A&O boosts flexible working push with freelance initiative for alumni

Allen & Overy (A&O) is rolling out a new initiative featuring self-employed legal consultants aimed at topping up resource at peak periods of demand.

The move coincides with a call from managing partner Wim Dejonghe for “greater flexibility” in the traditional law firm model.

The new service, called Peerpoint, will initially contract A&O alumni to work during times of high demand or where there is a need for specialist skills. The London-based team currently consists of around 10 lawyers, all former A&O alumni, with the goal being to end up with a team of around 30 contracters. 

In a related move London-based head of business improvement Ben Williams, who has been working on the pilot and launch of the service in recent months, has been promoted to chief operating officer (COO) following the launch of the initiative today (25 November). 

Williams told The Lawyer that the freelancers will consist of senior associates and partners, all of whom will be selected and paid at similar levels to permanent members of staff.

“The aim is to bring in people who can get up to speed and work with relatively low supervision,” Williams said.

Global managing partner Dejonghe added that the plan is to launch similar support services “sooner rather than later” in at least five other offices.

“Clients are very keen to get this going,” he stressed. ”It means when there are big demands in work we can call on people we know. The idea behind this is to make sure our best people, who might just want to focus on legal work and have less interest in the other aspects of being a lawyer, or want more flexiblity in their lives, can stay in touch with the business and the clients.” 

In a statement Dejonghe added that the traditional law firm model was under pressure and lacked flexibility.

Dejonghe said: “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.”

This is not the first time A&O has introduced a flexible working scheme. In 2010 the firm announced that it would allow equity partners to work part-time (21 January 2010), one of a series of measures adopted by the firm to promote female career progression, including the proposal to offer workshops to teach female associates “soft” communication skills (14 September 2009).

Other firms have also looked at alternative ways of offering legal services. Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) launched Lawyers on Demand in 2008, a service which has provided lawyers to in-house teams and other law firms on a secondment basis. The firm then added a pay-as-you-go service to the venture over the summer (22 July 2013).