Lessons I Learned in Law

Richard Mabey on being flexible in how you achieve results

March 17, 2022 Heriot Brown Season 3 Episode 1
Lessons I Learned in Law
Richard Mabey on being flexible in how you achieve results
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Lessons I Learned in Law Scott Brown speaks to Richard Mabey, Co-Founder and CEO of Juro. Juro is an all-in-one contract automation platform that helps legal counsel and their teams agree to manage contracts in one unified workspace.  

Richard shares the three lessons she has learned in law including:

  • Keep it simple and really understand the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Love the details. Increasing the level of attention and craft put into a project will generate greater returns.
  • Trust and deliver. Focus on results, but be flexible in how they are achieved.

Richard also reveals why he thinks Microsoft Word is hugely unhelpful in the legal profession and should be confined to the depths of Room 101.

Presented by Scott Brown of Heriot Brown Legal Recruitment.

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This episode of Lessons I Learned in Law is brought to you by Beamery.

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Scott Brown (00:00):

Hi, and welcome to Lessons I Learned in Law with me Scott Brown. I'm founder and director at Herriot Brown In-House Legal Recruitment. On this podcast, you get to hear my conversations with a top legal mind and hopefully they can share some valuable insights on the lessons that they've learned during their legal career and have it's shaped their career to date as well. This, this week on this episode of the podcast, I'm delighted to be joined by someone who's left the profession, but is still very much involved in the, the in-house legal space. And I'm joined by Richard Mabey who is CEO at Juro - the all-in-one contract automation platform. Thanks for joining me, Richard,

Richard Mabey (00:51):

Thank you for having me on.

Scott Brown (00:53):

Great to meet you. And I've, I've heard a lot from our clients and, and prospective clients about Juro one way or another and all, all great stuff. So keen to hear more about it.

Richard Mabey (01:05):

Happy to hear it, happy to hear it, and they are good to chat.

Scott Brown (01:09):

And congratulations on the latest fundraise at Juro - series B. So how's that been?

Richard Mabey (01:19):

It's been busy. So THANK you. Yeah, so we, we, we announced our round in January. So last month from the point we're recording this and yeah, we we're really happy to be partnering with eight roads who led the round and some of our other investors like USV and point nines, Tavets from Wise coming on the journey. It, it always feels like a great achievement at the time, but then when you come out of the end of the fundraising process, you've realized you've sort of filled up the car with some  petrol and you've then gotta drive it somewhere. So  it's always exciting process.

Scott Brown (01:57):

Yeah, amazing. Yeah.  Long way, a long road ahead, I guess, from the from getting that funding on and, and growth. So keen to keen to follow that journey and, and hear more, hear more about it. 

But we'll just jump right in if you could share lesson one with as Richard?

Richard Mabey (02:14):

Yeah. So I've tied these lessons back to our company values. Cause I think values really you know, come, come from the team, the early team, especially also the founders. And so my first lesson is called, keep it simple which is one of our company values and you can read about it on, on juro .com. So, so I think, you know, the kind of question here is like, what, what do we learn in, in law? So actually as a practicing lawyer, like what did I learn and what did I take with me? And, and I think the number one thing I learned - I, I trained at fresh fields - was to get really good at understanding what the question is. So, you know, when we were kind of solving a, you know, a more complex legal problem, you tend to spend like quite a lot of time, just kind of framing, ‘what is it you actually need to answer’?

Richard Mabey (03:04):

So maybe this isn't giving a piece of legal advice and litigation something like this. I was a M&A lawyer, but you know, every time we kind of got on something complex, I remember my supervisors and kind of the partners at Freshfields would fixate in on- what question are we actually answering? And often you can kind of run analysis, which just answers the wrong question. You spend a lot of time kind of going through it and you get to the end of it and go, oh, actually, that wasn't really what we needed to, to ask. And so, you know, when I got into Juro, when we started running the company, you know, a lot of the early work was around product development. So that is basically like understanding your users, what are their problems? What are the really big problems?

