If you didn’t see the Hull Daily Mail on Wednesday 6th October 2017, here’s the Big Interview by business reporter Henry Saker-Clark, that charts the meteoric rise of lawyer Gary Gallen and his law firm rradar.
From a conservatory at home, to an office with 80 employees in five years.
“Travelling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy”, says Han Solo to a young Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film, A New Hope.
When asked to conjure up inspirational quotes, perhaps this isn’t the first one that comes to mind, and it’s certainly an unusual one to see on a law firm’s wall.
But rradar is not a typical law firm, and Gary Gallen is not your typical CEO.
It’s quite clear from the outset that his legal services firm, which he built from scratch five years ago, doesn’t quite fit the usual mould as he describes the company’s ethos, with Simon and Garfunkel lyrics above his head.
Five years ago, his office was the conservatory of his home in the middle of the East Yorkshire countryside, near Burnby. Now, he speaks to me in office containing a miniature putting green, rope swings, a ping-pong table, an audio recording suite and classic arcade games with the firm’s logo printed on the front.
The office houses 80 employees, but Mr Gallen says he hopes for another 40 before the end of the year. The rate of growth seems extraordinary given the company’s beginnings.“I remember one of my clients saying, ‘You are the only person I’d travel miles into the middle of nowhere to see’. I was completely off the beaten track,” he said.
“I needed a change and five years ago the law changed as to how one could start up a legal practice. I set up the business in my conservatory and started from there, really.
“I’m from an Irish immigrant family, which moved to Scunthorpe and ended up working my way up to one of the biggest law firms in the world.
“I worked with big, successful firms, but I couldn’t get the places where I’d worked to change their attitudes, to see what I felt was needed in the industry. To make that change I had to start rradar from scratch.
“We have 80 employees and have nine new arrivals already sorted. I think we will have well over 100 by Christmas, ideally about 40 more than we have now.
“We are trying to build a different sort of culture and environment.”
The different environment is obvious, with broadcasting booths and design areas alongside the more traditional open office space.
Differing from a traditional firm, the legal services company has 20 members of staff trained in marketing and design as well as a traditional legal service.
Mr Gallen said: “When I told people about this, they said Hull was a backwater and I wouldn’t be able to convince the best people to work here.
“People often say one of the big problems is retaining talent here, but we’ve been attracting employees from Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham and Harrogate to work here. Our Hull station is our headquarters, but we also have stations in Leeds and Glasgow.”
The firm hopes to regenerate the way in which legal claims are dealt with, trying to prevent the need for them to be made, with clients paying rradar for a service in order to significantly reduce their number of annual claims. Mr Gallen says this is a particularly important service when dealing with small businesses, for whom large claims could be crippling. Rather than only receiving payment after a case has gone to court and claims have been won or rejected, the company would be paid in similar way to insurance companies such as AXA, with whom they work closely.
Mr Gallen said: “We take a lot of price in representing small businesses. I can’t think there have been many things that have made me prouder than getting a letter from a third-generation business in Beverley, which said we stopped them closing down.
“They were facing a claim bigger than they would be able to afford, but have insurance with AXA and we could, therefore, help them as part of that.
“The fact is I think people recognise that they are getting reliable and credible advice because we are backed by AXA, the 15th biggest company in the world.”
AXA has partnered with rradar to provide legal services for up to 50,000 policy-holders who hold its business management liability policy.
The company also focuses on recruitment and training, not only for its expert legal team but also by supporting them with an expanding group of in-house developers and programmers.
The development team has created interactive apps for clients, such as rradargrace, named after Mr Gallen’s daughter, to produce content to update clients on development in the law.
By pushing legal and business developments through new and unique channels, Mr Gallen seeks to keep the company at the forefront of the industry.