In many ways Keystone provides a very conventional service to its clients
UK-listed law firm's director of growth on its new law USP, growth plans and proposition to new recruits
Mark Machray is director of growth and and development at listed UK law firm Keystone Law
Describe Keystone Law in no more than 50 words
A community of experienced entrepreneurial lawyers, practising law, looking after clients and advancing their careers on their own terms. They are supported by a dedicated central office team focused on providing the necessary infrastructure and creating the right environment for that community to flourish.
What are the nuts and bolts of a typical contract with Keystone?
It’s a very simple proposition: Keystone provides lawyers with a regulated entity together with all the support, infrastructure, resources and tools necessary for them to do their job, for which we retain 25% of the fees they generate. The lawyer who brings the work in keeps 15% of the fees and the lawyer who does the work keeps 60%. More often than not that is one and the same person so they get to keep 75% of the fees.
What is its unique selling point?
Keystone offers lawyers the best of both worlds: the best elements of being a sole-trader — independence, autonomy and financial reward, with all the benefits of being part of a large firm — the back office support, the tools and resources. Our lawyers also have opportunities that come with the credibility of working for a multi-award-winning law firm and with like-minded colleagues who see the value in collaboration.
The model Keystone deploys has been described variously as virtual, distributed and dispersed. Which do you prefer?
We tend to use ‘dispersed law firm’, but I don’t think any of those terms really do the model justice as they simply reflect the fact that our lawyers work remotely. The Keystone proposition is so much more than that.
What is its biggest opportunity and greatest challenge?
Following the pandemic, lawyers have an appreciation for working effectively and efficiently outside the office environment and that it presents no barrier to teamwork. That realisation has created an enormous opportunity for Keystone to recruit further talent and cement its position as ‘the future of law’.
Our greatest challenge is a perennial one: managing growth. Not so much from a logistical perspective, rather in sustaining the firm’s culture. However, recognising the challenge ensures we meet it: we only invite lawyers to join us who we think are a good cultural ‘fit’ and we continuously develop the Keystone community through various initiatives to ensure the firm remains a happy and collegiate place.
How has Keystone Law performed during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Keystone was uniquely well-placed to weather the Covid storm. Our technology and systems are designed to support lawyers working remotely so that when the country locked down, we didn’t miss a beat. Our innate understanding of the importance of relationships in a remote working environment, both from a professional and emotional perspective, served us extremely well in helping our lawyers remain connected in what was, for some, a very lonely and difficult time.
The firm has seen incredible growth over the last 18 months, increasing our senior lawyers to 386 and, as our recent half-year results have shown, increasing revenue by 37% and profits by 109%, on the same period last year.
Describe your role, and how you arrived at this point
I am the director of growth and development at Keystone, responsible for the firm’s recruitment and for building and propagating the firm’s culture of collegiality and collaboration. I joined Keystone as a lawyer back in 2010, drawn to the entrepreneurial spirit of the firm and was asked to join the management team in 2012 by James Knight, Keystone’s CEO and founder. Recognising the extraordinary potential of the business, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands!
What is the most common question you get asked about Keystone from potential recruits, and how do you respond?
If everyone works remotely, how do lawyers get to know one another? It’s an understandable question but an analysis of the business model and those drawn to it quickly allays any reservations:
(a) our business model attracts entrepreneurial lawyers who are naturally social, emotionally intelligent and understand the importance of building relationships;
(b) we recruit lawyers who want to engage with colleagues and see the value in this;
(c) our remuneration structure incentivises cross-referrals providing a financial motivation for lawyers to get to know one another;
(d) Keystone has no politics (no hierarchy, everyone is remunerated in the same way and each lawyer is economically independent) thus removing a key barrier to collaboration; and, finally,
(e) we host countless events bringing our lawyers together and make strategic introductions to help each lawyer build and develop their own network within the firm.
What is the most difficult question clients ask? What is your response?
In many ways Keystone provides a very conventional service to its clients. The difficult questions asked by clients are no different to those asked of traditional firms. However, I think the independence and autonomy our lawyers enjoy enable them to address any concerns in a pragmatic way. Management policy doesn’t dictate or influence their response which can often prejudice the lawyer-client relationship.
Does Keystone have international ambitions? If so, briefly outline them?
We’ve opened offices in Australia and the UAE and, closer to home, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. We are currently focusing our attention on the UK market and we are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities. However, as an entrepreneurial business, if we found appropriate partners who share our values and see the opportunity that the Keystone business model presents in their jurisdictions, further international expansion is a possibility.
What other career might you have pursued in an alternative life?
A landscape architect. I developed a passion for gardening during lockdown, discovering the simple pleasure of creating a beautiful, tranquil space and being at one with nature.
What’s your favourite consumer tech gadget right now? Favourite podcast and book?
Tech: a watering system timer (I lost some good plants to the drought last year!). The Test Match Special podcast is essential listening and if I had to pick one book, the swashbuckling adventure that is The Count of Monte Cristo.