Richard Mabey (03:46):

How can we build solutions to their problems? And then, you know, you ship product and you kind of hope people use it. And so I, I felt there was a really good analogy with understanding user needs with knowing what the question is. So kind of like know, knowing what the problem is that people need to solve. And I think the lesson you take there is like, sometimes you just gotta like slow down, right? So you just slow down, you need to work out like what we're actually trying to do in this company. Like what, what is it exact, I know it's something to do with contracts, but what is it that we solve? And that gave us a real, so I think, you know, the way in which we started to think about the problem space really, really deeply understand in-house lawyers really, really deeply, what do they do with contracts? What's the status quo for that? Why is that bad? What's the impact of using these, you know, manual tools like Microsoft word and email spell the lot of time there. And then when you get that right. Actually shipping the solutions a little bit easier. 

Scott Brown (04:46):

Yeah. Love looking at that at that, base problem. I think it's, yeah. Clearly, clearly important. How, how much, how much of that do you think from your time at Freshfields and I guess this is from an angle of advice to junior lawyers - I've been there as a as a lawyer myself - you're a part of a massive transaction. So it's often quite difficult to know what the problem is that you're trying to solve, because you're a small cog and a big wheel.

Richard Mabey (05:14):

Yeah. I, I think that's absolutely right. I mean, I was sort of very difficult lawyer. I mean, I long I would've survived in the profession, but I remember like asking for a lot of context all the time and, you know, I would, especially with clients, I was always kind of curious to know these like private equity clients you know, what, what was this investment all about? Can I look at the Excel model? Am I sort of supervisor, what are you talking about? We, we dealt with word, not Excel. I, I was just very like curious. I was still, you know, a curious person. So kind of going deep into this, you know, this question of why, right? So, so let's, let's take your example. Why you take a M&A transaction, you know, we all know what's gonna be done.

Richard Mabey (05:54):

It's gonna be like the same, more or less the same process. There's gonna be disclosure. There's gonna be an SPA. Like that's not the new stuff. The, the nuance is gonna be, ‘do you understand the client's business really well’? How do you do that? You have to ask some questions, right? So you have to actually be interested. You have to ask these things and, you know, I, I think this is ultimately what can give junior lawyers an edge is understanding the wider context. So for example, why is the, this M&A transaction? Not just, it's a thing happening, I gotta deal with the, the mess and do the stuff, but like, why what's the rationale behind it? What are, what are the risks that the client cares about - all these questions I think can, can really help you get context.

Scott Brown (06:32):

Yeah. Yeah. So being, being, being naturally inquisitive. Yeah. I, I get it. That's good. The problems that you've, you've looked to solve at Juro, how have those have those changed over the time? So what you founded in 2016 - during the last five years or so, has that problem that you've been looking to solve? Has that changed? 

Richard Mabey (06:56):

Massively? Yes. So, so the problem that I saw as a lawyer, and this was mostly from being seconded to in house legal teams was very simple, which is on average, it takes five tools to agree one contract. So you've got word, email, you know, PDF, DocuSign, Google drive sometimes, sometimes actually more than that. And that struck me as woefully inefficient. And actually most people agree with that. Now, I think I think most of our learning came from getting our first customers. So our really early customers like Deliveroo sell a customer today, but was, you know, one of our really early ones actually taught us much more than we came in with as entrepreneurs. So how do we do that? A lot of user discovery , I mean, I'm talking like painful levels of discovery. I'm talking about sitting down next to your users for a week in their office and watch them assemble contracts in Microsoft word.

Richard Mabey (07:50):

Right. Like really, really like deep discovery. And yeah, we realized some of our assumptions were wrong. So some of the things we thought would be the case, weren't the and, and the combination of those two things just gave us the insights we really needed. So, you know, as you say, we're an all-in-one contract automation platform. That's not a contract management platform -  it's actually quite different. And so some of the, the real insights, like, you know, building a browser-native editor that allows for synchronous communication internally and asynchronous communication externally. This is like, you know, no one really cares about the technical stuff, but we learn these insights, the painful discovery of realizing lawyers actually quite like Google docs, but not when it comes to sharing it. Right. And they quite like word for sharing it, but they don't like word for, for collaborating with their colleagues. These, like, really, really specific things. So you, you become quite knowledgeable. And then I see like what you ship, which is really the only thing that actually matters what you ship to them is usable and good. And in legal tech, you know, it's, it's one, most, most companies it's, it's often not the case.

