Legal Business

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

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.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

New Law pioneer LOD primed for growth as BCLP sells to buyout house

New Law pioneer LOD primed for growth as BCLP sells to buyout house

Lawyers On Demand (LOD) has secured new private equity backers in place of parent Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) as the New Law pioneer gears up for a growth drive aimed at positioning it as a global player.

Buyout house Bowmark Capital is acquiring BCLP’s entire stake of 62% in LOD for an undisclosed sum. The sale is expected to carry a multi-million pound price tag and represent a significant windfall for BCLP, which was formed by the merger earlier this year of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and US law firm Bryan Cave.  James Lever at Livingstone Partners advised BCLP and LOD’s shareholders, while Stephenson Harwood advised Bowmark on the deal with a team lead by Jonathan Pittal. Jessica Adams at Macfarlanes advised for LOD and Alex Lewis at Baker McKenzie represented the management.

The contract lawyer business, which launched back in 2007 as part of BLP, two years ago merged with Australia’s AdventBalance, and last year posted global turnover of £35m, up 15% annually. The firm, which has operated as a separate business to BLP for six years, has expanded dramatically over the last decade to become one of the most high profile New Law brands in the UK.

Further weakening its links with BCLP will not only prime the business for further growth but make it easier for LOD to build on the 2015 deal with DLA Piper to widen its services to other major law firms. The business had initially focused largely on providing locum lawyers and services to in-house legal teams. After the sale, LOD will maintain a contractual relationship with BCLP to provide services.

‘We absolutely will be working with other law firms, but it wasn’t the primary driver for [the sale],’ LOD co-founder Simon Harper (pictured) told Legal Business. ‘It’s about a faster growth model with new service lines in new territories. It does feel like an important next step. The level of interest and excitement in the sector made the process very easy.’

LOD managing director Tom Hartley commented: ‘This deal was three to four months in the making. We wanted to make sure we had the right partners to back the growth model we have in place here.’ LOD expects to see double-digit revenue growth this year.

LOD has ten offices including multiple sites in each of Australia and Asia, as well as London, New York, Munich and Dubai. It has more than 650 lawyers and consultants on its books and more than 500 corporate and law firm clients. Bowmark, meanwhile, invests in UK mid-market companies and has £850m under management.

BCLP partner Neville Eisenberg commented: ‘BCLP has committed to remain close to LOD, partnering with the business for its flexible lawyer needs and we look forward to seeing the results of this exciting new chapter in LOD’s development.’

BCLP, meanwhile, has far from turned from legal innovation after earlier this month announcing the launch of legal tech start-up in Swiftagree.

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Lawyers On Demand thinks it’s going to solve your secondee problem with its latest product launch

Lawyers On Demand thinks it’s going to solve your secondee problem with its latest product launch

Mounting client demand for secondees has long been a bugbear for City law firms, a reality that one of the most feted New Law brands is now hoping to turn into a business opportunity.

Lawyers On Demand(LOD) is today (31 August) launching a service to provide lawyers specifically for secondments to law firms for their clients, a shift from LOD’s core model of providing short-term placements direct to in-house teams.

The service – dubbed Secondment Solutions – will see LOD’s existing lawyers sent out on secondment under the banners of the client law firms, meaning that firms will not have to use their own permanent staff to meet demands from core clients. Rising demand for secondees from major plc clients has become an increasing source of tension for large law firms, depriving them of productive associates and disrupting their staff development programmes.

LOD co-founder Simon Harper (pictured) told Legal Business that Secondment Solutions has already been trialled with a few firms, including DLA Piper, for ‘quite some time’.

Harper commented: ‘Law firms have problems with client secondments. Sometimes they just do not have the available people and cannot afford to lose a fee-earner. Secondment Solutions is about making sure that the relationship between law firms and in-house clients is a positive one.’

Harper maintained that clients will be content with trading legal expertise from their law firm to LOD and added: ‘The service has gone down well. Clients seem to be open minded. In a sense they get the best of both worlds between us and the law firm.’

