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‘The message from clients is clear’ – BLP chief on the thinking behind its latest New Law venture

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) this week unveiled a bold attempt to re-enforce its credentials as a ‘New Law’ pioneer, announcing the launch of a multi-strand venture that includes the launch of a new Manchester hub as part of a drive to create a comprehensive suite of options to reduce costs and improve flexibility for clients.

The ‘four-pronged approach’ will see the 786-lawyer firm consult its clients on how to improve its work processes; roll out its already successful Lawyers on Demand (LoD) service to include virtual transactional teams to back BLP clients; offer an extension of its current outsourcing and project management services, including deploying its Managed Legal Services (MLS) division; and provide the option of a low-cost centre in Manchester as an extension of its 11 existing offices.

There is some context with a series of major City law firms in the last three years launching low cost centres in the UK regions, including most recently Hogan Lovells and Field Fisher Waterhouse.

BLP itself is striving to regain the initiative after a tough 2012/13 year saw the firm – previously one of the most upwardly mobile players in the UK top 50 – weather uncharacteristic falls in income and profits. The move will also allow it to leverage off the much touted LoD service, which now generates around £9m in annual revenues.

Manchester, which will launch in the summer, will be staffed by paralegals, associates, business services personnel and secretaries, although the firm does not have a clear idea yet of what size or shape the hub will take.

Legal Business asked BLP managing partner Neville Eisenberg how he saw the project developing.

‘The idea quite early on was to try to come up with something flexible – we were getting a clear message from clients that they want value for money and flexibility.’

How do you see the service in Manchester developing?

‘It will depend on discussions we are having with clients. A clearer sense of what the demand is will shape the launch. It will support our London office but could also support any of our other 11 offices.’

Why Manchester?

‘We looked at a number of different options onshore and offshore. Manchester has a large pool of lawyers and a very good reputation as a services centre for different industries. It is well set up with infrastructure.’

How does this project compare to your MLS team?

‘We always said with MLS we would orient it in future to existing clients. This is a far richer menu of options, although, of course, we have benefited from our experience with [client] Thames [Water]. This is really something different, a new model directed primarily at the administrative needs of existing clients.’

Will the new model operate on a fixed-fee basis?

‘The model is very flexible. It’s relevant to fixed-fees and relevant to all other arrangements. It will help clients with very large volumes of work and big assignments.’