James Knight
James Knight, CEO of Keystone

In a year that has made everyone revise their opinions of what normal looks like in business, it is fitting that the biggest award of the year goes to firm that like no other, encapsulates the radical changes that have happened in the legal sector.

For the first time in the history of The Lawyer Awards in association with Travelers, the top prize of Law Firm of the Year goes to a non-traditional firm – Keystone Law.

From its beginnings in 2012, Keystone has genuinely rethought the model from the ground up. It does not operate a traditional partnership structure; instead, every lawyer is a consultant, and the firm has consistently majored on work-life balance and giving its lawyers autonomy.

That autonomy has borne fruit; Keystone not only has a respected and vibrant litigation practice but is also anchored with a wealth of mid-tier corporate, commercial, employment and real estate work for clients such as Bosch, BBC and Virgin Atlantic.

Its growth trajectory has been meteoric, from its early days as cheeky start-up to tech-enabled legal services provider that just keeps attracting senior talent from traditional law firms. Since its listing in 2017 it has consistently kept its City investors happy, and no wonder: in 2019 revenue rocketed by 35 per cent, while 2020 recorded double-digit turnover growth, reaching nearly £50m and a healthy cash position. 2020 saw the firm’s first international move, with a launch in the Middle East. During the early days of the pandemic Keystone – unlike many other firms operating in its market – set its face against taking UK Government furlough money.

In a year where the entire legal profession had to go virtual, Keystone has been light-years ahead. While it is the first time that a non-traditional law firm has won the big prize at The Lawyer Awards, it may not be the last – and that underlines the scale of the revolution that Keystone has spearheaded.

Message from the sponsor, Travelers

Law firms have experienced their fair share of workspace reinvention in recent decades – from traditional set-ups with senior partners in corner offices and heavy legal volumes stacked on shelves, to more agile, open, paperless workspaces. Now Covid-19 has thrust the legal community into yet another new structure: remote work.

If employees of law firms – among many other businesses – continue this phase of significantly reduced time spent together with colleagues and clients alike, what will it mean for team collaboration and client service? How can a firm instill cultural values and maintain its identity in the long term when employees work apart from their office and team? Can trainees effectively hone their skills when they aren’t physically in an office setting observing how legal work is conducted and asking questions on the spot? How can managers monitor employee productivity and wellbeing, as well as manage the additional risks of supervising a remote workforce? When the technology that enables remote work allows employees to log in to work at any hour, how can burnout be prevented? Some of these challenges may take time and effort for businesses to see – but studying them may provide a competitive advantage.

Solicitors are expected to think ahead – to provide sound counsel and reliably anticipate risks. The same could be said of law firms themselves. A firm’s success and good name depend on its ability to confidently prepare for the future.

Travelers can help in that effort. As one of the UK’s leading solicitors’ professional indemnity insurers, we have an expert team of underwriters, claims handlers and risk managers with experience in many areas of the legal sector. We help clients understand and manage their risks so they can deliver superior service and embrace new opportunities that will enrich their business.