Scott Brown (08:56):

Right, right. Awesome clients to have, to have that level of trust as well, to sit and do the, that, that process and getting the, on the spot feedback as well. And, and yeah, a great, great process to go through

Richard Mabey (09:10):

It. It, it, it, it's amazing believers you have, and I'm sure some of your clients are like this, but you know, I love working with in-house lawyers who kind of push the boundaries and there are actually plenty of them. People who, who, you know, enter whatever kind of company look around them and go, these processes are all terrible. I wanna rip these up. I wanna create a better solution. That's what excites me. And you find these people who will, you know, buy a half baked product five years ago that doesn't have everything they need, because they wanna come on the journey and wanna influence it. And you know, some of them are still, you know, customers six years later.

Scott Brown (09:47):

We’ll move, we'll move on to, to lesson, lesson two, if you don't mind.

Richard Mabey (09:55):

So less number two, again, a company value at Juro is ‘Love the Details’. So lawyers often quite detail minded. This is something that people, I mean now have 70 people in the company, but people often say JRO is a company that has quite good attention to detail. So, so I guess, you know, to tie this back to, to me, in my experience in law like I remember literally reading 100 page documents and proofreading them as a, as a trainee solicitor. And you would make one mistake on page 67. Yeah. And your supervisor would be like, wait, hold on. There's a mistake on page 67. And like, oh, the rest of it was all like you fine. And you know, in, in life. And, and as I've kind of gone into tech and other things you realise you you'd be quite 80, 20 about things, sometimes you don't have to get it to that level of detail.

Richard Mabey (10:47):

You can just kind of get by and move fast. But actually sometimes you do, right. And then legal documents you really do. Right. Like a mistake could lead to massive liability. So, so that, that discipline it's a little bit like being a kind of crafts person, right. It's like you know, being a sushi master, you know, for the first three years, you're just like cutting slices of fish. Well, first three years you're doing like washing up. If you do well, you get to make an omelette. And then like six years later, you cut your first slice of fish. Right. And you just do it again and again, become, become a master. I, I actually, you know, we we've seen this like a lot in Juro so I think in, in areas like product and design, so we have like a, you know, a very good design team led by Ilia who we hired from Revolut. And in, in that design team, like the level of attention to detail is spectacular. So I'm talking like, you know, when we were designing what a contract would look like in Juro we spent quite a lot of time on what shade of white the contract would be.

Scott Brown (11:45):


Richard Mabey (11:46):

We did like, you know, we were looking at like, does it strain people's eyes? If they look at this for three hours a day, maybe if we changed the Hexadecimal to a gentler shade that would give them a better experience. Like this is stuff most people don't think about. Right. but that, that detail, these things kind of compound. And I think, you know, the training I had at Freshfields, which was kind of all about detail helped massively. And it's not just product by the way, it's, it's other things. So like in people, in talent, we got get an amazing function there. We have like an employee NPS of like 91, which is sky high. And a lot of that is down to, you know, the people in talent team bringing craft into everything, you know, job description, like someone called out the other day, you know, Juro had like one of the best ever job descriptions that read and like, well, seems a weird thing to call out on social media. But actually, you know, if you, if you actually put that level of craft and detail into these things, you can generate outside returns, which might be like hiring an amazing candidate, or it might be, you know, that, that people like your product and want to buy it. Yeah. But it matters.

Scott Brown (12:51):

Yeah. Yeah, no, I've, I've noticed the whenever or I think a couple of times, I've, I've noticed a few things that you've put out there - writing that sort of content, I don't think just comes off the, the tongue all the time. So there must be there must be time invested and it obviously gets the, gets the return. 

 So, I guess that is what I'm interested to know is that lawyers are often tarnished or given the given the trait -a trait often leveled on lawyers is the perfectionism and striving for perfectionism. Is there, is there a time where you think that level of details hindered or it's been an obstacle to get around?

Richard Mabey (13:45):

Yeah, it's a good question. I mean, people, people are very down on lawyers. I, I, I love lawyers. Right. I spend all my time working with them. I think, I think, you know, lawyers - not just people who've, you know, are solicitors, but like people who are working in legal ops functions and people who are involved in the general kind of profession, there's some amazing people out there. Definitely, you're right. You can kind of get into this perfectionism thing. That's a charge that's been levelled against me on quite a few occasions. I'm happy, happy to admit.