Aside from major banks, Harper said that clients from the TMT sector have already used the service.

The move once again highlights LOD’s drive to widen its law firm client base, which currently generates over 20% of its UK revenues. Unlike some contract lawyer rivals, which focus almost exclusively on in-house clients, LOD has been seeking to broaden its commercial base with law firms.

Though the business is still majority-owned by Berwin Leighton Paisner, LOD in November 2015 struck a deal with DLA Piper that saw LOD agree to provide contract lawyer services to the global giant.

LOD, which was launched 10 years ago, has been moving to expand internationally, in July unveiling plans to launch in the Middle East.

The business posted 15% turnover growth in its first full-year resultssince it merged with Australia outfit AdventBalance in March 2016, in what was the largest New Law merger to date, pushing global turnover to £35m.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Clients back New Law model as LOD posts post-merger revenue surge

Clients back New Law model as LOD posts post-merger revenue surge

Berwin Leighton Paisner‘s (BLP) freelance spin-off Lawyers on Demand(LOD) has posted 15% turnover growth in its first full-year results since it merged with Australia’s AdventBalance in March 2016, in what was the largest New Law merger to date.

As the global flexible lawyering business saw its turnover grow to £35m for 2016/17, LOD co-founder and managing director Simon Harper (pictured) said the satisfying results – which came ahead of LOD’s tenth anniversary last month – were down to ‘new service lines’.

‘The success is down to our secondment business and On Call model and managed teams. We’re finding that clients are using us in areas where they might previously have assumed that they needed a traditional law firm.’

According to its latest filings with Companies House, LOD’s UK business also recorded an 18% upsurge in turnover for the 2015/16 financial year, as revenues rose from £12.3m to £14.6m, accounting for nearly half of the year’s revenue.

However, despite rising turnover, LOD’s UK operating profit tumbled from £987,000 to £200,000 over the year, with the accounts stating this was due to ‘one-off exceptional items’. £255,000 was spent on new technology during 2016.

Directors at the company also saw their salaries increase, with the highest-paid director pocketing £495,000 over 2015/16, a 46% jump from the previous figure of £269,000.

Founded in 2007 with 10 lawyers as one of BLP’s separate businesses, LOD had doubled its turnover by 2010. In 2012, LOD spun out from BLP to become an independent entity.

AdventBalance was formed from a merger between Sydney’s Advent Lawyers and Perth’s Balance Legal. The Advent Balance merger secured LOD a presence in Singapore and Hong Kong and the business now counts over 600 lawyers in eight offices: London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney.

As reported by Legal Business last month, LOD is due to launch in the Middle East with a new Dubai office this autumn. The launch will be overseen by Brett Menadue, new managing director for the Middle East.

georgiana.tudor@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Lawyers On Demand set to break into the Middle East with Dubai launch

Lawyers On Demand set to break into the Middle East with Dubai launch

Lawyers On Demand (LOD), Berwin Leighton Paisner’s(BLP) freelance lawyers spin-off, is due to launch in the Middle East with a new Dubai office, breaking into an increasingly competitive legal market.

It is understood that the opening is on track for early autumn.

The launch will be overseen by Brett Menadue, new managing director for the Middle East operation, hired by LOD in May in anticipation of the launch.

Already based in Dubai, Menadue was formerly chief legal officer at Mara Global Technology and a previous director of legal and compliance at Nokia in Dubai.

Foreign investors in Dubai need a local sponsor in order to open a business outside of the free zones. BLP’s own office is based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). However, regulatory, commercial and legal requirements for law firms to establish in the area differ from those for other types of businesses.

The freelance law service is based on three models: lawyers working on-site with clients under a secondment-style service, lawyers ‘on call’ in flexible secondments as and when required, and project-based ‘managed solutions’ – which include LOD teams assigned to specific projects.

The opening of LOD’s first Middle East office would mark significant growth by the consultant lawyer business over its first decade.

Founded in 2007 with 10 lawyers as one of BLP’s separate business, LOD’s UK turnover doubled in 2010. In 2012, LOD spun out from BLP to become an independent entity.

