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Interview with Lauren Riley, former candidate from BBC’s The Apprentice

Jane Common

12
Aug

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Former The Apprentice candidate Lauren Riley was on the receiving end of a stern ‘You’re Fired’ from Sir Alan Sugar, but that hasn’t stopped her successfully launching a new mobile phone app to aid communication between lawyers and their clients. Lauren told Jane Common at Today’s Conveyancer why her brainchild – the Link App – will save conveyancing solicitors time and money and should, most definitely, be hired!

What’s the idea behind the Link App Lauren?

“It’s based around an idea I came up with a few years back and actually it was inspired by a conveyancer! I’m a matrimonial solicitor and, at the time, I was sitting opposite a conveyancing solicitor at our offices. Every day he was bombarded with phone calls and emails from clients – there were even people dropping in off the street – and it was difficult for him to make any headway on the paperwork and cases he was dealing with. So I witnessed his frustration over this lack of productivity and I realised his experience had to be the same for conveyancers countrywide.

“I thought there had to be a better way for lawyers to keep clients in the loop without having to spend every minute of the day updating them and having no time to get any actual office work done – and of course time is money.

“A majority of our clients have their mobile phones super-glued to them so direct communication, straight to the phone, is obviously the way forward. But, when I looked around for an app that could help I couldn’t find anything and that seemed crazy to me in our technological age. Most of the other apps aimed at the legal sector were marketing tools – regurgitated web content and the like. But the most basic of a lawyer’s needs is effective, time-efficient communication and that’s where my app comes in – it caters to that need in a new way.”

So is the Link App the idea you would have presented on The Apprentice had you reached the final?

“Yes, I was relishing the opportunity to go through the interview round and get some big names in business to critique the whole concept. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be but we’re doing pretty well on our own – I’m happy!”

So you started developing the idea in detail after The Apprentice?

“I developed it after we’d filmed The Apprentice but before the programme aired on television. So, when filming had finished, I set about creating the business. Obviously I didn’t design the technology myself – I gave the brief to an app developer and it took about five months to create the core product. The first time we tested it I sent myself a notification – and when it popped up instantly on my phone, just as it was designed to, it was amazing: ‘Oh wow – look at this. It works and it’s great.’

“It was quite a moment to think I’d developed this technology from scratch and now every time I open my phone and see the Link App on the homepage along with my Twitter and Instagram I get a real buzz!”

The Link App launched in December 2014 – how did that go?

“That’s when it was available for download from the app store, yes, but in terms of a national roll-out with sales and marketing that’s yet to happen. But I was lucky because, when The Apprentice aired, I had lots of opportunities to do interviews and give the Link App a big push. I think I had more press than the average contestant at the end of the show because I’d actually gone out and launched a business so there was a lot to talk about and that PR was invaluable. And I was really fortunate with the public’s reaction to me after the show – it was very warm.

“Of course it’s not just about me – there’s been interest, too, because of the Link App on its own merits. It was a unique concept in the legal space and that means brand recognition is strong already.”

So will you give it a big marketing launch in the future?

“Yes, we will roll out a full sales and marketing campaign – we’re just sorting out the logistics of that. First impressions are so important and we want to get it right.”

And what’s the reaction been so far?

“Positive – whenever I demonstrate the technology to lawyers it’s always a very affirming experience for me. This is my brainchild – my baby – and it works and people can see the benefits of it. At the moment we’re just starting in our journey but as we roll out we hope to create even more of a buzz in the industry – that’s the anticipation. One day we expect clients to be asking their lawyers to use the Link App but at this early stage we want the law firms to get ahead of the game and offer it to clients as part of their service. It’s a way for firms to differentiate their offering and to stand out.”

Do you sometimes think that lawyers aren’t as good at communication as they could be?

“I sometimes think that law firms almost view themselves as distinct from other business sectors in communication terms but they’re not and customer service is vital for any professional who deals with the public. That’s how business retention is driven.”

What’s the cost of the Link App to lawyers and to their clients?

“It’s free for clients to download from Google Play or the App Store but it’s charged to the law firms on a per case basis of between £13 to £25 and a nominal annual fee . I started practice in a small law firm and I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to utilise this technology – not just the large law firms and the multinationals – so anybody from a sole practitioner upwards can benefit from it.”

What do you think makes the app of particular interest to conveyancers?

“I think conveyancing is the ideal market for the Link App because it’s transactional and repetitive in nature. So a lot of the time conveyancers aren’t in communication with their clients to give substantive legal advice – they’re just keeping people in the loop about where their house purchase or sale is at. And that doesn’t necessarily require a lengthy phone call or email– it could just be a few words like: ‘Contracts exchanged today at 10am.’ But to make a call or write an email around that takes times whereas to send that information to a mobile phone, through our app, takes seconds.

“The nearest comparable would be a text message but of course a text message can get lost among others whereas an app is a dedicated portal. And we have pre-populated a lot of the notifications so the lawyer doesn’t even have to type the words in – it’s just tick a box and send from their computer direct to a client’s mobile phone.”

Where do you see the Link App taking you?

“I want the Link App to be a household name and I’d like every law firm in the country to offer it to their clients as there’s a quantifiable marketing angle and also a real opportunity to save money.”

You’re a family solicitor Lauren: how do you divide your time between the day job and the Link App?

“It’s a balancing act but I’m passionate about both areas of my life so it’s enjoyable. I am also a public speaker. Of course I work long hours sometimes but I wouldn’t have it any other way – I love what I do.”

The Link App is at www.thelinkapp.co.uk

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