management.

Employment Services: training, briefing pre-empting employment contract disputes; overseeing employment procedures and paper trails; handling relevant employment tribunal cases

Key Staff Seminars: providing key staff domestic and personal support, particularly in relation to domestic and individual crisis support; matrimonial disputes; personal property purchases, development and disposal.

Employee Support: workshop and corporate sponsored support mirroring the key staff support system.

Our aim is to help our clients prosper. Increasingly, businesses recognize that they can and should build goodwill with their staff by providing help sponsored wholly or in part by the business. We will help them do this. At the same time we will aspire to preventing issues rather than dealing too late with the costly results of mismanagement.

In practice, massive time is wasted and stress caused by the ignorance of people, their unwillingness to take legal advice sufficiently early and then unnecessary use of the courts.

During a typical year the client, its key staff, and where relevant its employees will be kept abreast of any relevant changes in the law. These changes may be numerous and affect every aspect of business. We provide relevant ad hoc news letters and at least an annual workshop and briefing on each key area of the firm.

How does STA charge for its service?

STA wishes to create a lasting relationship with its clients. Most of our clients stay with us for very long periods of time. The relationship is built and depends upon mutual trust.  We know for example that we can save clients enormous amounts of money and executive time simply by pre-empting potentially threatening events.

We charge separately for specific individual pieces of legal work that are deemed necessary, except when this falls obviously within the usual overseeing remit and retainer of the Client Advisor.

(1) For STA understand our vision of STA 2008 (say) –a major question is how quickly we can get there.

(2) We will by the way be able to offer advice on other specialists and professionals (A/C, bankers, consultants, headhunters…) whenever that can be useful to our clients.

(3) We need to list the firms we work for in the £2-20m category.

(4) These would comprise the whole operation of a company

Its money: contracts, property, M&A

Its people: employment issues, recruitment/exit policies, training, staff turnover rates

Its clients: contracts

STA focuses on the day to day areas of managing the business.

(5) This could include the firm’s attitudes to these advisors, the cost /benefit of using them, possible alternatives.

(6) We now include matrimonial, domestic, housing insurance, pension…

(7) This is where STA’s surgery/group advisors scope starts to emerge.


See you next Thursday,


Yours ever,