Richard Mabey (14:18):

I think, I think it's like anything. It's like the, the Daniel Cannaman book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, right? Sometimes you gotta slow down, you gotta get something 99.9%. Right. Sometimes you can speed up. Right. And I think a lot of what we do in the company sort of undulate between the two. And so we look at, you know, if it's a really decision, like, you know, ‘What are we gonna ship next quarter in our roadmap?’, we really slow it down. Right. And we don't mind taking a couple of weeks over that if it's a decision on, like, ‘where are we having on the next company offsite?’ It's like ‘Malta’. Yeah. Let's just, just make the decision move on. And it, it is a hard skill to master and of course I get it wrong, you know, all, all the time, but that, that's what we strive for.

Scott Brown (14:59):

Yeah. Good. Do you think lawyers naturally make good entrepreneurs?

Richard Mabey (15:09):

Okay. So this is the weirdest thing, right? So like the, the sort of answer is like, ‘no’, right. So everyone says, you know, lawyers make terrible entrepreneurs like they’re risk averse, they fixate on the detail, they're terrible at sales, they're often introverted. And actually I think all that is wrong and I, I will cite two examples from fresh fields. One, I hope it's me. So we've got, you know, we've got somewhere with Juro we've got you know, we've processed 300,000 contracts. We've got 30 million in funding. We have a team of 70, we work with 20 unicorns. Like we we've managed to go from sort of lawyer to entrepreneur. It seems to have happened. 

The second is actually, I made an angel investment last year in a company called Hago which is a used to call virtual trips. It's basically something you can go on a vacation from your from your sofa. And it founded by a Freshfields associate who just kept sending me these messages on LinkedIn. I kept replying saying, ‘go away’. And eventually I spoke to him and this amazing business, and I backed the business. They've just raised 20 million series A announced this week. So actually like weirdly Freshfields seems to be becoming an incubator for innovation. Right. That's these are the examples that we have so far.

Scott Brown (16:23):

Yeah, no, that's cool. And I know like Ben at crafty council, obviously being a an ex lawyer as well,

Richard Mabey (16:29):

And Ben's, Ben's fantastic and he's built, you know, incredibly creative business. So it's anything is possible. I think this, this is why I become, you know, so bullish on lawyers and we hired, you know, some, some ex lawyers in, in our business. I think they have a lot to offer.

Scott Brown (16:45):

Yeah. Yeah. I think it's, I think it's key not to, not to put people in in buckets put people in to certain stereotypes. I think everyone's capable of selling selling something. 

In terms of stuff outside last year, I feel like this the podcast is becoming a bit of a parents anonymous - a place for that, that you've got two, two young kids?

Richard Mabey (17:18):

I do. Yeah. Yeah. So I have Otto and Lola as so ones for four and ones too. So they're they're still relatively young and yeah. Keep me busy while I'm not, not doing Juro. 

Scott Brown (17:28):

Yeah, I bet. Do you do you time to spend with them from, from work must be hard to juggle?

Richard Mabey (17:36):

I do. I mean, you know, the it's, it's been interesting. I mean, definitely kind of you know, we, we have a London Harbor RGA hub and a remote hub, so Juro is quite distributed and, you know, people work very flexibly and I do the same. So I, you know, probably in the office two days a week and home three days and, you know, the, the great advantage I found for me other than the fact that there aren't millions of questions flying in all the time I can do work is I can put my children to bed every night with no problem. And I, I do it every single night. I think the, the, the juggling thing as an entrepreneur. It does get a little easier over time. So I think there was definitely a time at Juro where I was running sort probably 10 functions. Yeah. And just the crushing quantity of work prevents that. But I think if you are, if you make the right recruitment decisions, you build a good team. Now I'm, I'm gradually getting fired from all of the major things at Juro. So I know no longer allowed to sell J I'm not allowed to demo it. I don't make the product decisions. And so, yeah, you, you get not quite balanced, but you get, you get some time back. And yeah, the rest of my time is, is mostly with the children.

Scott Brown (18:43):

Nice, nice. And interest outside of outside the family and work. What, what do you do to unwind?

