BLP considers split from Lawyers on Demand arm as part of growth drive

Firm gauges options to sustain growth of much-touted virtual arm

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) is gearing up to split away from its groundbreaking Lawyers on Demand (LoD) service.

The City firm’s management is in talks that could see LoD, which provides clients with freelance lawyers on a temporary basis, spinning off from the law firm and operating as an independent business.

The discussions are being led by BLP managing partner Neville Eisenberg and LoD co-founders Jonathan Brenner (pictured) and Simon Harper, with a decision expected within the next six months.

If the firm decides to separate from the business, BLP would remain a key stakeholder, although its share of the LoD business is still to be decided. If LoD does spin off from BLP it is understood it may take advantage of opportunities under the Legal Services Act and seek outside investment within the next few years in order to develop the business further.

The ‘virtual’ law firm, which was launched in 2008 by Brenner, the former co-founder of recruitment consultant ZMB, and BLP commercial partner Harper, is expecting to see turnover increase by more than 100% during 2010-11 to £4.5m, compared with £2m in the last financial year.

It has 75 lawyers on its books with between five and 15 years’ post-qualification experience and supplies locum lawyers to BLP as well as to in-house teams for clients such as Orange, BSkyB, Cisco, Gucci and a number of banks.

LoD is now planning to extend its offering to other law firms and has already been in discussions with at least two firms in the City.

Eisenberg said: “We have been looking at the structure of LoD and trying to figure out how to ensure its future success. Sometimes business lines that have separate structures have a bit more oxygen to develop business plans. LoD has been almost doubling in size annually; we want to ensure it continues to grow and remains successful.”

Brenner said: “The LoD concept is at the heart of the debate on the changing face of the legal profession and the innovative ways in which legal services need to adapt to satisfy client demands.”

The talks come after BLP earlier this year set up a division – Managed Legal Services – to directly run company legal teams.