Legal Business Blogs

New Law enters the big league: Lawyers On Demand seals £25m merger with Australian firm

In the largest New Law merger to date, the UK’s biggest freelance lawyer service Lawyers On Demand (LOD) has sealed a deal with Australia’s AdventBalance to create a £25m business.

The deal, signed after six months of negotiations, establishes LOD’s first overseas presence through AdventBalance’s network of offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The combined company, which will see AdventBalance rebranded as LOD later this year, will house over 600 lawyers and consultants carrying out short-term secondments and legal projects. The tie-up comes as LOD prepares to roll out a landmark deal to service the world’s second largest international law firm, DLA Piper, when workflow increases or costs need to be kept low.

Revenue at LOD rose by 42% in the 2014/15 financial year to hit £12.3m. The combination with AdventBalance, which is run by former Freehills partner Ken Jagger and the ex-head of business development at Allen & Overy John Knox, will double the size of business. It catapults LOD into the UK’s 100 largest legal services businesses, pulling in more than established firms such as Harbottle & Lewis, Gordons and Boodle Hatfield, less than a decade since its launch.

Knox said the merger ‘makes perfect sense’ as ‘it will create a New Law venture with the scale and momentum to compete for work in an unprecedented way’.

City law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, which owns 80% of LOD, has been handed two places on the new board.

LOD’s model has been replicated by a host of the UK’s largest law firms increasingly conscious of the desire among associates for a greater work-life balance in a shift towards New Law. Over 30% of the UK’s 20 largest law firms, including Magic Circle firms Allen & Overy and Freshfields, established their own freelance contracting businesses since LOD launched in 2007 while the DLA Piper deal marked a change in market perceptions towards the company part-owned by BLP.

LOD co-founder Simon Harper told Legal Business that AdventBalance’s Asian operations ‘prove the New Law model can work in the region’ and that it ‘can grow anywhere where there are multinationals’.

He added: ‘We are in the midst of market disruption so we don’t really know where we will end up but what we do know is that we want LOD to be a leader in New Law. As part of that we’re becoming global. New Law is growing up but we’ve got to keep innovating.’