At the start of 2013, Jonathan Lea, who grew up in Lewes, quit his law firm job in London and started working as a self-employed solicitor. Not having the capital needed to set up and run his own regulated firm, Jonathan instead provided his services under the regulatory and insurance umbrella of an established law firm, using their cloud IT systems and working remotely, mostly from a laptop in his then one-bedroom flat near Peckham.
From the start, Jonathan followed his interest in internet marketing to build a website and publish useful content that generated much more work than he could manage himself. Hence for the first four years, Jonathan also developed a matching service whereby in return for a small commission, he would refer work to a network of recommended law firms.
In 2016 Jonathan re-located to Haywards Heath as it offered a well-connected and lower cost area to grow a business in the long term. After getting fed up of passing clients to other law firms, in 2017 he moved into an office and started employing people before at the start of 2019 his team finally started trading as their own regulated firm.
The firm now consists of a core team of eight paralegals, trainees, solicitors and support staff based at their Haywards Heath office, who combine seamlessly with a network of specialist self-employed solicitors that work on a remote basis and contract through the firm. The firm has so far developed organically by carefully re-investing its cash-flow and, as a result of growing the team and being able to take on more instructions, over the last 18 months alone the firm’s turnover has increased more than five-fold.
The Jonathan Lea Network has to-date acted itself for over 500 clients. Due to the strength of the firm’s website and its online brand, the team have developed a loyal following throughout the UK and from around the world. Much of their work comes from both advising UK clients on business deals overseas and foreign clients on their UK operations. A recent example has been assisting a New York headquartered Australian construction group with intellectual property issues relating to the use of its patented technology in the UK.
Jonathan started his career at the top international City firm Clyde & Co before also working at smaller firms. He always wanted to start his own practice, and the longer he spent working for others, the more frustrated he became with the bad management he witnessed, especially the poor use of IT and the difficulty in getting partnerships to embrace new ideas and opportunities.
“Most law firms are quite traditional, and the way they work can be unduly laborious, which is often reflected in questionable output and overly high fees,” Jonathan explains. “But as a young firm with no legacy overheads or outdated management we’re free to adopt new ways of doing things and can be more resourceful, incisive, and client-focused, to get results and complete work more cost-effectively and responsively.
“We act for entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes to handle their legal work, which includes both completing transactions and settling disputes, adopting a tailored, pragmatic and transparent approach to each matter we take on. Even though we rarely meet our clients in-person, we have built excellent relationships and get many repeat instructions.
“Three simple things of note help us be more productive and work faster. An open-plan office means there is much better communication and knowledge sharing between the central team members, everyone has two monitors which makes it much easier to process work and thirdly we operate a paperless office where there is no time lost having to maintain physical files which no longer serve any purpose when it is much quicker and more secure to store and locate information digitally.
“As our cash reserves grow, we have recently invested in leading legal software and research tools, a bigger office and various new marketing initiatives, including the development of an e-commerce shop where people can download a variety of legal template products. This has already started to work well, and we have even had an accountant who bought one of our tax clearance letters refer us to their clients for new instructions.
“Although we’re a new business, we already pay market leading salaries for a law firm in Sussex, while at the same time remaining economical and profitable” Jonathan adds.
Jonathan is always alert to new opportunities and will soon be spending some time in Pune, often called the ‘Oxford of the East’, with an Indian law firm he hopes to develop an outsourcing relationship with.
Despite their reputation for advising businesses whose main assets are intangible and tech-related, the firm has also been attracting an increasing amount of property work. The team recently assisted buyers of both a Sussex golf course and a local convenience store, while they also acted for the sellers of a 70-year-old company that owns residential and commercial property near Sloane Square.
Jonathan and his team’s forward-thinking and pragmatic approach has proved an attractive combination for clients and seems sure to lead to their practice soon becoming one of the most well known and respected law firms based in Sussex.
Jonathan Lea Network
John de Mierre House
Haywards Heath. RH16 1UA
Phone: 01444 708640