A&O grows Peerpoint roster by 50% with New York and Frankfurt launches on the cards

Allen & Overy’s (A&O) flexible legal services business Peerpoint has increased the number of lawyers on its books by more than 50% in the past year, with New York and Frankfurt top of the agenda as the firm looks to expand the service around the world.

The service, which was launched in London in 2013, draws on a bank of contract lawyers – referred to as consultants – to assist clients on projects during periods of high demand.

It now has about 300 lawyers on its books, up from 190 last May, and A&O is looking to roll out the service to more international locations.

Last year, Peerpoint was trialled in continental Europe for the first time with a pilot in Amsterdam, which has now been made permanent, and the firm is moving towards launching the service in the US, with New York the most immediate priority.

Peerpoint chief executive Richard Punt said: “We’re looking closely at opportunities in New York as we’re seeing demand from clients there. There’s also more appetite among clients in the US for remote working, so we may well look more broadly for the right lawyers.”

Frankfurt has also been identified as a possible launch area in response to opportunities presented by Brexit, as many financial institutions look to insulate themselves from the full impact of the UK’s exit from the EU by moving operations to the German financial hub.

Punt added: “As the Brexit process starts to kick in, banks and other organisations are taking steps that we can help them with. We’re encouraging lawyers to realise this is the biggest legal change of their generation.

“There are implications for demand post-Brexit – it’s a situation we are watching carefully. It will provoke a change in the market and we are ready to explore continental European markets including Frankfurt.”

About 40% of the consultants on Peerpoint’s books are former A&O lawyers, but the firm is looking to sign up more senior lawyers with a range of experience, and it recently added former Marks & Spencer general counsel Robert Ivens to its roster.

Punt said: “A big part of our effort at the moment is showing clients that senior roles can be fulfilled by consultants who are right at the top of the market. Robert’s a great example of this. People at that level are not necessarily becoming consultants because they want to do the same sort of work they’ve always done, but are keen to do something different.”

Punt added that the firm has been seeing increased demand for consultants with expertise in project management and a strong grasp of technology, including cyber and data security issues, as well as specific experience of legal technology.

Peerpoint’s focus on potential opportunities in New York comes amid A&O’s merger talks with US firm O’Melveny & Myers, which were revealed by Legal Week last month.

Details of the talks have so far been contained to only a small number of senior figures, although partners – some who have expressed scepticism about the proposed tie-up – are expecting to hear more at the magic circle firm’s partner conference in Miami in June.