Richard Mabey (18:49):

So, I mean, I, I'm a pianist. I wanted really badly to become a musician. I wasn't quite good enough. So I, I chose second best, which was being a lawyer. I still spend a lot of time playing the piano going to concerts that that's sort of my, my big kind of hobby, if you like. Yeah. And then yeah, I spend increasing amounts of time outside of London. So my, my wife is part of a sheep farming family. So I currently on their, on their sheep farm and we get a bit involved in that's quite radically different from software as a service, but yeah. Yeah. Lots of fun.

Scott Brown (19:26):

When’s lambing season is that, that must be coming up. Is it?

Richard Mabey (19:29):

It's coming, coming up fast. Yeah. Yeah.

Scott Brown (19:32):

I've got a mate that lives in Orkney that's yeah, always always sending or posting videos of Lambing season. So yeah, I know it well. Etched into my memory.

We'll move on to lesson three...

Richard Mabey (19:49):

Great. Yeah. So this is another company value, which is trust and deliver. So to give some context on this value is all about transparency and results. So at Juro we like to kind of share what we do and also try to judge people on results, right? So in, in a world, in which we kind of commit to great flexibility for people, we're incredibly flexible, I think, as a company on where you work, how you work, how you run projects, all of these things and we're quite rigid on, on results. So we are a kind of a results driven company and we  think people should be, you know, fairly rewarded for being high performers in, in that way. Thinking back to law - again, my training was like, I, I was definitely part of that. Like, I didn't even this still happen, so I haven't been a lawyer for so long, but I was definitely part of the, like, let's work all night kind of generation of lawyers.

Richard Mabey (20:42):

And, you know, I, it was sort of okay, as a kind of 20, 23, 24 year old, I just got got on with it. But I, I think like outside of just like the, the hours put in, I think the extreme velocity of that work actually left an indelible mark and, you know, new work on these transactions where it just seems impossible. There's just so many documents. There's so many things to do. The time frame is so short, but somehow you manage to sort of get there and get a great result from the client. And I think, you know I do work very hard and, and I do think that is something that was instilled in me from those days. Cause before that I was at like university, I did like frankly, no work. Yeah. And, and so on there, I had just the discipline of like, ‘can you actually like really have this critical level of focus’ ?

Richard Mabey (21:33):

And, you know, I think the, you know, in entrepreneurship, my general belief is that like, you know, talent plays some parts, but the bigger parts are really luck and hard work. So it's like actually do have the discipline to just work harder than, than most other people. And, you know, sometimes unfortunately it does mean like, you know, putting in long hours. Sometimes it just means being really focused. But that drive for, can you produce like 10 times the amount of results that you could have done as a student in the  same amount of time or a hundred times the amount of results, it all compounds over time. So I think that just that, that relentless drive for how do we get results and working really hard that, that, that was a, you know, a real thing I took away from my time at threshold.

Scott Brown (22:23):

Yeah. Gave you a really high pain threshold to right. For what's what you could tolerate.

Richard Mabey (22:31):

Exactly, exactly. 

Scott Brown (22:33):

I guess that drive is innate in, in people, but it must the switch - I find that in running my own business as well, when it's your own thing, it is multiplied in your, your motivation, your incentive. Did you find it was a, a turning point or you changed when it became?

Richard Mabey (22:56):

It? It's interesting. I mean, definitely like I was an incredibly lazy student. So I really, you know, I got up late. I didn't do so much work. I did like a lot of my own reading. I didn't, you know, I wasn't very disciplined by anything honestly. And you know, going to bootcamp AKA training contract professionals that did definitely have a marked impact on just, just self discipline, I would say. I'd absolutely agree with that. I think, you know, partly this is a function of circumstance, so yes, absolutely. If you have, you know, your own business or if you are an early employer at a, a business where you, you know, significant equity stake, for example, it's the same kind of principle. There's a, a big, potential upside for you. And then, you know, just sometimes circumstantial, just like being a little bit, you know, up against it.

