Our latest 60-second interview features Catriona Blamire, head of client development at Peerpoint, Allen & Overy’s global flexible resourcing platform. She talks to The Lawyer about the impact of the current pandemic on the alternative legal services market, how workspaces might look like in the new world, and how the remote working revolution is here to stay.

What will the impact of the current pandemic be on the alternative legal services market?

One of the overriding impacts of a crisis like the one we’re going though is the way it can propel and fast-track the direction of travel for particular sectors. We’re seeing proof of this with the accelerated adoption of digital technologies in the workplace: from telemedicine to online learning and virtual events. I think the alternative legal services (ALS) market will be no different.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in new market entrants, a proliferation of partnerships, increased private equity activity and market consolidation. The ALS market is at a certain stage in its growth trajectory that makes it ripe for many of these trends to be expedited as a result of the pandemic. Covid-19 has led to businesses reassessing their strategic priorities and will result in a clearer sense of purpose and strategic direction as organisations double down on the key outcomes they’re looking to achieve, feeding into some of the above activities happening sooner than they would have done otherwise.

Finally, as we’ve already seen in the retail and technology sectors, during uncertain times there’s a flight to well established and trusted brand names. This will be felt in the ALS market too and, as such, I would expect organisations in this space to fare better over the coming year.

Catriona Blamire
Catriona Blamire

In your opinion, what are the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the way we work?

Covid-19 has proved beyond doubt that it’s possible for many businesses to deliver their services remotely through agile and flexible working. Indeed, our Allen & Overy London office has had over 1,500 people working remotely with no interruption or compromise to outstanding client service delivery. It’s also been great to see all of our Peerpoint consultants, who were working on client sites, seamlessly transition to remote working. As Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays recently said “big expensive city offices may be a thing of the past”. Organisations can’t on the one hand celebrate delivering effective client services remotely while justifying the cost of expensive central London real estate. As a result I imagine lots of firms will be looking to reduce and reconfigure their office footprint, transforming offices into meeting hubs and creative spaces where teams and clients can come together to plan projects, deals and strategise.

Whilst our workspaces may well look different in the new world, I also think the way we deliver that work will change. The remote working revolution has been an epiphany for even the most ardent naysayers. The conclusion I’ve heard unanimously is that no one wants to go fully back to the old world at the expense of a new found work-life balance. What transcends all my conversations with clients and colleagues is that, whatever their personal life set up, there have been huge positives derived from working from home (appreciating this will be a lot easier when schools and childcare is fully back up and running!). Be it more time to exercise, pursue a hobby (we have a lot of budding gardeners in our team!) or devote ourselves to beloved pets and children, the lesson has been learnt: work can be executed just as effectively, but with less impact on our personal lives. Let’s hope that these lessons aren’t forgotten!

How do you keep yourself motivated in the current climate?

The current climate provides us with the opportunity to do things differently and to be more creative in the way we approach situations – for me this is highly motivating. For a small, but fast growing business like Peerpoint, we have the ability to pivot and adapt to changing market dynamics to deliver our services to clients and consultants in a remote world, which is an exciting challenge. From running our entire consultant recruitment process through video calls and producing more personal marketing video content using our mobile phones, to on-boarding consultants to help large client organisations with delays to on-boarding – there are lots of ways we’re getting creative, which I love. I also feel very privileged to work in a business, and with such a great team, where that culture exists.

Your coronavirus reading list: your top 3 book recommendations.

This question made me laugh. I have two little ones under four, so I can’t remember the last time I got past page 30 of a book. However, my current favourite podcasts are: ‘How I Built This’ with Guy Raz, ‘Don’t take out your phone’ with Lewis Maleh and ‘Table Manners’ with Jessie Ware.

Catriona Blamire is one of the 30+ speakers making up this year’s speaker line-up at The Lawyer’s In-house Financial Services virtual event. For more information on the conference, a copy of the agenda, or to register for any of the 10+ sessions available, please visit the event website.