The ability to access flexible talent for the in-house legal department should be seen as a key component of their ‘toolkit’. Over the past decade our team at Peerpoint by Allen & Overy have supported a wide range of GCs and in-house legal departments making use of interim lawyers as a means to optimize and manage a team more efficiently through uncertain times.
Peerpoint’s ability to connect world-leading organizations with the best interim legal talent is underpinned by our panel of more than 350 lawyers from top-tier law firms and backgrounds which means quality is guaranteed.
In this article, we explain three of the many ways that flexible resourcing can feature as a key tool in the GC armoury, helping legal leaders navigate budget freezes, flex according to workflow and resource challenges, and manage risks to optimize performance.
1. Addressing budget freezes
Many of our clients face periods where their businesses impose headcount freezes or where there is a short-term block on the authorisation for permanent hires. Nevertheless, in-house legal departments may need additional resources, for example to lead on major transactions or regulatory change projects or to boost certain areas of expertise currently underweight in the department.
We work closely with businesses to understand their needs, culture, pressures and budget constraints so that we can offer an interim resource that is the perfect fit to keep the team moving forward.
Often, the successful appointment of interim legal talent is used by GCs to make the compelling case for additional permanent resource or to push for a headcount increase. In a survey conducted by Peerpoint this year, a third of our global clients told us that they use temporary resource as a way to demonstrate a business case for permanent hires. Interim lawyers also mean budget constraints need not restrict a legal team’s ability to deliver. With so much uncertainty in the economic outlook, businesses are cautious about long-term investment and are instead using flexible resourcing to weather periods of fast-moving change.
2. The ability to flex to meet business demands
As businesses experience peaks and troughs their legal teams need to grapple with intense periods of demand for their services as well as riding out quieter periods. We find leaders don’t want to have an excess of permanent legal talent on the books when it’s not required, so the option to increase capacity in short order as necessary and then downsize equally quickly means they are operating far more efficiently and effectively.
The need to respond to workflow ups and downs varies enormously by industry, but it is not unusual for an increased level of M&A activity or a regulatory investigation, for example, to drive an additional requirement for resource at short notice. Sometimes that need is for an extra pair of hands to bolster an already strong in-house team; other times it is a niche expertise that’s called for.
Adding lawyers on an interim basis allows GCs to respond quickly, even when they know that the supplementary skillset will only be required for a limited period. The length of these mandates can vary in duration– we regularly support three-month assignments to help teams through busy periods or short-term staffing challenges, as well as providing year-long resources for longer term projects. We also draw on our past experiences to provide more outside-of-the-box solutions, such as identifying when a resource need could be filled by a part-time rather than a full-time resource to address a particularly tight budget, or where a more junior interim lawyer could provide hands-on support with oversight by a more senior member of the in-house team. This is where having access to a panel of lawyers who are open to flexible working patterns is so invaluable.
3. Managing risks and optimizing teams
Making use of interim legal resources is all about getting the skillsets required, and bringing experience into the legal team, fast. We are living through an extreme talent market right now that means recruitment and retention is especially challenging, leaving GCs facing the prospect of being unable to hire the specialists they need or losing integral team members at short notice. Nearly half of the respondents to our 2022 client survey said the number one factor shaping their team over the coming year was going to be retaining and developing existing talent.
In a tight talent market, leaders are finding it is taking longer to fill vacancies. Utilising flexible lawyers who can step in to fill short-term gaps mean that the existing team is not pulled into covering other roles and can instead focus on their own tasks and career development. Avoiding the need for firefighting helps with retention of your existing team and prevents a drag on business performance caused by departures. Interim professionals can also bring fresh thinking that can often boost output and reinvigorate an established legal function.
Peerpoint offers GCs more choice, more control and more flexibility as they staff their teams, facilitating access to a roster of carefully selected best-in-class lawyers who between them cover every major legal speciality across most industries.
Our Peerpoint lawyers come from preeminent private practices and are part of global law firm Allen & Overy, capable of stepping up to the most complex legal assignments and backed by Allen & Overy resources and professional indemnity insurance.
Our deep experience in working closely with legal departments in the U.S. and globally means we can find the right lawyer to meet any need, allowing GCs to focus their resources where they are needed most and operate resilient, successful teams in challenging times.
Find out more
To discuss any of the themes raised in this article, please get in touch with one of our team:
Luke Wilson in Australia
Emma Morrison in the UK
Azara Digan in the UAE
Amie Davidson in the U.S.