It now counts over 600 lawyers in eight offices: London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney.

In the years since it became financially independent in 2012, LOD has grown, recording an 18% upsurge in turnover for the 2015/16 financial year, when revenues rose from £12.3m to £14.6m.

In 2016, the new law pioneer business also merged with Australia-based AdventBalance, a similar flexible lawyering service, with offices in Singapore and Hong Kong, which secured LOD a presence in Asia. AdventBalance was formed from a merger between Sydney’s Advent Lawyers and Perth’s Balance Legal. John Knox, former A&O head of business development founded Advent Lawyers.

Multinationals including Mastercard, Visa, AstraZeneca, DHL, FedEx and Microsoft now run their Africa businesses from Dubai. The DIFC has also cemented the emirate’s prominent position on the regional and global stage, and became home to 447 registered financial institutions in 2016.

Some law firms which have faced increasing difficulties in strictly conservative neighbouring Arab states, such as Abu Dhabi, have relocated to Dubai. Latham & Watkins, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Simmons & Simmons and Hogan Lovells are among firms which have consolidated their UAE presence in Dubai.

Recent US firms to set up in Dubai include Mayer Brown, with its new Dubai office in June 2016, and Shearman & Sterling, which has operated in Dubai since 2015.

Covington opened its Dubai office in June this year, with the addition of Chadbourne & Parke’s project finance team.

Winston & Strawn opened a Dubai arm in November 2015. Its Middle East managing partner Campbell Steedman told Legal Business thatdespite having suffered significantly from the effects of the financial crisis and the subsequent plunge in oil prices, Dubai remains ‘a haven of regional political security and economic stability, and any new entrant to the legal market will be welcomed by the regulator authorities’.

‘The market is still quite traditional, and established practices and teams generally dominate. That does not mean there is no space for a new entrant, but it will be challenging as the market remains highly competitive,’ Steedman added.

This month, BLP posted mixed financial results for the year, but attributed its revenue growth to strong performances across the business. In particular, the firm highlighted LOD’s substantial growth over the year. The business’ most recent financial results reveal turnover rose 18% during 2015/16. BLP’s own revenues climbed 7%.

LOD’s Companies House filings in February this year indicated a £255,000 spend on new technology during 2016.

Georgiana.tudor@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Lawyers on Demand records double-digit revenue growth as top-end salaries soar

Lawyers on Demand records double-digit revenue growth as top-end salaries soar

Lawyers on Demand (LOD) has recorded an 18% upsurge in turnover for the 2015/16 financial year, according to its latest filings with Companies House. Revenues rose from £12.3m to £14.6m in the last financial year.

Despite the rising turnover, LOD’s operating profit tumbled from £987,000 to £200,000 over the year, with the accounts stating this was due to ‘one-off exceptional items.’ The accounts state that £255,000 was spent on new technology during 2016.

LOD chief executive Tom Hartley told Legal Business this technology spend was primarily on Spoke, the online legal marketplace that the company launched in the summer of 2016, but that ‘a lot of investment’ was put into the service in the previous year.

Directors at the company saw their salaries increase, with the highest paid director pocketing £495,000 over the year. This is a 46% jump from 2015’s figure of £269,000.

Hartley commented: ‘I joined the business and we hadn’t had a chief executive before and that changes the dynamic.

‘We’re very happy with the profitability, the final profit number was almost entirely determined by the merger with AdventBalance.’

Net debt also saw a decline over the year, falling from £671,000 in 2015 to £336,000 in 2016. However, Hartley took out a £350,000 loan in 2016, repayable over five years. At the end of the financial year, the loan had an outstanding balance of £315,000.

Hartley said: ‘[The loan] was part of me joining the company to take some equity in the business. That was the mechanism by which I did that.

He added: ‘It’s not part of remuneration that allows me to go and buy cars and things. It’s completely tied to the mechanism by which I took equity in the business.’

