Trying to find a simple answer to make sense of befuddling complexity is one of life’s wishful thoughts. Real life is much more about muddle and guestimates and hope and having a go.
There never will be the “killer app”. There isn’t a CEO with the Midas touch. One way is never the only way. New Law isn’t better than Old Law because it is called “New”. Old Law is not better than New Law because it has done more laps of the block.
This month EY and Riverview announced their deal. Karl Chapman, Riverview’s CEO, is charming, kind, energetic and passionate. The company he leads has done a really good job, originally with a tried and trusted methodology used in another sector, but which has evolved and innovated constantly. He has created a new legal services brand and Riverview has become an established successful business, however it would be an exaggeration to say it has changed the world.
The reason is not that it lacks funding or insight or resilience or ambition. My suspicion, simply put, is that not enough General Counsel have wanted to change. Despite a decade of relentlessly self-important legal conference agendas and high-profile thought-leadership, the return on all the hype as a subset of the billions of pounds of revenue generated by the Old Law legal profession, is the square root of fuck all.
Now I have a lot of sympathy with not changing (“if it ain’t broke…” and all that); but I have less sympathy with the self-regarding evangelising commentary from people who may not be brave enough to change their lunchtime sandwich filling, let alone the way they buy legal services.
It looks like Riverview have done a great deal with EY and good luck to them. Setting up a business when the market is not established, funding it when it isn’t profitable and investing in creating a culture where people can thrive is a huge achievement. In my own small way, I have an insight into what that might mean. Well played Riverview, very well played indeed.
But for me the biggest aspect of the deal is not the validation of the Riverview model or the ideas that Karl has always cheerfully shared; it is that Riverview, if they do not want to, no longer have to sell to General Counsel. Now they have a world of CFOs on speed-dial.
The deal between EY and Riverview does not change the world, but it is indicative of the end of the search for simple answers from atop the tall fence and a wider acceptance that change is made on the ground, a business call, muddled, robust and imperfect, but what being in business is all about.