The increasing pressure for in-house teams to become leaner and more cost-effective means they are often working close to capacity. This creates immense pressure when trying to manage peaks in workflows and covering vacancies and absences.
“Where the stakes are high and bandwidth is limited, businesses can’t afford to bring the wrong person into their team. Interim legal consultants are an effective solution because the ability to access extra capacity at multiple levels of seniority enables legal departments to handle large-scale matters without the fixed cost attached to a permanent hire,” says Catriona Blamire, Head of Client Development for Peerpoint in the UK.
These legal consultants can provide the specialist expertise needed to temporarily support transactions, regulatory projects, and disputes across a number of areas.
The terminology can sometimes be confusing but legal consultants are well-qualified, experienced and often self-employed lawyers who undertake contract work covering a wide range of roles, from paralegal support to interim general counsel and legal operations manager.
The post-pandemic business environment
As we move in and out of lockdowns, organisations will have to find ways to continue to operate and tackle difficult programmes of work in less-than-ideal circumstances, for a prolonged period. In the future, working arrangements and staffing structures are going to look very different, which is a huge opportunity for those prepared to grasp it.
"With the recent shift to remote working, our clients are already starting to think creatively about how they deploy existing legal team members, particularly into business critical, customer focused roles, and access additional legal resource on an 'as-needed’ basis,” says Rachel Carter, Senior Client Development Manager for Peerpoint in Asia Pacific.
She continues: “Flexible resourcing will have an increasingly important role to play in legal departments’ long-term resourcing strategies, particularly in light of tightened budgets, hiring freezes and demands to deliver more-for-less.”
Providers of legal consultants like Peerpoint are already helping to address these needs, while putting the career aspirations of modern lawyers at the centre of what they do.
Adapting to new ways of working
Lawyers choose a career in legal consultancy because they are seeking more flexibility, control or variety (and sometimes all three) than is offered by a full-time position in a law firm or legal department. “The lawyers we work with are ambitious and driven but have decided that the traditional linear career path isn’t necessarily for them,” says Blamire.
Consultants bring an important cultural trait to any organisation – adaptability. Working on a succession of interim placements requires legal consultants to fit in quickly and adjust to different working arrangements, systems, processes and corporate politics. They develop an ability to hit the ground running and work under pressure, especially valuable in today’s unpredictable business environment.
Augmenting capacity and expertise
Peerpoint is part of Allen & Overy (A&O) and that makes its consultants unique. In order to join the panel consultants are carefully vetted to meet A&O’s high standards and in turn they are properly supported.
Consultants have unique access to A&O’s partners, practice groups, knowledge and know-how resources, professional development opportunities as well as a number of other support services. For clients, this means that their interim staff will meet the standards and calibre of their external counsel.
“Our clients love the fact that when they use Peerpoint they get so much more than just an individual parachuted into their team. They get the wrap-around support of a magic circle law firm and this feels wholly different from an interim hire from a recruitment company,” says Blamire.
Most of Peerpoint’s consultants fulfil interim assignments at global financial institutions and multinational corporates:
- Providing additional capacity for large-scale deals, transformational projects and regulatory programmes driven by constitutional and legislative changes such as Brexit in the UK, the Prospectus Regulations for equity and debt capital markets, the IBOR reform of financial services and the Design and Distribution Obligations regime in Australia;
- Supplying teams with specialist skill-sets that are required temporarily for specific matters;
- Covering the vacancies and extended absences of lawyers on secondment, taking parental or caring leave, or on academic sabbaticals, and offering flexible in-house capacity when needed;
- Filling interim management roles following the departure of a general counsel or head of legal while the company recruits a replacement. This may be an interim senior role or coverage at mid-management level where a promotion leaves a gap.
For fintech and other high growth businesses that are not yet ready to commit to the fixed costs associated with hiring permanent in-house legal resource, engaging legal consultants on an ‘as-needed’ basis can be beneficial. “We work with clients to find solutions that are flexible in duration, working pattern and fee structure. For some of our clients, this means helping them trial the use of legal consultants as well as supporting them to build a business case for the right permanent hires,” says Carter.
Support for international businesses
Carter continues: “Our international presence is also key. Where international organisations find themselves in need of specialist expertise which is unavailable locally, we find ways to source that expertise internationally. Our consultants also support the regional offices of global corporations whose legal function does not comprehensively cover all the jurisdictions a piece of work touches on.”
This international dimension of flexible legal staffing opens up career opportunities for lawyers who want to travel and gain experience in different organisations and countries, or who have relocated and are not ready or able to commit to a permanent role.
Peerpoint’s platform offers an alternative career path for lawyers at every stage in their career, giving them control over their direction, location and specialism, and the association with A&O brings strong credibility to a portfolio career.
Evolution of corporate legal operations
Beyond providing extra capacity and specialist legal skills, Peerpoint’s consultants offer broader commercial skills, in areas such as governance, risk, compliance, project management and legal operations and technology, to in-house departments. They can facilitate and identify ways of increasing efficiencies and help accelerate the development of corporate legal operations, for example by connecting clients to A&O’s wider range of Advanced Delivery & Solutions services.
Change was already afoot in the legal industry but recent global events have expedited it. Lawyers and their teams will need to become increasingly flexible, agile and responsive to stay ahead. If you haven’t considered legal consulting before – either as a client or as a career path – now is the time.