Lauren Riley: 'The legal sector knows it's time for change'
She may have been fired by Sir Alan Sugar on week seven of The Apprentice but that hasn’t stopped Lauren Riley from making her business dream a reality.
When she starred on the hit BBC TV show back in 2014, Lord Sugar was quick to point out the fact that Lauren was a lawyer whenever he commentated on her performance.
However it wasn’t her law career she was looking to promote by signing up for The Apprentice, it was her business idea she had brewing which she believed could turn the sector on its head.
“I always wanted to be a lawyer and went on to study law at Lancaster University before becoming a solicitor,” Lauren said.
“It was whilst working as a family and divorce specialist that I spotted a problem with the way law firms were communicating with their clients.
“I noticed there was a lot of dissatisfaction among clients who felt they were not getting frequent enough updates from their solicitors.
“This inspired me to come up with an idea to streamline the process. I Googled the idea to see if there was an app to make it easier and I was amazed to find that there was nothing like it on the market. That’s what led me to launching The Link App.”
The app helps law firms communicate with their clients. Whenever a case changes it pushes updates instantly to their client’s mobile phones so they’re constantly kept up to date with what is going on.
“It’s a win-win solution for both parties,” she said. “For the client it is secure, has encrypted communication, operates in real-time and is user friendly.
“For the lawyers, it is efficient as they can pre-populate information, it provides them with a competitive advantage in terms of how they’re practicing and also helps them stand out in what is a very crowded market place. It provides them with a service they can offer to their clients which not all law firms are providing.”
Having come up with the idea for the app, Lauren’s next job was to turn the concept into a reality. She knew there was no hiding from the fact that she wasn’t a technical founder, she was a lawyer and had no idea how to make an app, however she knew she could make it a success.
With this in mind, she decided to apply for The Apprentice, knowing fine well that regardless of the result, it would make people recognise her name and also help get her business idea out to the right people. And it worked.
She said: “I think my experience on The Apprentice was a really good place to start when launching the app. I couldn’t really say that I developed any particular skills in business but what I did develop was a really strong network.
“I worked very hard in the early days to ensure that I had a credible business to discuss in the media before appearing on the show.
“I didn’t want to just have five minutes of fame, I wanted to use it to propel the business into the eyes of the public and it did just that.
“I used it as a platform to help propel the business forward. Not everyone gets that opportunity and I’m extremely grateful for it.”
Lauren went on to reach week seven of The Apprentice before being shown the door by Lord Sugar but she left a lasting impression on many of the show’s followers.
When it finished airing, she decided to start fine-tuning the prototype of The Link App and to bring it to market. But it wasn’t plain-sailing.
“Two of my greatest challenges were funding and the fact that I was a non-technical founder,” she said. “You need to have funding to get an app off the ground.
“The fact that I was a non-technical founder also meant my skills lay in the marketing of the product, the idea, the networking and bringing it to market, not in the building of the product.”
Luckily for Lauren she was able to garner support from a number of experienced business mentors, including Sir Nigel Knowles, who really bought into the passion and enthusiasm she had to get the app off the ground.
She added: “I reached out and got a good set of mentors around me. The Link App has a really enviable advisory board with some of the UK’s top lawyers and businesspeople.
“I think some people are bowled over by sheer passion. When I listen to my board tell the story of why they’re on my board, that’s always one of the things that they mention.
“I am so committed to this business and am so passionate about it that it is one of the key qualities that stood out to them when they were deciding to invest in the business.”
But over and above that, Lauren is also aware that the changing face of the legal sector also had a huge role to play and the timing couldn’t have been better.
“If ever a profession needed a product or a service to make a change then it is now,” she said, “law firms are being squeezed on a number of fronts so this app has come at the perfect time.
“I think there is a consensus among the legal profession that the industry is about to change in a big way and to be involved in an app like this puts businesses in an enviable position.
“I’m really pleased with how we’ve performed so far. We’ve been able to go live across the UK, we’re certainly not in every city but we’re in most of the major areas.
“We have been able to raise external financing twice now and we are supported and actively promoted by some of the largest suppliers to the legal industry.
“It is a fantastic position for a start-up like us to be in. I’m really proud of the success we’ve had to date but there is still a long way to go to get where we want to be!”
Published: 27 February 2017