2007 heralded a ‘Big Bang’ for legal services with the advent of the Legal Services Act which promised to revolutionise the profession by opening it up to external investment and competition. I had my own mini Big Bang in May the same year when I cofounded Byfield Consultancy with Richard Elsen. Richard and I first worked together almost 10 years before Byfield and went on develop our careers in the legal sector in the interim: Richard as one of the first exponents of litigation PR in the UK, and I as one of the early PRs who decided to specialise in Public Relations and reputation management for the legal sector. Fast forward from May 2007 and Byfield celebrates our 15-year anniversary which we’re marking by taking a look back, and forward, over the coming weeks.
In Byfield, we saw an opportunity to launch a PR agency dedicated to the legal sector across three core offerings of brand building PR, crisis PR and litigation PR – all under the broader umbrella of helping to build and protect our clients’ reputations. In crisis and litigation PR, our offering extended to clients of law firms, who recognised the importance of having a joined-up approach to managing legal and reputational risk.
Much has changed in the last 15 years – in both the legal profession and at Byfield. We’ve covered many of those key changes impacting the legal sector in our thought leadership reports. They include the Legal Services Act and the march of the Big 4, the justice gap with the abolition of Legal Aid, the advent of alternative business structures, increasing consolidation in the legal sector, the growth of third-party litigation funding, and initiatives on diversity and inclusion to move the needle in the right direction.
As for Byfield, we’ve worked with 175 legal sector businesses, organisations, and pro bono initiatives over the last 15 years. Byfield created the first legal PR group of the Public Relations Consultants Association, and we remain as committed as ever to legal PR gaining the recognition it deserves as an important and specialist branch of PR. We also cofounded Mirovia, the first dedicated network of international PR agencies that specialise in the legal sector and it’s a great to collaborate and work with our international partners. And we’ve worked on many of the ground-breaking legal cases affecting business and society.
Richard Elsen, our cofounder, stepped back from-day-to-day involvement in Byfield and remains a shareholder, mentor and great friend. Many of Byfield’s alumni have gone on to head the PR teams in leading law firms and other legal sector based businesses. We’re now a team of almost 20 people, who enjoy the benefits of seeing each other in person at our lovely new office in Chancery Lane as well as having the flexibility that hybrid working allows. We have a fantastic Board and advisors who support our growth and keep us motivated to learn and develop as a business for the benefit of our team, clients and the sector.
I’ve been really lucky to work with super talented colleagues at Byfield who you’ll be hearing from over the next few weeks as they chart some of the key developments they are seeing in our industry. Together, we all recognise the importance that the law and the legal sector play in advancing justice and the pivotal role of legal services in business and wider society.
I can’t quite believe where the last 15 years have gone. Byfield is now (almost) an adult and it’s good to look back and reflect on how the legal sector and we have developed in those years. We’re immensely grateful to all our clients, colleagues and journalist friends and raise glass to all of you as we celebrate our birthday. Cheers!