Linklaters to spin off Blue Flag web service

Linklaters is spending £5m in a bid to spin off its internet service Blue Flag.

Clients have been able to subscribe to the initiative since its launch in 1996. Services include advice, documentation drafting and transaction management.

But the firm has now decided to set up a separate company in a bid to widen the scope of the service.

Linklaters will fund the initial £5m and then seek further investment from external partners, although it will retain a controlling interest.

The second tranche of funding is expected to be more substantial, although a figure has yet to be specified.

Head of financial services and partner in charge of Blue Flag Paul Nelson says that the firm wants to expand the service outside the legal profession.

He says: “It will be geared eventually to everything. Any type of professional services and other industry sectors – there is no limit to this, although it will be customised to that particular profession.”

But one industry source doubts the City firm's direction. He says: “It is a corking idea but is it core to what Linklaters is about? It is the type of thing a smaller firm would do.”

Pearce concedes that the service is not suitable for all work. “If you are doing heavy- duty advice in an M&A then clearly the client does not want a website,” he says.

But he dismisses suggestions that the move does not fit with Linklaters' strategy. He says: “We are embracing the new economy and think this is going to fundamentally affect the provision of legal services.”

The move comes only a week after the firm lost the head of its e-commerce business group, equity partner Rupert Pearce, to internet client Cognition Ventures.

Linklaters partners Charlie Jacobs and Chris Kelly will take over as joint heads of the group.