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Ashurst joins flexible lawyering bandwagon as DWF completes BT Law acquisition

Ashurst has teamed up with US-based law company Elevate and Cognia Law to offer clients flexible lawyering through the firm’s New Law umbrella Ashurst Advance.

The initiative launched today (8 November) and gives Ashurst access to Elevate and Cognia’s flexible lawyering pool, with the offering initially available in both the UK and Australia before being rolled out globally. The arrangement will also allow Ashurst’s clients to access particular expertise for secondees.

‘They needed flexible resource for client demand but didn’t want to build that platform themselves,’ Elevate president John Croft told Legal Business. ‘They are like us in that they have a UK and Australian presence, and we have John Kenton in Australia who helped create the flexible lawyering platform Orbit while he was at Corrs, so we were well-suited.’

Ashurst Advance is the firm’s New Law arm and generates more than £15m in revenue across Brisbane, Sydney, Glasgow and London. This year, Ashurst Advance became the fifth division of the firm alongside its four core legal lines, with project management and technology tool provider Ashurst Advance Delivery and corporate venture arm Ashurst Digital Ventures the two strands within the offering. The latest move builds on an existing arrangement Ashurst has with Cognia collaborating on managed legal services, in a partnership announced earlier this year.  Elevate, meanwhile, struck a flexible lawyering deal with Hogan Lovells in 2018.

‘The legal profession is becoming increasingly split between those who get it and those who do not,’ Croft added. ‘Forward thinking firms like Hogan Lovells and Ashurst are the ones we are working with.’

Meanwhile, listed firm DWF has completed the acquisition of BT’s alternative business structure, BT Law, following a five-year managed legal services deal struck between the two in July.

That deal, the firm’s first major post-IPO client and covering BT’s insurance and real estate work, sees 40 lawyers from BT’s in-house legal team of nearly 400 staff transfer to DWF by the end of this year. It also included the transfer of Sheffield-based BT Law, a business covering motor, employers’ liability and personal liability claims.

It is understood the acquisition of BT Law was for a nominal fee and does not involve any further employee transfers, instead covering a handful of clients moving from BT Law to DWF. No announcement was made to the London Stock Exchange.

A DWF spokesperson commented: ‘The acquisition follows our appointment in July as a strategic legal partner to BT. This is a natural step to take for both DWF and BT following our strategic partnership. It will ensure continuity of service for all of BT Law’s clients, many of whom are also existing DWF clients.’

A BT spokesperson added: ‘Following on from the appointment of DWF as a strategic legal partner earlier this year, we are continuing to transform and simplify the way we work across BT.  The acquisition of BT Law by DWF is an exciting step forward for both businesses, who will continue to deliver outstanding services.’

For more on the rise of New Law offerings within law firms, read this month’s cover feature: New Tricks (£)