Can a law firm operate with a completely philanthropic business model?
Caerphilly-based AltraLaw is proving that such a revolutionary model is possible and can be a real driver for growth. The law firm has altruism running through every fibre of the business. Established by Nathan Vidini, its set-up is very different to its traditional competitors. And Nathan’s story shows just how successful a not-for-profit law firm can be.
Caerphilly-based AltraLaw, has been supported through the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP). The AGP provides targeted support for ambitious growing firms. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
Here, Nathan Vidini explains why and how he founded a not-for-profit law firm, the journey he has been on and shares their plans for future growth.
Tell us about AltraLaw
I’d like to start by telling you why AltraLaw is different, and why I’m so proud of leading this firm. We’re quite possibly the only private UK law firm which is not-for-profit, and run as a social enterprise.
It’s been an incredibly challenging but worthwhile journey. The fact that our work brings such benefits to society makes the hard work we all put in all the more rewarding. We donate our profits to charities nominated by clients – that currently amounts to tens of thousands of pounds a year. As the business continues its rapid growth, I aim for this figure to increase into the millions.
We have five associate consultants and we employ two paralegals. We specialise in employment law, and primarily support employees’ rights, assisting them with problems in work and representing them at an Employment Tribunal. The cases we handle are generally complex and frequently involve unfair dismissal, whistleblowing and discrimination.
I have specialised in employment law for more than 15 years and have earned a reputation as the ‘go-to’ solicitor for employees in Wales and the South West, principally advising senior executives and directors.
After working for a number of large, high-profile corporate law firms, I wanted to establish a law firm that focused on doing good, with the profits from the business benefiting those who need it most. Three years ago I started developing plans for AltraLaw and in 2020 I launched the business which is on track to grow rapidly.
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
In our first full year of operating, we were nominated for several awards, winning two prestigious legal awards. But my greatest pride is in the difference we make to individual clients – both in terms of the positive impact on their lives, and the wider effect on the charities they support. We generally advise people at a very dark time of their lives, when they don’t know what to do or where to turn. Assisting and empowering them to resolve these issues is a real privilege.
What challenges have you faced in business?
We operate in a very different way to the vast majority of law firms, so we’ve faced quite a few obstacles along the way. There’s a misconception that a not-for-profit firm might not offer a platinum service. It’s clearly not true and we prove that constantly through our results for clients, against the largest firms across the country, and fantastic testimonials from clients.
I’ve worked hard to dispel this myth and strive everyday to prove that while we might have a philanthropic business structure, we still fight for workers’ rights as voraciously (and successfully!) as any high-performing firm, topped off by a five-star service level according to client reviews on sites such as Google.
Covid has slowed our growth, as it’s been difficult to onboard and integrate new staff virtually. This means we had to place a pause on our marketing because we did not want to generate more work than we could service to an excellent standard. Now we are in a stronger, more stable position, we are looking forward to driving further growth in the post-pandemic future.
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely have launched the business earlier. Before I started AltraLaw, I spent a lot of time perfecting my business plan and minimising potential risks. But I learned that some things just can’t be planned for – Covid-19 for example! If I’d launched earlier, we’d have been in a position to help more clients sooner and give more money to Charity.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
We’ve really benefited from Business Wales AGP. I still draw so much from the programme. The research, guidance and support we have been able to access through the programme enabled us to launch stronger, sooner.
The one-to-one support I’ve received has been particularly invaluable, as well as the individual work packages, which we’ve principally used to help us develop our website and marketing material.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
- Seek help early in your journey – don’t be afraid to be signposted to mentors who can push you forward.
- Talk to people who are doing similar things – they may have solved challenges you are currently facing.
- Collaborate with others and embrace the ethos of mutual support.
- Talk to people from other businesses and professions – different perspectives can help you solve problems or improve issues you face in unexpected ways.
- Network, network, network!
To learn more about AltraLaw visit here.
Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme