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Flexi lawyering on the up as Linklaters launches Peerpoint-style platform and LOD makes Australasian acquisition

Linklaters has become the latest firm to venture into the ever busier flexible lawyering market after hiring the former director of Ashurst’s innovation arm to lead its new contract lawyer platform.

New Law pioneer Lawyers on Demand (LOD), meanwhile, has expanded its Australasian footprint with the acquisition of legal ops and tech platform lexvoco.

Linklaters announced today (30 April) the launch of Re:link, allowing the firm to employ lawyers on an interim basis to work on specific projects. Mark Higgs, who led Ashurst Advance for three years until 2018, has joined Linklaters’ London base as chief operating officer of the new contract lawyer platform.

Re:link will initially focus on the UK market but the firm envisages exploring other geographies in the near future.

‘We are looking to draw extensively on our alumni to build up our lawyer community and connect them with opportunities to work with both our clients and lawyers,’ Higgs told Legal Business.

He would not specify the number of lawyers the service will make available, but said it will be open to all practice areas: ‘There are clearly clients that have been strong users of contract lawyers in recent years – financial institutions is the obvious example – but we see this as cross-practice.’

Linklaters is the second Magic Circle firm to launch a flexi lawyering arm. Allen & Overy launched in 2013 Peerpoint, which now fields around 300 lawyers available on an interim basis and operates in the UK and Asia.

In distinction from Peerpoint and other flexible lawyering services, Re:link will operate as part of Linklaters rather than as a separate business. Higgs said there was a focus on making sure that ‘everyone that joins Re:link is fully part of the firm and takes advantage of the infrastructure the firm can offer.’

He added: ‘I have been speaking with Gideon [Moore, managing partner] and members of the board throughout 2018 as they shaped their idea. To join a firm like Linklaters to launch and lead a new area was a one-off opportunity.’

Also today, contract lawyer business LOD announced the addition of 100 lawyers in Australia and New Zealand and 30 members of staff after it acquired lexvoco, a platform which focuses on providing legal operations and legal-tech solutions to in-house teams. The additions bring LOD’s Australasian lawyer headcount to 300.

The deal means the lexvoco team will join LOD in their combined offices of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, while adding Adelaide and Geelong, as well as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in New Zealand to the New Law outfit’s global network.

The legal ops and tech functions of lexvoco will form LOD Innovate, a new Asia Pacific-based business unit led by lexvoco founder Anthony Wright.

The Australasian expansion comes a year after LOD secured new private equity backers in place of parent firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP). Buyout house Bowmark Capital acquired in May last year BCLP’s entire stake of 62% in LOD.

LOD chief executive Tom Hartley said: ‘Following our capital investment from Bowmark, this deal gives us greater scale in our core business and increased capability in the legal operations and tech space that our clients are demanding in all of our locations.’

Launched in 2007 as part of legacy Berwin Leighton Paisner, LOD first entered Australia in 2016 through a merger with AdventBalance.

The deal is a further sign of consolidation among New Law players. Elevate acquired in January UK-based flexible lawyer firm Halebury, creating a combined business of over 1,000 members of staff and $70m in annual revenue.