Lauren Riley - Lauren Riley on tech, lawyers and The Link App
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We spoke recently to Lauren Riley about her just launched Link App. Here, she tells us what it’s all about, what she took away from her time on The Apprentice, and the things she thinks you need to do to succeed in whichever field you may choose.
What prompted the development of the app?
It came about when I was at my old law firm, listening to the constant complaints of my colleagues, who were prevented from getting on with their day because of clients popping in, sending emails and phoning up, all of which piled up and delayed getting on with actual work. Of course clients have a right to know what is happening on their matter, but something wasn’t right in the balance. It struck me, as someone of the smartphone generation, that there must be a better way of dealing with client communications and using an app seemed like the way to go. I started doing some research to see if something already existed, but couldn’t find anything. It all started to solidify as I heard ever more from colleagues - and clients - so I thought that I would try and bring the idea to life.
I conceived the idea for lawyers and firms, on the basis that there was a more efficient way of communicating to give us more time in the day, but the other side of the equation is the client experience. The number one complaint is not being kept in the loop. The app seeks to address that. And at this stage, it is a unique product and a great way for firms to differentiate their offerings.
Why did you decide to crowdfund the app?
It made sense to us as we’re a modern, forward-thinking company, and crowdfunding is such a phenomenon in the investment world. But what really swayed it was the opportunity to open it up to lawyers and firms, allowing them to invest in, and shape the development of, the company. So far, the signs are good, and we’ve got lots of potential investors and good brand awareness.
Have you encountered any specific challenges in either developing the app?
I found the technical side of things the most challenging, because my background is law - I wasn’t involved in the physical coding myself! I was very much out of my comfort zone. But we got the right team in place; the tech team working on the tech, and me focusing on lawyers and what they need and want.
Have you got any predictions for other ways in which technology may change/enhance the way lawyers and clients interact?
Now that I’ve dipped my toe into the tech scene, I go to tech fairs and you wouldn’t believe what’s out there; it blows my mind! Specific to the legal sector, the one thing that I think will become huge is cloud computing. For example, the recent fire in Holborn where thousands of people were evacuated and the cost to businesses was massive would have been much more serious and costly if documents weren’t saved on the cloud. Also, as smartphones are now most people’s first screen for accessing the internet, I think that apps will take over from social media I terms of the way that brands engage with customers.
Do you think lawyers are as resistant to technological change as they used to be?
I think that perception is harsh, often comes from people outside the law and doesn’t reflect the profession any more. The traditional view of law firms as being outmoded is turning a corner. I speak to lots of firms about our app and other technology, and they are definitely willing to embrace it, especially as they realise it is for the benefit of their clients and their businesses.
Did you develop skills/techniques from being on The Apprentice that you now use in your everyday working life?
The main thing that I took away from it was an extra layer of self-belief. I’m not sure I gained any totally new skills, but it did give me the chance to do some interesting things that were tested during the tasks. For example, as a lawyer, you don’t necessarily think that sales is a strength, but when I did manage to excel, it felt great. I also got to understand myself as a person better – there were a lot of people involved who had their own unique ideas about what success is, but I remained true to my views. People often stop me and say that I came across well as a person, and that’s really nice and reassuring to hear.
Have you got any top tips for would-be entrepreneurs?
One of the things I am most complimented on by investors is that I know my field, and that is because I am selling to people and within the industry that I work in. If you are going to pursue being entrepreneurial, focus on something that you know about so that you can deliver it with both passion and expertise.
Have you got any top tips for would-be lawyers?
One thing that resonates with audiences when I’m doing my public speaking is that my journey to law wasn’t straight – I took time out and gained some real life work experience. That proved invaluable in both having material for my CV and to talk about at interview. I’d definitely encourage people to get out there into the world and get some commercial experience in the business world. Law firms are increasingly recognising that it’s not just law they’re selling.
Lauren Riley is a solicitor, creator of The Link App and starred in the 2014 season of The Apprentice. The Link App’s crowdfunding page is live at www.crowd2fund.com/thelinkapp . For more information please visit www.thelinkapp.co.uk.