BLP launches Manchester hub as it shakes up client service

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) is to launch a four-pronged process mapping and outsourcing programme aimed at cutting costs in a move that will include the launch of a hub in Manchester.

The firm said the measures would improve client services using a number of initiatives. They include: outsourcing work to third-party firms in a similar way to its global preferred firms network; the development of a Manchester hub;  the extension of its Lawyers On Demand service to include virtual transaction teams; and a process mapping initiative.

The launch of the onshore centre in Manchester will kickstart the development of the ‘integrated client service model’ in the summer, BLP said.

The ’legal process improvement’ (LPI) plan is essentially the  extension of its current process mapping projects on client work streams. 

As part of the roll out of Lawyers on Demand (LoD) the firm is launching ’virtual transaction teams’, giving clients access to more senior lawyers for distint chunks of work.

As part of the LoD initiative there are also plans to develop the ‘On Call’ service, which supplies temporary individual lawyers to businesses. The firm will offer temporary teams for routine and stand-alone parts of complex work. BLP said the teams would operate remotely through “pioneering technology and project management processes”.

The Managed Legal Services (MLS) division, which was previously part of its outsourcing programme, was restructured after the exit of partner and MLS founder Patrick Somers for DLA Piper in 2013 (22 July 2013).

The division launched three years ago with the high-profile acquisition of the entire legal work of Thames Water, including its 14 lawyers in Reading, but they were not joined by general counsel Joel Hanson, who stayed within the company’s secretariat (25 March 2010).

It allowed the firm to take on all work carried out by the utility company’s panel – a deal which it estimated to be wroth £5m at the time. However it lost a pitch for Balfour Beatty after being pipped to the post by Pinsent Masons in January 2013 and a proposed deal with Yorkshire Water was also understood to have fallen through in the same year.

The drive to reshuffle the firm’s processes and increase outsourcing comes on the back of declining profit figures at the firm.

It unveiled a 39 per cent drop in average profit per equity partner (PEP) for 2012/13 and a 38 per cent drop in net profit (30 September 2013).

During the 2012/13 financial year net dropped from £63.6m to £39.4m, giving the firm a profit margin of 17 per cent, while PEP fell from £660,000 to £401,000. A spokesperson for BLP said the firm saw the results as “a blip”.