David Walker is a solicitor by trade, but his work for corporate firms instilled in him the desire to operate a law firm that would provide a “real, personal experience”. Business Advice caught up with him to find out what happened when he decided to break out on his own.
When Walker started his law firm, Grid Law, it was with the intention of breaking the mould and providing a wholly different kind of experience for clients. In practice, what this meant was providing a more personal service.
“I get to know my clients, and it sounds cliché but I don’t necessarily come in thinking of myself as a lawyer. I come in thinking as a problem solver, and legal services is just one of the ways I can solve that problem. Sometimes it’s a case of using my general business experience to approach a problem in a different way” he said.
Initially the business was intended for motorsport clients – sponsorship deals, new contracts for drivers, helping drivers to protect their personal brand. However, while still working on many motorsport cases, Walker has found himself gravitating towards clients who are entrepreneurs.
Walker specialises in contract law, dispute resolution and protecting and defending intellectual property rights. When small business entrepreneurs approach him for help they may have an idea for a new company or need help with standard contracts such as terms and conditions and shareholders’ agreements. Other times, someone may have copied their products leading to lost sales, so Walker will claim compensation for them.
Being your own boss
According to Walker, one of the best perks of working for himself is being his own boss and being answerable for his own decisions. When he set out, he was “determined to make sure that [his] lifestyle was as flexible as possible” and outside of the traditional nine-to-five he can ensure he is always available for his daughter at dinner time and important events.
The downside of this is juggling so many aspects of his business, as he is technically a one-man band. Walker outsources some services, for example, his PA works on an hourly rate as needed.
In addition, he has employed services from KPMG Small Business Accounting, which he was pleased to discover exceeded his expectations. “I had no idea KPMG offered a service for small businesses, I thought they were for the big boys. For a company like that to be able to provide such a personal service is excellent.”
Value for money
There is a lot of competition out there for small business solicitors, and he is keen to separate himself from the rest of the herd.
When the entrepreneur first started out, he was one of the first solicitors to work on a “no win no fee” basis for business disputes and offer fixed fee contracts for commercial work. As this has gradually become a more well-established path, Walker is now looking to launch a “suite of products” in a bid to “offer the best value service” for his clients.
His first product, Cash Flow Rescue, is designed for business owners and entrepreneurs to recover unpaid invoices and small debts themselves, as hiring a solicitor to help regain debts of less than £10,000 is unlikely to be cost-effective for his clients.
For example, if a small business needs to recover debts of £1,500, a solicitor’s fees are likely to exceed this and make the whole process untenable. “I used to hate telling those people ‘I’m sorry, I’d love to help but it’s just not cost effective for you,’ so I created Cash Flow Rescue and they don’t have to pay me anything in fees,” he explained.
Although a few other businesses offer templates and guides, many offer a “do-it-yourself service” and “your traditional solicitor is a done-for-you service” – Walker has positioned himself in the middle of the two with a “done-with-you” service. Clients can do much of the work on their own, but with access to the legal expert an email away.
Walker is currently in the process of putting together his next product offering, a brand protection toolkit.
Whereas in the past he has been able to rely fairly heavily on word of mouth and referrals to secure new clients, he is now looking to advertise more proactively via social media, as his product suite is set to be far more scalable than his one-to-one services and offers a real opportunity for growth.
Overall, if there’s one thing Walker could recommend to others looking to start their own business, it would be this: “Enjoy the journey – it’s tough, there’s going to be lots of setbacks, there’s going to be highs and lows. Enjoy it and just work really, really hard.”
Have a look at our video interview with David Walker, where he reveals what businesses struggle with most when it comes to the legal side of things.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.