Interview with Chris Pearce, Partner, at Blackwall Legal

Wow, new firm! Congratulations. Take us back 12 months. Where was Blackwall Legal conceived and what convinced you / your founding partners to make the jump?

There is a lot of traditional thinking in law.  People do things because that’s the way they’ve always done them.  I have seen clients increasingly turn their backs on that approach, and I want to be in a position to respond in a way that gives clients what they need.  Some of the larger, more established firms will take much longer to adapt and change, and at Blackwall Legal we want to be at the frontier.

What’s behind the name (“Blackwall Legal”)?

One of the inspirations is a place called Blackwall Reach on the Swan River in Western Australia.  I remember jumping off the cliffs at Blackwall Reach as a kid, which is a nice metaphor for what we’re doing here by launching the firm.  But there are historical links too.  London’s heritage bus route 15 to Blackwall runs past the old Inns of Court, the Royal Courts of Justice and then through the heart of the modern legal district.

You have expertise in resources and finance law – what are the specific challenges for clients in these areas and how do you address these?

The resource sector is facing some tough times.  That means people have to be extra careful about spending big on legal fees.  We understand the change in risk appetite and take steps to ensure our clients get what they need.

Do you have a view on alternative fee arrangements and what will Blackwall Legal offer in that respect?

I think a fee structure on any matter should reflect our client’s risk appetite and appropriate incentives for the work we do.  If we can easily estimate how long something will take us to do, we can fix our fees and provide comfort to the clients.  Sometimes hourly rates will be appropriate, other times fixed fee work and success arrangements can be part of the mix.

What would you say to someone in business who can’t afford a huge legal spend and can’t afford an in house lawyer. Is there a happy middle ground?

Increasingly there is.  Sometimes a quick review and a bit of a summary can be much better than nothing, and we can help our clients get the right result even if we don’t do all the work ourselves.  Sometimes you don’t need a 10 page memorandum, you just need to be pointed in the right direction.

What do you see as Blackwall Legal’s main value proposition versus its competitors?

We keep overheads low and utilise technology to allow the provision of good advice at more affordable rates.

What’s going to be your focus for the next 12 months?

We’ll be launching in Hong Kong in the next couple of months and growing the Perth firm in the early new year.  We’ll be working hard on streamlining services between our offices so that we can provide the best service to our clients in all locations.

If your firm had a mascot animal, which animal would it be? Why?

Have you seen the Youtube ads of that Texas Law Hawk guy?  Believe me it’s something else altogether.  So we would probably choose anything but a bird of prey.

In the last five years, what is the biggest change you’ve seen in the way that legal services are delivered?

Big data has changed everything.  It means it’s much easier to find lots of case law for or against a position; it means discovery is becoming harder and harder in litigation; an increasingly it is allowing the provision of good documents more cheaply.  One of the challenges is to ensure the quality remains high, and people don’t always get it right.  It’s something we are very focussed on at Blackwall Legal.

What’s the most thrilling aspect of practising law for you, personally?

I like helping clients achieve innovative solutions to their issues.  If you can come up with a new way of doing things that makes it easier, cheaper, or just simply better for your stakeholders, well that’s a great result.

If you weren’t a lawyer, what line of business would you be in?

Probably science.  I studied chemistry at university and have always tried to stay up to date with technology.

Chris Pearce is Partner at Blackwall Legal LLP.