15 May 2019

Former general counsel hopes to clean up

Launches online lawyer-matching service to enhance choosing external counsel, while a general counsel he used exercises to test law firm partners, including cleaning hotel toilets.


A former general counsel and City partner has launched an online service that aims to simplify and speed up the way in-house lawyers instruct external law firms.

Tap the market
Tim Jenkins, former general counsel of luxury hotel group Jumeirah, said general counsel had taken “too long to wise up to their own economic power” and were “too deferential”. Mr Jenkins said in-house lawyers regularly selected firms “purely due to historical associations”, plucked “just one firm out of a legal directory”, or used a recommended firm for one instruction “that spills into another”. He explained some companies spent “tens of thousands” on setting up panels, then only used two or three of the ten firms available. His Tap the Market platform asks in-house lawyers questions about the type of work they are looking for and allows them to compare proposals from a number of lawyers. Mr Jenkins said the platform simplified and speeded up the process of instructing external lawyers, enabled expertise and fees to be more easily compared, helped in-house lawyers demonstrate value to their companies and provided them with data and metrics to help them manage their department.

Hit the numbers

The service is free to use for in-house lawyers, and funded by a commission of 5-10 per cent paid by the law firms which are instructed. Mr Jenkins, formerly a partner at Trowers & Hamlins in London and then in Abu Dhabi, said he had been working with a handful of multi-national companies and a number of large commercial law firms since Tap the Market was launched. Mr Jenkins explained, “The world of legal services is changing enormously, but it’s taking time to ripple out to law firms and their clients. There is tremendous pressure on law firm partners to hit the numbers, but their tremendous knowledge often gets lost.” He added, “Some of us, who have been in the trenches, have a better understanding of the speed and value that needs to be delivered every time.” A technology investment company, a minority shareholder in Tap the Market, had designed the platform, which includes a panel-building function.

Clean the toilets

At Jumeirah, Mr Jenkins used exercises, including getting a law firm partner to clean a hotel toilets, to get external lawyers to understand the client they were working for, which he said did lead to complaints about the experiences. He explained external lawyers were particularly weak on “horizon scanning” for their clients and understanding future risks for expanding businesses and warning them about the implications. The future he said will see a “different set of individuals” emerge, whether they were project managers or technologists, and “things would be a lot more fluid”.

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