In a pioneering nod towards calls for the modern legal profession to be more collaborative, DLA Piper has struck a highly unusual deal to provide contract services to its clients via Lawyers On Demand (LOD).
The move sees DLA Piper team up with LOD, which is owned by Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), to manage its contract lawyer business via DLA alumni. The deal also has led DLA to cancel plans to launch its own contract lawyer arm.
Under the deal, LOD will manage and oversee a pool of DLA Piper alumni, with 50 expected to join by the end of 2016, who will then service the global law firm when it requires extra resource. LOD’s current pool of 400 lawyers will also be available to DLA Piper.
The deal will also see LOD expand outside of the UK for the first time as it supports DLA Piper’s flexible lawyering service across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The venture has already begun rolling out across the UK, with DLA Piper alumni overseas to join LOD with the promise of flexible work in early 2016.
The move is a significant shift in approach to flexible lawyering as other firms have built their own divisions. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer launched its alumni service Freshfields Continuum in the summer of 2012, with Allen & Overy and Pinsent Masons following in 2013 with the creation of Peerpoint and Vario respectively.
The project was driven by DLA Piper global 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 the task of modernising operations at DLA Piper. Allen also worked at BLP as its director of innovation and helped establish its Managed Legal Service unit.
The deal looks to be a significant coup for LOD and its ambition to extend its service to other major law firms.
Levine told Legal Business: ‘It’s a commercial deal, [BLP’s stake in LOD] didn’t bother us at all and isn’t a concern. We essentially had two options, one being to build something ourselves but then you either don’t do it properly or it will take you years to get it right. The alternative was to partner with someone who would give us a DLA Piper product that is tailored to the type of service we want to provide our clients. LOD was happy to go into a venture with us as they want to be more international so we had something to offer them as much as they had something to offer us.’
‘The deal allows us to work in a way that is good for our clients and for our workforce and enables DLA Piper to achieve a level of profitability that we need in order to continue to compete in the marketplace. This deal doesn’t mean we will reduce the workforce, these lawyers won’t replace our lawyers, but it changes the mix of labour as we grow.’
Levine said DLA has many lawyers that do not want partnership and have reasons for flexible working. ‘Frankly, we don’t want to lose that workforce. We spend huge amounts of money on people from when they join us from law school. The idea that you would then lose them to other organisations, when they want to stay but just work in a different way, is criminal.’
LOD launched in 2007 and has seen an increasing number of corporates use its services to outsource work or hire lawyers on short-term deals. Its revenue climbed by 42% last year to hit £12.3m for the 12 months to 30 April 2015.