Richard Mabey (23:42):

I found somehow creates amazing results. So, you know, we're fortunate now and you know, where we are at with Juro and of course, you know, to the outside world, it might, it might look sort of straightforward. You just raise all this money and it sort of, it all happens magically, but there were definitely, you know, really hard times where, especially in the really early days where, you know, we wondered whether we could actually make it successful and we really up against the wall, you know, running out of money and like you know, someone leaves and it, it all seems like the world is collapsing, but somehow in those moments, especially with my co-founder Powell, who's been a huge part of the story. We've just like got together and we've sort of stuff out we've done, like the work of our lives, the, the facilitated by the taste of desperation.

Richard Mabey (24:27):

Right. And somehow that, that, that's where the, those like really core insights came from. So yeah, pressure. I, I personally, I, I thrive on it. It, it helps me to perform. And of course, I think as a lawyer, you know, not just a pressure feels for any lawyer is under a huge amount of pressure, right. From the, their clients from, you know, you know, people in the business, sending them, you know, NDAs to review at 11:00 PM on the last day of the quarter, there's this, you know, this onslaught of stuff. And I think, you know, people do great work to get out of that. 

Scott Brown (25:01):

Yeah.  Inspiring talking to, to people like yourself, like you've seen a problem that you've, and, and, and the level of backing yourself to go and solve that problem and, and finding the solution. And like you said, I am a hundred percent sure it's, hasn't been a bumpless road or a, not a bumpy road. So amazing. 

Series three, end of series three. What we're doing is is asking all of our guests to think of one thing from law or something related to law that they would like  to put in room 1 0 1. So to consign its fate, to, to room 1 0 1 and not to exist anymore. So we're gonna do a poll at the end of series three once we we've, once we've gathered everyone's items or, or, or things that they, they hate, their pet hates about law and run a poll on LinkedIn to see what, what ranks the most and what gets, what get s thrown in there. But what would what would you like to see going to room 1 0 1 from, from law?

Richard Mabey (25:51):

So number one thing, Microsoft word,

Scott Brown (25:55):


Richard Mabey (25:56):

So I, I still a little bit, bit minority view on this, but you know, like a lot of our inspiration behind finding J was frustrations with working with word. So word being invented in 1983, being desktop based, being not specifically designed for contracts led to me spending a vast quantity of time running red lines, saving versions of files on desktops. That was a vast chunk of my experience of working in law. And of course, as we all know, it is the way in which most, if not pretty much all kind of legal contracting work is done. I mean, we, have a very bold vision at Juro, which is that actually moving to browser-native ways of collaborating on contracts via our editor, which, you know, yes is word compatible, but is fundamentally like a collaborative in browser online experience. Most of it has been driven by my frustrations with working with word. And I think a lot of that has given me belief that we can actually, you shift the paradigm and move documentation to somewhere else, somewhere, which is easier, better, faster. So for me, yeah, I, I throw a word in, in firmly in

Scott Brown (27:14):

The furnace

Richard Mabey (27:15):

Room one on one, or some people say that the end of word is, is nigh. Yeah.

Scott Brown (27:20):

Good. Well but it's been excellent. Excellent. Speaking with you, Richard, I've enjoyed the conversation and yeah, I'm sure I'm sure there's a lot to take from, from that and inspire people. 

If anyone that's, listening's interested in finding out more about Juro how, how would they get in touch with you or the team

Richard Mabey (27:41):

You can head straight over to Juro dot com or on Twitter we're at getjuro, or you can find us on, on LinkedIn in the usual way.

Scott Brown (27:48):

Perfect. All right. Excellent. We'll share, share link to that in the, in the bio, but thank you for your time and appreciate you taking the time out of your, your busy day and been great chatting.

Richard Mabey (28:00):

Absolutely pleasure. Thanks for having me. And congrats on all the work you guys are doing in the community.

Scott Brown (28:06):

I really enjoyed that conversation with Richard Mabey at Juro. Juro is a company that I've heard and read loads about a lot of our clients talk loads about them when we're talking about contract automation and legal tech. So great to hear it from the horse's mouth and congratulations again on their latest fundraising round hard work starts here but look forward to tracking it. And thank you for listening to lessons I learned in law, please like, and share the podcast. If you want to hear more we rely loads on the, the ratings on or wherever you get your podcast. But if you'd like to hear more from other guests that we've had on the show, O please head over to Harriet brown.com/podcast, I'm brown. See you.