Now that work-life balance is firmly on most lawyers’ to do lists, new ways of working are at the front of most people’s minds. Enter Lawyers Direct, a two-year-old firm that gives lawyers with wanderlust the chance to go freelance and still win quality work.
The firm is an oddity. All of its 45 lawyers, other than managing director and firm head James Knight and his assistant, are self-employed, operating as consultants. Head office also boasts a paralegal – and that is it.
Knight works from the firm’s nominal head office in London, while the consultants work from home. Now that is what you call a work-life balance.
Lawyers Direct, which was established in October 2002, focuses solely on non-contentious company and commercial work. Its client base is split between corporate clients with no in-house legal resource, in-house legal departments of larger corporations looking to outsource certain requirements, and small to medium-sized law firms in need of specialist consultancy advice for a one-off transaction. If a firm has a major deal on and needs an extra helping hand at attractive rates, it could choose to call Lawyers Direct and help keep its fixed costs down.
“From the client’s point of view, whether it is a corporate or a law firm, we’re more affordable than a City firm; but as most of our lawyers have come from a City background, there’s no commensurate drop in expertise,” says Knight. “Our charge-out rates are around £150 an hour, which for someone who may have 10 years’ post-qualification experience at Linklaters, is rather reasonable.”
Lawyers Direct only recruits lawyers who comply with the Law Society’s minimum requirements for supervising an office. That means only lawyers who have held a practising certificate for at least 36 months over the last 10 years need apply.
“In practice, all the lawyers have at least five years’ post-qualification experience or solid in-house credentials, although there’s a strong bias towards City firms,” adds Knight. “That way we guarantee quality.
“You can fluke your training, but you can’t fluke five years as an assistant at Clifford Chance.”