LAW Holdings has a new Group CEO, Luis Casaleiro. Luis might be new to the position but he is certainly no stranger to the company, he was the Financial Director for many years and the year before being he made CEO, he was the Chief Operations Officer.
There are no airs or graces where Luis is concerned, he was walking around the office chatting to staff when I cornered him and then we went back to his office for the interview, the same office he has occupied for the last 5 years.
We asked Luis a few questions about the LAW Holdings business, the various divisions and about the future direction of the Group.
Tech4Law: How is LAW Holdings now structured as a Group and how has this changed from the previous structure?
Luis Casaleiro: LAW is structured along strategic operational verticals. At a Holdings level we have a shared services and support structure responsible for the administrative disciplines of Finance, Legal, HR and Group communications. The real focus is in our operations which have been under the management of an increasingly competent executive team. This structural revision has resulted in the specialisation of core activities with a direct benefit to the clients we service. We saw the change as evolutionary rather than revolutionary; the Property vertical in particular sorely needed the revision. The business ultimately has five focused business units, LAW Compliance, LAW Credit,
LAW Data, LAW Property and IT Security LAWtrust. As an aside I must just mention that last year was the most successful year in the history of LAW, a huge effort considering the current economic climate.
Tech4Law: What has happened to Trevor Coppen as he used to be in the driving seat?
Luis Casaleiro: Trevor sits on the board in a non-executive capacity and has started an independent company, Tap IT- offering a service based on a tablet device. Things seem to be going very well for his new company and wish him luck with Tap-IT.
Tech4Law: You were previously the Financial Director for the Group, how have you found the transition to the Managing Director?
Luis Casaleiro: The transition has been pretty smooth, you may not know it but it has been two years in the making. At the end of 2011 I assumed responsibility for the operational management of the Group and was therefore well-positioned to make the transition from COO to CEO. It is natural for the Financial Officer of the company to have an intimate knowledge of its operations, since every aspect of running a business has a financial consequence, from accounting for bank charges and teabags, to modelling the right pricing for products and solutions offered by the company. I have been blessed with a shareholding group that has an enormous amount of faith in me and an executive team that has been operationally involved with the Group for a collective period of 66 years. That is a tremendous amount of collective experience.
Tech4Law: Who has taken over the financial running of the firm, with you in your new role?
Luis Casaleiro: Three years ago I appointed a talented CA to join our financial team and have enjoyed watching his growth as the business grew. He is a perfect fit for the law culture and has been engaged in every subsidiary operation. He is respected for his knowledge, work ethic and passion for LAW. It's gratifying to see a succession plan come to fruition.
Tech4Law: What is the one thing that you would like to implement to make a difference to the Group?
Luis Casaleiro: If I have to isolate just one thing that we want to focus on as a Group, I would have to say that we want to create a real relationship between our products and our users.
Tech4Law: Which are the products or services that you feel are going to make a huge impact in the legal market?
Luis Casaleiro: The “accredited authentication services provider” status given to LAWtrust by the Department of Communication is huge for us as a business as well as for the industry; the scope for this business is massive. Being the first accredited provider of Advanced Electronic Signatures in South Africa is a real tipping point in the electronic legal space, and as you know this was the vision of Trevor Coppen, all those years ago and now it has arrived. The LAW business has always been one step ahead in this space; this accreditation takes us so much further ahead of the other players.
According to stats released last September, 74% of all South African users on the Internet have been affected by cyber-crime or cyber-fraud. The Advanced Digital Signatures are going to play a large part in combating this crime.
The fact that electronic signatures will now be accepted by South African courts is a big turning point for the legal system. In the last 10 years that LAW has been using advanced digital signatures there hasn’t been a single breach or compromise of the transactions passing through the secure system. That speaks volumes for the system and structure we have in place.
The sudden demand for electronic signatures from the general public has been overwhelming. Recently a gentleman pitched up at our LAWtrust offices and asked for his digital certificate. The recent news of this accreditation has spread further than we realised.
Tech4Law: What in your view is the next big thing in legal software systems,-does cloud still feature strongly?
Luis Casaleiro: Cloud has been one of the best marketing coups of recent years because hosted solutions have been around for a number of years and its rebranding to Cloud has definitely put a large emphasis on web hosted systems.
The problem with Cloud is that when things go wrong you need to have a trusted person on the other side of the phone who can resolve the issue.
LAW Holdings has always operated as a hosted system solution provider and if we wanted to use the current marketing hype we could say that LAW has always been a Cloud based solution.
As for the next big thing in legal systems, I have to believe that tablet devices with the use of secure Cloud services are going to be hot topics in the next few years.
Tech4Law: Do you feel that transactional billing is still the correct model for conveyancing software?
Luis Casaleiro: The fact that transactional billing allows the user the option of “no use, no pay” makes a lot of sense, especially in the current economic climate. The cost of sales is directly aligned to your sales revenue –there can be no better method I believe. For now it makes good sense for both the customer and supplier.
LAW Property does not charge a minimum maintenance fee for the transactional billing, if you don’t use the system, we don’t charge you.
Tech4Law: What market share does Searchworks enjoy in the South African legal market?
Luis Casaleiro: Searchworks has been a great success story for LAW. Market share isn't easy to establish without making assumptions, so we avoid doing that. However, based on the available stats for two search types related to the property market, we currently have a weighted 45% share of the total searches on those two reports. We are adding new search types all the time, a trend that our user base can count on to be the norm going forward. There are some exciting ones in the pipeline- but that’s for another day. All I can say is watch this space…
Tech4Law: Who is your business role model?
Luis Casaleiro: I have worked with some great business colleagues and leaders, starting with my auditing days to my time at Stannic, Bidvest, Servest and even at LAW. I'm well read and have knowledge of local and global business heads whom have both excelled and failed spectacularly in their business lives. I like to think that I am my own man, I do things my own way based on my core value system and on learning’s I have picked up along the way.
Tech4Law: Being one of the two big vendors in the legal market, do you think there will once again be a time where the two of you will work hand in hand while delivering service to the attorneys?
Luis Casaleiro: The attorney market deserves to be the recipient of quality solutions from its vendors and the competition is always healthy since it ensures that the user base has a choice in the systems and services that are available. Ultimately we serve the South African legal market and we will partner with any trusted vendor that provides value added services.
We would like to thank Luis for his time and comments, we wish him all the best as head of LAW Holdings and we will keep our eyes open for the new products that are in the pipeline. It does sound like LAW Holdings has many products that are the solution to the challenges we face in the local legal market.