LOD’s parent company Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) saw a 2% drop in revenue and profitability due to their 50% stake investment in AdventBalance last year.

In February 2016, LOD merged with Australian-based freelance lawyer service AdventBalance to create a £25m business.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

LOD’s Tim Bratton returns to in-house to join Euromoney

LOD’s Tim Bratton returns to in-house to join Euromoney

Lawyers On Demand‘s (LOD) practice development director Tim Bratton is to return to in-house after three years at the contract lawyering business, taking up a role as Euromoney Institutional Investor general counsel and company secretary.

Bratton joined LOD in 2013 to develop and grow LOD’s services a year after the business spun away from Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) to become a separate BLP group company.

Before his stint with the legal services contractor, Bratton served as the Financial Times’ general counsel for ten years after joining the media company in 2002 as a legal adviser. It was a natural move for Bratton who trained and qualified at legacy Denton Wilde Sapte as part of the firm’s media and technology team.

He joins the FTSE 250-listed business publisher, which posted revenues of £403.4m in 2015, and owns more than 70 brands.

Bratton told Legal Business: ‘After three fantastic years leading the client team at LOD, I’ve decided to go back to my in-house roots and am delighted to be joining Euromoney Institutional Investor.’

‘I’m very proud of everything we have achieved at LOD during that time and believe we have established LOD as the ‘go to’ provider of flexible legal services. I look forward to continuing to be a friend of the business in the future.’

LOD managing director Tom Hartley described Bratton’s move as an ‘excellent opportunity’ and said LOD wish him every success in his new role.

Other recent in-house moves include UK-based electronics business Dialight appointing its first general counsel (GC), bringing in Chris Fussell from business process and technology services provider Xchanging. Meanwhile, accounting systems developer Sage has confirmed Vicki Bradin as its new general counsel, moving from financial services company Misys.

madeleine.farman@legalease.co.uk

 

Legal Business

Lawyers line up to be matched up as LOD service Spoke receives 2,400 applications ahead of launch

Lawyers line up to be matched up as LOD service Spoke receives 2,400 applications ahead of launch

Freelance lawyer service Lawyers On Demand (LOD) received 2,400 applications ahead of launching Spoke, an online service that matches lawyers to clients that has been dubbed Tinder Law.

Spoke goes live today (14 July ) with 600 lawyers available to match-up with clients on a simple daily rate, beating a 500-lawyer target the firm set itself ahead of the launch. Over 2,400 attempted to sign-up to the service, with 75% of those who applied to join Spoke ultimately rejected as LOD bids to offer Big Law quality but at smaller prices. The service is targeted at law firms that have overspill work, or work unprofitable to carry out at premium rates, and corporates looking to carry out small legal tasks and projects without the costs associated with using a major firm.

Over 50 corporates, including law firms, banks and hedge funds, have signed up to use the service. Commercial & technology lawyers are most readily available, with 303 listed individuals. The site also offers 114 dispute resolution lawyers, 108 real estate lawyers and 108 corporate lawyers.

Users list their previous experience, the period of time they have been qualified as a lawyer and their location. Former lawyers at Slaughter and May, Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills, DLA Piper, Mishcon de Reya, Eversheds, Mayer Brown, WilmerHale, Olswang and Pinsent Masons have all signed up.

Simon Harper, co-founder of LOD and creator of Spoke (pictured) said: ‘We exceeded our target of registering 500 lawyers on spoke.law by the summer, while maintaining the high quality of lawyers available on the platform. Spoke is about opening up the flexible legal market and from today legal teams can intelligently and easily search a wide range of lawyers and hire them on simple terms. We’re now looking forward to working with teams as they use Spoke, find the lawyers they need and feedback so we can make their experience better and better.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Welcome to Tinder Law – LOD launches online matching service for clients wanting a legal hook-up

Welcome to Tinder Law – LOD launches online matching service for clients wanting a legal hook-up

There are websites to match people with food, taxis and dates, but the sharing economy has entered a new sphere with LOD now launching an online marketplace to pair individual lawyers with clients.

