Lawyers are increasingly looking for more control over their careers and personal life, to create a balance that works for them. The rapid shift towards a work/life balance ideology has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic and is no longer just the aspiration of millennials. This has been brought into focus over the last eighteen months as many professionals have realised that they can work from home, allocate more time to family and personal interests, and still deliver the same, or even better quality work for their clients.
With these trends in mind, Peerpoint co-hosted a webinar with In-House Community last year on ‘Shaping a rewarding career through legal consulting’ and we feel so many of the themes still resonate. The discussion involved Peerpoint lawyers from jurisdictions across the globe – including the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom– sharing their experiences about working on interim legal placements as a Peerpoint consultant, including both the benefits and pitfalls.
One of the key takeaways from the discussion was that it’s no longer necessary to have a ‘one career’ only focus. Take for example Amrik Tumber, a legal consultant with corporate M&A and banking experience based in London. Tumber has been working with Peerpoint since 2017, and actually joined the platform initially in Sydney, Australia. During this time, he has worked on a number of engaging assignments, but has done so while maintaining a parallel career as an actor. He can go to auditions, return to the office and resume his legal job, sometimes within an hour (and update his team on how his audition went!). That type of flexibility was practically unheard of in the legal industry just a few years ago, and is still very rare in most Asian jurisdictions, but is an aspect of what drives lawyers to consider legal consulting.
This flexibility is what encouraged Jennifer Yu, a Hong Kong based practitioner who worked for Peerpoint’s parent, Allen & Overy, before moving over to consulting. Initially, she left Allen & Overy to work in her family’s business, where she was exposed to more general corporate matters. Whilst she enjoyed the role, it required extensive travel back and forth to mainland China, where a large part of the business was based. Deciding she wanted to cut back on travel (pre-Covid19), Yu looked to re-join a law firm, but did not want to work full-time as she had done before. A part-time role with Peerpoint provided the solution.
Opportunities at all levels
Legal consulting is often seen as an option for senior lawyers, but there are opportunities at all levels, including for those in the early stages of their career. We are particularly seeing a demand for a breadth of experience at the moment.
Sahar Kianfar, an experienced U.S. qualified lawyer living between California and the UK has been practicing law for around 15 years and has been a Peerpoint lawyer for five of those. While on maternity leave and prior to joining Peerpoint, she spoke with many female lawyers who suggested that if she wanted to continue to engage in ‘high-calibre’ work, it required sacrificing time with her family. However, as a lawyer with Peerpoint, she now gets to work on high-end deals, as a partner-level lawyer would, but between assignments enjoys the flexibility to spend time with her family.
Annemiek Wassink, earlier on in her career, leveraged the opportunities consulting offers for people looking to get acclimated to something different. Having recently moved to Singapore, she turned to consulting with Peerpoint to get settled in the local legal market, gain more experience in-house and explore the variety of settings and types of companies she could work in, with the comfort of knowing she would get quality experience from the consulting assignments she took on.
The change has proven beneficial for buyers of legal services as well, who can ‘do more with less’ by hiring a legal consultant for a particular project to supplement their in-house legal team, rather than relying entirely on secondees from a law firm. Since the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in demand from clients for lawyers available for interim assignments. We don’t envisage this abating any time soon given the hiring challenges companies in many countries are facing at present.
Law firm support and resources
Working as a legal consultant does come with its own challenges. As consultants, lawyers need to allocate time to keep up-to-date with legislative changes and continue their legal training. But Jane Huston, a Peerpoint legal consultant based in Singapore points out that she benefitted from having access to Allen & Overy’s CPD programme and was able to visit their office when she was behind on her training, watch the firm’s accredited videos, and fulfil her professional development requirements. Like other panellists, she benefits from access to a wide range of resources and support (such as know-how and access to partners) whilst on assignment with Peerpoint.
You can, of course, at times find yourself between assignments for longer than expected. Tumber stresses how it’s important to maintain your client relationships, even when you are in-between assignments, “so that [clients] don’t forget about you”.
Wider range of skills availability
Peerpoint’s managing director, Carolyn Aldous, described how legal consultants are embraced into the Peerpoint community and are continually supported during their assignments. “As the Peerpoint evolution has occurred, we have broadened the skills and experiences available on our panel. So, we now have people with legal project management skills, legal operation transformation experience, and, increasingly, legal tech. That really reflects where in-house teams are in relation to their evolution as well.”
The interim legal resourcing market is already well established in the U.S., Europe, and Australia, where in-house legal departments are more aware of the benefits of hiring lawyers on an interim basis, whether that’s to cover leave gaps, bringing in additional capacity for large-scale deals, transformational projects and regulatory programmes, or even for specialist skill-sets required for specific matters.
Driven by the cost-benefit and attractiveness of the model, the alternative legal services market is maturing rapidly, and the future of legal consulting and flexible resourcing looks bright.
You can view the recording of the webinar here.
Find out more
To learn more about Peerpoint and how it might benefit you and your career, please contact a member of the team:
Nikki Pantges in Australia
Georgeanna Mok in Asia
Louise Catton in the UK
Azara Digan in the UAE
Amie Davidson in the US