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FLEXIBLE LEGAL STAFFING: An Introduction to Global-wide

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Flexible Legal Staffing

The market for on-demand legal talent has expanded significantly in recent years. As in-house teams have become leaner and more cost-effective, they tend to work close to capacity and require extra support to manage peaks in workflows and cover vacancies or absences of their permanent staff.

Interim legal consultants – well-qualified, experienced and often self-employed lawyers who undertake contract work – supply this need and enhance the legal function’s value and service offering. The ability to access extra capacity at multiple levels of seniority enables in-house legal departments to handle large-scale matters without increasing the size of their teams, while providing specialist knowledge, expertise, and the skills needed temporarily to support transactions, regulatory projects, and disputes. These can be across a number of areas from financial services to engineering and construction.

Legal consultants cover a wide range of roles, ranging from paralegal support to interim general counsel. Organisations seeking temporary assistance can choose between providers including independent law companies (which are often private equity backed), recruitment companies that specialise in interim legal placements, the Big Four consultancies’ legal services, and a growing number of legal consultancy platforms that are owned by and closely integrated with law firms.

Augmenting capacity and expertise

The best law firm platforms recruit legal consultants that meet the firm’s own standards and enhance its service offering, ensuring that consultants are most carefully vetted and properly supported. These interim lawyers often specialise in the type of work that the firm undertakes and are familiar with its client base and the markets it operates in. Additionally, they have access to the firm’s partners, practice groups, knowledge and know-how resources, as well as a number of other support services.

At the high-value end of the scale, Peerpoint’s flexible legal staffing platform is closely integrated with Allen & Overy’s practice areas. Its legal consultants fulfil interim assignments at global financial institutions and multinational corporates:

• Providing additional capacity for large-scale deals, transformational projects and regulatory programmes driven by constitutional and legislative changes such as Brexit, the Prospectus Regulations for equity and debt capital markets and the IBOR reform of financial services;
• Supplying teams with specialist skill sets that are required temporarily for specific matters;
• Covering the vacancies and extended absences of lawyers on secondment, taking parental or caring leave, or on academic sabbaticals, and offering flexible in-house capacity when needed;
• Filling interim management roles following the departure of a general counsel or head of legal while the company recruits a replacement. This may be an interim senior role or covering at mid-management level where a promotion leaves a gap in provision.

Shaping the post-pandemic business environment

The initial response to the Coronavirus pandemic saw a scramble to switch to remote working, which has been more successful than many ever expected, but there’s also been a tendency to defer or postpone any discretionary projects and programmes, and even some that really aren’t discretionary. Legal has been no different.

It is now clear that organisations have to find ways to continue to operate and to tackle difficult programmes in these less-than-ideal circumstances for a prolonged period. It is also clear that in future working arrangements and staffing structures are going to look very different, which is a huge opportunity for those prepared to grasp it.

Legal consulting will have an increasingly important role to play in meeting those challenges for organisations, particularly because there will almost certainly be pressure on budgets, hiring freezes, demands to deliver more-for-less and other pressures on legal heads. Providers of legal consultants like Peerpoint will help to address those needs whilst putting the working needs and career aspirations of modern lawyers at the centre of what they do.

Adapting to new ways of working

Lawyers may choose a career in legal consultancy because they are seeking more flexibility than is offered by a full-time position in a law firm or legal department, or for more control or variety. Many consultants already embraced remote working, at least partially, before lockdown. They bring an important cultural trait to any organisation – adaptability. Working on a succession of interim placements requires consultants to fit in quickly with organisations and teams and adjust to different working arrangements, systems, processes and corporate politics. They develop an ability to hit the ground running and work under pressure in different organisations. This is especially valuable in today’s unpredictable business environment.

Interim consultants benefit in-house legal departments beyond providing extra capacity and specialist skills. Those consultants who are linked to law firms have a whole range of services that they can connect the client to, such as legal technology resources, consulting expertise and project management teams.

The international dimension

Large international law firms’ flexible legal staffing platforms provide national and international businesses with interim support when they need it from high calibre consultants with specialist expertise and know-how. If a lawyer with the required experience and expertise is not available locally, they may be sourced internationally. These consultants can also support the regional offices of global corporations whose legal function may not comprehensively cover all the jurisdictions a piece of work may touch on.

The international dimension of flexible legal staffing opens up career opportunities for lawyers who want to travel and gain experience in different organisations and countries, or have relocated and are not ready or able to commit to a permanent role.

Platforms such as Peerpoint offer an alternative career path for lawyers at every stage in their careers, giving them control over their direction, location and specialism. The association with a major law firm brand brings strong credibility to a portfolio career.

Law firm backed providers offer their consultants support, resources and professional development. They give their corporate clients a guarantee that their interim staff will meet the standards and calibre of their external counsel.

The future (flexible) lawyer

With their combination of flexible resourcing and effective technology, legal consultancy platforms are accelerating the evolution of corporate legal operations.

In addition to interim cover, independent providers tend to gravitate towards outsourced and managed services, where the potential cost-savings and visible changes can be attractive to GCs. Law firm platforms like Peerpoint, which sits within Allen & Overy’s Advanced Delivery & Solutions portfolio, can also differentiate by the breadth of capabilities available from a single provider, combining resourcing solutions, process and technology with high-end legal expertise and geographic reach.

Technology is truly a game-changer, accelerated by the learnings from coping with lockdown. The future will be flexible, agile and responsive – for both lawyers and their organisations.