2018 has been a defining year for Chambers & Partners, with the exit of founder Michael Chambers, a new management team, private equity investment, a move to a new office, and a new-look website.
At the recent launch of the company’s UK directory, I spoke with chief executive Mark Wyatt for an update on some of the changes.
Firstly, you’ve changed the url of the website?
Our website had been chambersandpartners.co.uk for many years, but an opportunity arose where we could acquire chambers.com, which I think is easier and shorter to type and reflects our new direction and investment in our digital future. So, at great expense, we managed to acquire chambers.com.
On a wider level, you’ve revamped the brand and have a nice new logo. Tell me a bit about the vision you have for the brand?
Chambers is often referred to as directory. But I think our future, and I think a term that would now be more appropriate, is that we’re a law firm analytics platform. We have a lot of data and we can provide a great deal of insight into what is happening in the legal market and what is going to happen. So would I very much describe us as a data analytics firm going forward.
As to our branding we have had lots of different versions of our logo, and different versions of our name, over the years. Bringing everything together under one harmonized brand and one consolidated offering made perfect sense.
And we have brought on a new marketing director to market the products, and to drive content and traffic to general counsel and to our partners at law firms. Chambers has never had a senior marketing director before, or a formalized marketing and PR team.
You’ve spoken a lot about moving to a digital platform. Will you keep the hard copies of the directories, or drop them?
We’ll look at this. We have the UK launch tonight, and central to that is the unveiling of the hard copy books, so there is a historical appeal and heritage. We will look at the various ways that we can deliver information and how our users can manipulate that information to extract the value they need.
There’s also an environmental impact to producing large books and obviously the information dates as soon as it is published, which is not in keeping with our digital vision.
Inflexion, our private equity backers, have made funds available to us to invest in our digital footprint and digital offerings so that will be our focus.
So it’s under consideration.
You have made a big investment in staff. Can you run through the key changes?
From a technological point of view, we had to improve our digital products, so we have brought in James Lee, who was formerly the chief technology officer at House of Fraser and News International. He will lead the various teams and we’ll be building a large cutting-edge tech team over the next few weeks. We are investing significant sums in both internal and external technical solutions, which we are looking to implement over the next 12 months.
We’ve also brought on a new chief operating officer from KPMG, and a new marketing director. Chambers always shied away from marketing and PR, but we’ve put quite a large team in place now headed by Rhianna James-Moore, who’s been at Incisive Media and Lexis Nexis, among others. You’ll see a much bigger effort in terms of communicating the high quality of our rankings and information analytics to the marketplace, which is exciting.
What happened to Chambers Connect – it’s gone, right?
Yes, we’ve terminated it and moved the team to other projects.
You’ve mentioned plans to open offices in New York and Brazil? Is that happening?
I’ve been to New York recently, and met with some of the 20 largest law firms. And I’ve just got back from Sao Paulo. We see both markets as important and interesting for us. We have 214 researchers speaking 23 languages covering 200 or so countries. Our business is growing dramatically and the number of researchers that we have has grown by 10 percent since the acquisition.
The next step is to have an office footprint that gives us boots on the ground and an ability to get closer to law firms and general counsel. So I think our products would be greatly extended if we have office space in New York and Sao Paulo. And you’ll probably see other announcements coming soon.
Chambers had an office in Hong Kong a few years ago, and that lasted a little while.
That was quite a long time ago and obviously prior to our involvement with the business. I don’t know the level of investment or the strategic intent of that. It wasn’t a long-term foray in that market and it was only open for a short time. But we are interested in Asia and I’ll be visiting soon.
Can you address concerns that some have over private equity ownership, and how information will be used and the controls you have in place to safeguard sensitive information?
Firms should be reassured that any information they send us will be locked down and only used for its intended purposes. We have never had any form of slip up and we would never release confidential information accidentally, unlike other information providers in the legal marketplace. All confidential information sent to us is treated as sacred in perpetuity.
Certainly you’ll see several announcements from us that show how seriously we treat the protection of data. Everything is GDPR compliant. As soon as we acquired the business, we brought in well-known lawyers and accountancy firms to do an audit and to put appropriate systems in place. And we have spent a considerable amount of money in doing so, and will continue to do so. It’s vital. Firms have to trust that we will look after their data – and we will.
Pictured: (top) Chambers’ new office at Waterhouse Square in London (Lloyd Pearson); (middle) breakout area at Chambers’ WeWork facility (Lloyd Pearson); (bottom) launch of Chambers UK 2019 (credit: Chambers & Partners)
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