A&O launches contract lawyer business

Allen & Overy (A&O) has launched a new contract lawyer business through which teams of legal professionals will work for the firm on a flexible basis.

The service, named ‘Peerpoint’, will initially contract A&O alumni with high-end or specialised skill sets to assist the firm during periods of high demand. It would also look to use lawyers from other top tier firms seeking greater flexibility.

Peerpoint is being overseen by the firm’s head of business improvement Ben Williams, and will involve between 20 and 30 lawyers working as self-employed legal consultants.

Although the project is currently focused on work carried out by A&O’s London office, the firm said it would look to expand internationally.

Speaking to Legal Week, managing partner Wim Dejonghe said the business was driven by calls from both clients and associates at the firm, and would allow contracted lawyers greater choice over when, where and how they work.

“The traditional law firm model is under pressure and lacks flexibility,” commented Dejonghe. “In a low growth environment, peaks in client demand are far more variable, so we need greater flexibility in our model.

“We also want to provide an option for those high-calibre lawyers who enjoy the challenge of working with top tier clients without the added demands of working in a large law firm. Peerpoint enables us to do both.”

Several firms, including Eversheds and Berwin Leighton Paisner, have already pioneered similar contract lawyer businesses, while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer also has an alumni network.

Asked to differentiate Peerpoint from other contract services in the market, Dejoinghe said: “I think we really focus on the top end of the market with this; we are looking at the same kind of work we do in London. It bodes well for the legal industry as a whole if we get these things right.”

Williams added that although most work would involve A&O partners delegating work, he could imagine circumstances where contracted lawyers could handle matters themselves, providing the firm received client approval.