What do you currently do?
That’s a tricky one. I work in a niche area of the legal industry that most people don’t know exists. I am one of three directors at Bidwell Henderson Costs Consultants Ltd, a legal costs practice with a current team of 20. We provide specialist law costs drafting services to solicitors throughout the UK. Essentially what that means is that we cost solicitors’ papers from the conclusion of their case and turn them into a formal legal bill for payment. Thereafter we engage in costs proceedings all the way up to a hearing if needed. We have grown from a team of three to a multi-award winning team of 20 in under three years.
We differ from a number of our competitors because along with dealing with party v party (inter partes) costs, we also specialise in legal aid billing. This is a difficult and complex area of costs law but is very rewarding. Our solicitors achieve excellent results for some of the disadvantaged and most in-need individuals. We see the results of their hard work and help them obtain the maximum remuneration.
The best way I have found to quickly describe the profession is a legal accountant.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
My co-directors Ann, Mark and I all worked in the costs industry in London for a few years. With rising living and commuting costs, we all ended up moving home to the Midlands at the same time. We all have very different skill sets and decided we could work well together. Ann is a non-practising solicitor with extensive experience in legal aid, Mark is a qualified costs lawyer who specialises in Inter Partes and civil costs and I am a non-practising legal executive who specialises in high costs cases. We are all very driven and ambitious people who support each other when difficult situations crop up. I am pleased to say we haven’t had a disagreement yet.
What defines your way of doing business?
We incentivise our team to put quality of work first. We don’t set targets. We don’t have set hours of work. We only have high standards. This is at the core of our success. On top of that Ann, Mark and I each have specific defined responsibilities, allowing us to be masters at our own areas, and we are each responsible for certain solicitor clients.
We see ourselves as extensions of our client’s team rather than external providers. We slot in with whatever procedures, policies and people they already have in place. We don’t sign up clients to any time frames and they are free to leave us at any point, although we of course hope they don’t and we haven’t lost a client in two years so I would like to think we are doing something right.
Who do you admire?
It’s a cliché but women who have juggled tough times, raising a family and building a successful business. Particularly Karren Brady and Michelle Mone. Their books are on my bedside table. Along with having a child born with medical issues, this formed part of the inspiration for us to provide flexible working to our team.
I would also say my husband and co-director Mark. He is the reason we started the business. He had more faith in Ann and I than we had. He also has a talent for preventing Ann and I conversing over any one issue for too long!
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Yes. I wouldn’t sweat the small stuff and I would stand back and enjoy the highlights for a moment before pressing on to the next task. We set up the business on a tight budget and back then the small things felt like huge problems so I worked day and night to solve them. I identified there was an issue, attended a course of cognitive behavioural therapy and later realised it was a common problem for a lot of people. I still sometimes sweat the small stuff but on the plus side, our combined attention to detail is partly responsible for why we are so successful. We are often described as people who care too much. Not necessarily a bad thing in business.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Do it. Have faith in yourself and jump in with both feet. Don’t get comfortable and be adaptable. Keep pushing forward and on to the next task. Draw on your resources and ask for help when needed, no matter how silly you think the question may be: networking is a great way to find support. Have a contingency plan. Know your areas of weakness and have a plan in place to prevent problems occurring. Things will happen which are out of your control, it’s how you deal with them that counts. Learn from your mistakes. Have passion for what you do – your clients will see that you care, and that goes a long way. Work hard but remember to take time for yourself. Lastly, be prepared for ups and downs, and most of all, be resilient.