LOD’s new online marketplace, dubbed Spoke, will allow businesses and individuals to search a pool of lawyers by experience level, price, sector speciality and practice skills. With the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Purplebricks respectively disrupting the taxi, holiday and estate agent industries, LOD is hoping the same formula will work in the legal industry.

In what LOD claims is a first of its kind, Spoke is set to have 500 lawyers available to search and send legal work to by July. Lawyers will create profiles, including a picture, detailing their various skills in the hope of being chosen by clients. Around half of the roster are expected to be lawyers already on LOD’s books, with 250 additional freelancers expected to sign up ahead of its summer launch. Clients will be able to ‘favourite’ lawyers – compiling a list of potential people to send work to – and leave testimonials on completion of a project.

The move comes amid growing acceptance of freelance work as a mainstream career option for lawyers, taking LOD’s core flexi-lawyer service to the next level, allowing clients to directly search for lawyers themselves online. The Spoke site has been live for lawyer registrations in the UK since 27 April.

‘Spoke takes the flexible lawyer landscape that LOD pioneered and adds another new way of working,’ said Simon Harper, co-founder of LOD and creator of Spoke. ‘The so-called “gig economy” has allowed lawyers and legal teams to have flexibility and control over how they work and Spoke signals another stage in the New Law evolution. The big law firm was one way for lawyers to work that grew out of the twentieth century. Spoke is about harnessing what the 21st century has to offer.’

Spoke will offer a variety of experience and expertise across different practice areas, ranging from core commercial contracts to more niche specialisations from both solicitors and barristers. The lawyers on Spoke will be available to work with legal teams on a remote flexible basis when clients need them.

‘If you look at these platforms in other industries, there’s an inevitability that it starts off small as people need to adapt to working that way,’ added Harper. ‘The springboard to taking it online will be much greater, though, because we’ve got the heritage and experience in the market. That will accelerate the process, but it will take time.’

The Berwin Leighton Paisner-backed LOD has become one of the most high-profile ‘New Law’ businesses since its launch in 2007. LOD, which generated £12.3m in its 2014/15, was named Legal Innovator of the Year at the 2016 Legal Business Awards.

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

DLA Piper launches flexible working in Australia as part of LOD roll out

DLA Piper launches flexible working in Australia as part of LOD roll out

Fresh from sealing a landmark deal with Lawyers On Demand (LOD) to provide freelance lawyering services to its clients, DLA Piper will roll out the service in Australia following LOD’s merger with Asia-Pacific rival AdventBalance.

DLA has extended its collaboration with LOD to Australia as part of a global arrangement between the two firms to work together across the world. The international expansion follows LOD’s merger with AdventBalance, which has offices across Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Hong Kong and Singapore, to create one of the largest world’s largest New Law businesses.

DLA agreed a deal with LOD late last year to direct alumni towards the freelance lawyer service, who will then service the global law firm when it requires extra resource. At least 50 DLA lawyers are expected to join by the end of 2016 while LOD’s current pool of 400 lawyers are also available to DLA.

Simon Levine, DLA’s global co-chief executive (pictured) said: ‘We have had a truly fantastic response in the UK from both our clients who are using our flexible lawyers and our alumni who have signed up to be flexible lawyers. Our aim is to offer our clients the same high-quality, innovative service wherever they do business and we therefore entered into the collaboration with LOD with the intention of expanding internationally. It makes absolute sense to launch our flexible lawyering solution in Australia next and we are very excited to bring this exciting new model to the market.’

DLA’s global roll out of its LOD deal marks the firm overseas arrangement for the UK-based freelance lawyer service.

Jonathan Brenner, co-founder of LOD, added: ‘Our collaboration with DLA Piper has exceeded all our expectations and we are delighted, though not surprised, to be ‘going global’ so soon after the UK launch. Today’s news comes hot on the heels of LOD’s ground-breaking merger with AdventBalance, and clearly demonstrates the enormous potential of the deal. We’ve taken New Law global and, in doing so, have created the perfect storm. Watch this space for more to come.’

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk