At a time of young lawyers’ disaffection for the profession, Baptiste Prezioso, founder of his Parisian firm, looks back on the adventures of the entrepreneurial adventure and the laborious behind-the-scenes development of a firm at the dawn of a crisis. economic.
According to a survey commissioned by the National Bar Council at the heart of the confinement period, nearly 40% of lawyers planned to stop their activity at the end of the crisis. It is easy to imagine that for a firm with a very entrepreneurial model, the last few months must have been tough.
Baptizes Prezioso: Not really actually! In addition to the benefit of maintaining long-term relationships of trust with our clients, we have been able to position ourselves both on substantive missions that did not need to be interrupted by the epidemic, and on support the reaction of our clients to the crisis, whether purely legal, strategic, relating to their communication or the rapid deployment of measures to support the economy. For example, we have set up and fed a platform for advice and explanation of general and contextual financial, legal and social relief measures. Our workload has rather increased, and the specific actions carried out during confinement gave us great publicity, the fruits of which we are reaping today.
You talk about long-term relationships with your customers. How does a young 32-year-old lawyer manage to convince major clients in sectors as specific as insurance, social protection or health?
For some of my historical clients, the trick was to convince them when we were still a consulting company! More seriously, if age represents an undeniable factor of persuasion – because experience reassures –, it often seemed to me that it was not a guarantee of the longevity of the customer relationship. When one is a young lawyer, one convinces by the relational generosity and the excellence of the deliverable, and one seals the relationship by the constancy of the commitment. As is often the case in business, this is an additional difficulty which, if overcome, can lead to the establishment of lasting and robust relationships.
Obviously, it may seem easy as it is said, but the real difficulty lies in perseverance. To illustrate the journey of the entrepreneur, we often use the metaphor of a mountain to climb. It is completely false. Frankly, if it had been a question of climbing a mountain, with a well-identified summit and known difficulties, I would not have the impression of having accomplished what I accomplished today. Founding a business is much more like wandering in a desolate land in search of fertile land: the possibilities are immense, the efforts constantly renewed, the results of this prospecting very often disappointing. As Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. »
The cruelty of this adventure is part of the uncertainty of the fruits it will bear. It is only when our efforts have revealed to us an auspicious place that we have the feeling of accomplishment. To found a company, not in the legal or economic sense but in the human sense, is to found a city, a community. We first imagine that the main benefit is financial, when the satisfaction comes above all from the awareness of having created, through perseverance, pain and laughter, a small society within society, a singular fortress inhabited by souls with whom, between expectation and recognition, one makes familiar a place otherwise far too dull and foreign.
You are a graduate in law, with a master’s and a master’s degree, and in commerce with a passage through Essec. Some would say that it is a prestigious but also very classic course in business law, especially since you first specialized in the insurance and social protection sector, which gives in a register a little less challenging or epic than the image you project of your business.
If the fashion is for business school graduates retraining to hold food trucks or make straw jewelry, it’s true that I can be an exception!
However, I understand the disaffection of the younger generations of graduates for the traditional professions of the business world, even those which were still the most prestigious a few years ago. Against the bullshit jobs, the responsibility of bosses, business leaders and captains of industry, is to restore meaning to work. Regardless of the sector: after joining a company in a very attractive sector such as luxury, one can quite feel the same feeling of absurdity that one attributed a priori only to sectors reputed to be off-putting, such as insurance and social protection.
But, having worked in agri-food, luxury, insurance and health, I am convinced that we can make and find any interesting sector.
Certainly, but isn’t this intention only related to the question of well-being at work, which is somewhat the new fashionable communication theme?
No, not only. It is also a matter of retaining talent and engaging employees. This is a question that touches on the very approach and model of the company. In our time, promoting fulfillment is not just a trend: it is an unavoidable imperative and a delicate balance to be put in place. Indispensable because highly qualified young profiles no longer hesitate to choose a path that breaks completely with the model of the dynamic young executive in a suit. Delicate, because it is a question of reconciling this ambition to offer employees the possibility of flourishing with the performance of the company. This performance is indeed not the opposite of well-being, it is the condition that makes this model sustainable.
And how do you apply these principles to your business?
What I wanted to develop and offer was a business and career model different from what young lawyers can expect today. Today, if we caricature a little, a young lawyer at the end of his studies has the choice between joining a very large business law firm – often American, with great possibilities of progression at the price of a personal investment which many cannot sustain for very long – a traditional firm, of a more modest size but also more sensitive to changes in the economy – have you yourself quoted this impressive figure of the proportion of lawyers whose coronavirus called into question the career – or certain somewhat atypical firms which have set themselves the ambition of fully integrating technology and law.
What I claim to demonstrate is the viability of a firm based on the intersection of varied and complementary skills. By bringing together very qualified and very different profiles, we break a little with the model of the specialized firm, while retaining the ability to anticipate the needs of the client, to offer an integrated service and very detailed analyses. This is why we welcome lawyers in labor and social protection law, business law, criminal law, health law and intellectual property law. Beyond the law, we make the most of strategy consulting, data analysis and IT development to support our services and complement them on the operational side. All these high value-added services allow us to maintain a healthy and fruitful balance between customer service, employee commitment and sustained business development. It is a business model that seems to me to be a precursor to the evolution of the legal profession itself.
An evolution of the profession which consists of what?
An evolution that consists of bringing the tasks up to the qualifications and potential of those who perform them. It’s a somewhat vague formula but it overlaps with big fashionable notions such as trust, accountability and transversality, and above all goes beyond the world of lawyers and the legal professions.
Today, you can have a master’s or a doctorate and a very good professional position and yet a daily life that is not radically different from that of an assembly line worker. I am exaggerating, of course, but it is indisputable that a number of intellectual services companies – consulting firms or lawyers in the lead – have modeled their growth model in recent decades on that of large industrial firms: specialization of departments by subject, specialization of teams by approach, specialization of employees by stage of the service – customer contact, planning, organization, research.
So this model would not be suitable for young companies?
No, and the older ones should be wary of it too! Excessive specialization kills: it kills the flexibility of the organization, it stifles the creative potential of the individual, it undermines customer service. Moreover, within the framework of the profession of lawyer, specialization is today de facto tempered by close relationships between specialist firms. Because faced with a business that involves a risk for the client, the law alone is no longer enough: it is necessary to cross the views of different disciplines, strategy, political sense, economic viability and technological responsiveness. However, what underlies the model based on specialization is not only the promise of a very analytical and simplified method of growth, it is also a certain aversion to risk. This is particularly telling in the medical field: after almost a decade of studies, it is difficult to understand that the daily life of many doctors boils down to carrying out prescriptions or X-rays in sequence.
It is risk aversion, materialized by the precautionary principle, which is at the origin of this situation, the cost of which goes beyond the mere lack of fulfillment for workers. To refuse the risk is also to refuse the unexpected gains of the activity, which is prejudicial in law as in other fields: we prefer the comfort of the standardized approach to the benefits of innovation. Of course, I will be told that you cannot reinvent methods once you have entered the operating theater or the courtroom. This is why this desire to offer a service that is tailored to each case must be coupled with an unwavering commitment, endurance and clarity of mind. This is also why we strive to inspire our employees with an ambition to grow and take ownership of their subjects, which is as high as the ambition for excellence in service to our customers.
You mentioned young companies, and young law firms in this case, which base their offer on the integration of law and technology. Don’t you think that the model based on human capital that you present is doomed to obsolescence?
No, and for two reasons. The first is that we are investing ourselves in the digital transformation of the legal profession by developing a fully integrated solution for monitoring activities, clients, invoicing and payments!
The second reason, which sheds light on the first, is that I am convinced that technology will not be the great job-eater that we are often made to fear, but on the contrary will allow a more serene, more useful and more fulfilling exercise. intellectual professions. Automation will add value to tasks that it does not concern. It may seem utopian, but it is fully complementary to our way of working: it all boils down to unleashing the intelligence and creative potential of the individual. The value for the company and, beyond that, for society, are the corollaries of this ambition.
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Baptiste Prezioso: “When you’re a young lawyer, you convince through relational generosity and the excellence of the deliverable, and you seal the relationship through the constancy of the commitment”
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