Former city partners dispute legal directories with online rival

Stephenson (left) and Fleetwood: Law firms frustrated with directories

Two former partners of leading law firms have started an online legal directory business which they hope will replace traditional directories.

Richard Fleetwood and Gareth Stephenson, partners for 20 years at Addleshaw Goddard and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer respectively, have teamed up with former legal counsel to global plumbing giant Ferguson plc, Richard Shoylekov, to form, which was launched last week.

Top3legal, which aims to be a global network of information on lawyers, allows clients’ recommendations to be linked to an existing database of 158,000 lawyers, made up of information available to the public.

The simple lawyer profiles, containing the types of work and contact details, are free and the more complex ones are chargeable.

The founders said they used their corporate experience to bypass the “bureaucracy” and “uncertain return on investment” involved in engaging with current directory structures – namely those produced by Chambers and partners and The legal 500.

Talk to Legal futures, Mr Fleetwood and Mr Stephenson said they had conducted research among “prominent figures from the top 30 law firms” for six months last year to confirm that “our frustrations with existing directories are widespread “.

Mr. Stephenson explained the initial thinking: “I was very aware of the incredible amount of money and time spent both externally and internally in [preparing] directory entries, with all customer quotes and references, and so on.

“I think the whole space is just ripe for disruption and innovation. There is a real appetite to encourage something different.

“Our main market research finding was that when [corporate law firms] are looking for a new lawyer, [they are] don’t look at directories but “phone their network contacts… and say” tell me who would you recommend for taxes in Madrid? Who are your top three M&A lawyers in China? ‘ “

Mr Fleetwood said: “We have only been launched for a few hours and we can already see lawyers from all over the world have registered with us today, [for instance] from Lithuania, Romania, Tokyo, which is amazing.

“So I hope it’s not just a British problem but a real global problem.”

Income will come from premium profiles, which allow lawyers and firms to provide more comprehensive information, such as links to resumes and the firm’s website. Premium profiles are sold on an annual subscription basis, ranging from £ 120 for an individual to £ 36 each for over 2,000.

Mr Fleetwood said he expected it to be two to three years before some law firms compare existing directories “side by side” with Top3legal and decide that a premium profile was more beneficial.

So far, he said, several large companies have purchased group subscriptions and “we’re talking to a whole bunch more, discussing terms with them.”

He added: “We wanted the process to be really simple, [like] if you ask in the hallway who are the people you would recommend, what are the first three names that would come to mind?

“It’s a very simple process that is facilitated by the presence of free data, because all [clients] need to do is type in the person’s name and get a match and they can recommend them.

“We have seen companies submit 40 recommendations in the space of a quarter of an hour.

“Whenever a lawyer registers [with Top3legal] and asks clients for referrals, which brings new clients to the platform and similarly, when new clients come in and recommend lawyers, it brings new lawyers.

Mr. Fleetwood left Addleshaws in 2014 to found business strategy software company Its website claimed the software was used by a number of large law firms, including Dentons, Bird & Bird, Pinsent Masons, and Norton Rose Fulbright.

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