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The added value of consultant lawyers

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Even the largest and most sophisticated in-house legal teams can find themselves short of resource. With regulatory skill sets in high demand, turning to legal consultants adds experienced, flexible lawyers who often also bring much-needed project management and implementation expertise. 

Employing the services of legal consultants is no longer a case of simply drafting in junior lawyers to pick up the dregs of low-level work when everyone else in the in-house legal team is on their knees. The legal consulting industry has grown significantly in terms of both offerings and sophistication in recent years, and is increasingly the domain of well-qualified, dynamic lawyers of all levels of seniority. These lawyers are looking for exposure to a greater variety of experiences and a more flexible way of working and frequently bring much more than just legal skills to the table.

Benefits for an in-house legal department

From an in-house legal department perspective, this enhanced service proposition allows access to highly skilled self-employed lawyers capable of filling the most complex resourcing requirements at times of intense pressure. At Peerpoint, we see three principal areas of demand for our consultants:

  1. The first being the provision of additional support to, and leadership on, large-scale, complex projects. The majority of these projects are driven by regulatory change, particularly in the case of financial institutions, but they may be related to other significant developments that will impact the strategic direction or reputation of a business, and they call for experience and insight.
  2. The second significant source of client demand relates to short and medium-term cover to fill absences of experienced lawyers within the organisation, whether those are caused by parental leave or other unanticipated breaks.
  3. Finally, consultants can be called to step into vacancies at management level, perhaps in the wake of a high-level resignation by a General Counsel or Head of Legal. Departures such as these can also drive a requirement at more junior and mid-levels to backfill business-as-usual roles in place of employees that have stepped up to meet the management need.

Complex large scale projects

While these second and third categories create a steady ongoing level of demand for legal consultants, it is the first category of complex, large-scale projects where we currently see some of the biggest requirements amongst clients. Against a backdrop of tightening budgets and the need to find cost efficiencies, in-house legal teams increasingly operate close to capacity and can easily come under pressure in the face of regulatory change. With the endless waves of new regulation, especially for financial institutions, we are witnessing a growing need for lawyers with not only regulatory skillsets but also project management and change implementation expertise.

Brexit, Prospectus Regulation and IBOR Reform

In the UK, Brexit remains an obvious and ongoing challenge for most in-house legal teams. Despite the lack of clarity on what form Brexit will take, institutions are looking closely at their structures at a European level, with many players from the financial services sectors gearing up to move, or having already moved, operations to centres including Luxembourg, Dublin, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris.

Beyond Brexit, the new Prospectus Regulation that came into effect in July 2019 is a significant overhaul of the prospectus regime in the EU and a major change for equity and debt capital markets participants.

Furthermore, the IBOR reform may represent one of the biggest challenges that many financial services professionals will face in their careers. 

Solid regulatory skillsets

The one thing that all these changes have in common is a requirement for solid regulatory skillsets, and among our 300 contract lawyers we have a significant proportion of experts in that area. Clients are also often looking for regulatory skills in combination with knowledge of mergers and acquisitions or project management in financial services. Any legal consultant with regulatory change project experience, such as MiFID II for example, is in high demand, as process change and implementation skills are transferable and increasingly gaining in significance.

Fully integrated with Allen & Overy 

Peerpoint’s panel of legal consultants is made up of lawyers who have the necessary experience to add value well beyond meeting an immediate legal gap. They are fully integrated with Allen & Overy, with access to the firm’s professional support lawyers, knowhow facilities and training and development resources. They also work closely with the A&O teams that are engaged with a client on an ongoing basis, giving them a powerful hotline back into the practice if needed.

Ensuring everyone's needs are met

Whether an in-house requirement calls for a full-time lawyer in the office every day for six months or more, or a three-month stint from a lawyer working from home two days a week, we use careful scoping and open conversations to make sure everyone’s needs are met. Often the end result is not just a lightening of the workload at a time of resource pressure, but the addition of high-end experience and expertise bringing invaluable new insights and perspectives.

For more information about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact us.