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DLA Piper enters booming contract lawyer market with Peerpoint-style alumni venture

DLA Piper is to launch a flexible working unit to rival Allen & Overy’s (A&O) Peerpoint and other alumni-based ventures following criticism over the lack of flexibility within the firm’s remuneration structure.

With firms under pressure from a new generation of lawyers unwilling or unable to work the long hours expected in the City, DLA Piper is finalising plans to have a pool of alumni it can call on to work flexible hours or send on secondments to key clients.

The project is being driven by DLA Piper’s co-chief executive Simon Levine with support from service delivery and quality director Stephen Allen, who left his post at Big Four accountancy PwC early last year with a remit to modernise how legal work is carried out at DLA Piper. Allen also worked at Berwin Leighton Paisner as its director of innovation and helped establish its Managed Legal Service unit.

The new contract lawyer unit, initially set to be staffed by alumni, will be in place by the end of the year. No partnership vote was needed to introduce the enterprise.

A DLA Piper partner told Legal Business: ‘It will be similar to Peerpoint. Not everyone wants to work 80 hours a week so this will give us the flexibility to keep our talent from going to one of the host of contract lawyer businesses that have been formed in recent years.’

The move follows the creation of A&O’s Peerpoint and Pinsent Masons’ freelance lawyer service Vario in 2013, while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer launched its rent-an-alumni service Freshfields Continuum in the summer of 2012.

A DLA Piper spokesperson said: ‘We constantly look to improve the quality of our service delivery to clients, and in response to client feedback we have developed a number of solutions to ensure that we continue to meet their demands whilst ensuring that we can attract and retain the best talent. This includes not only looking at flexible working, but also legal project management, alternative resourcing platforms and better using technology as part of our strategy going forward.’

Research by A&O’s Peerpoint found late last year that 63% of general counsel supplement their legal team with contract lawyers and 74% expected to be doing so within five years.

For more on the contract lawyer market see: So demanding – are contract lawyers business delivering for clients?