NewLaw insights. Inside Lawyers On Demand

Lawyers On Demand is one of two large NewLaw firms with a growing international footprint, the other is Axiom Law. I know both passingly well. Their senior executives and, in the case of Lawyers On Demand, their founders have been contributors to my books, NewLaw New Rules (2013) and Remaking Law Firms: Why & How (2016).

Now that Lawyers On Demand (since 2006-2008) and Axiom Law (since 2000-2002) are well established providers of legal services, it’s appropriate to provide insights into their strategic thinking. So, I am pleased to introduce Sandra Gibson, Managing Director of Lawyers On Demand, Australia in this interview.

What’s the strategic logic behind opening in new jurisdictions versus focusing on deepening Lawyers On Demand’s share of current markets?

Sandra: We want to do both – focus on growing our current markets (where we have market leadership – UK, Australia, and Asia) and also expand to new markets where we can service current (and new) clients. Many of our clients are global multinationals, and the ability to service them in all markets in which they operate is appealing, for them and us.

Lawyers On Demand seems to focus (almost?) entirely on corporate law departments, with seemingly little or no interest in law firms as clients per se. Or, is this simply the market’s perception? 

Sandra: Lawyers On Demand does focus on and service both corporate law departments and law firms. Corporate law departments, however, have been quicker and more innovative in embracing new models and therefore they do currently account for most of our work. Saying that, our law firm client base is growing steadily year-on-year and is an absolute focus for our business. Our recent announcement about our collaboration with DLA Piper caused ripples in the market and is evidence of our law firm commitment.

To what extent is Lawyers On Demand planning to invest in technology to serve corporate clients, for example as Riverview Law is doing?

Sandra: We do invest in technology and will continue to do so. Unlike some of our competitors, however, we do not see ourselves as a technology company. We see ourselves as a people business, and we invest in technology where it creates efficiency and allows us to provide better and additional services for our clients.

Into the future how will Lawyers On Demand strike a balance between providing managed legal services and your secondment model (On Site and On Call – nice names BTW)?

Sandra: We are already providing ‘managed services’ for clients but it is not a ‘one size fits all.’ What we have found, and continue to find, is that clients have different issues that we can solve in different ways using talent, process, and technology. Managed services for us is about working closely with clients and solving problems with specifically designed bespoke solutions.  We have for example just designed a solution for a large global bank to assist them to manage large volumes of work at the end of each quarter.

We don’t see managed services as building large groups of people offshore and then trying to sell capacity. The exact opposite actually – we get to know our clients and then design solutions that help solve problems and provide value.  Our On Site and On Call services are just some of the options we can use in creating those bespoke solutions.

Neither LOD nor Axiom appears to have any difficulty in attracting and retaining lawyers on demand (LODs, as you call them)? Is this perception correct? If so, with BigLaw firms starting their captives, how might the supply of lawyers change?

To date, there hasn’t been a problem attracting talent as there are many lawyers out there wanting to work in a more self-directed and flexible way. This is a conscious career choice for many talented lawyers.  That is not, however, to say it is easy. It isn’t. We are not just after talent but after top quality talent and people who are the right cultural fit – we put a lot of effort into this. I think what we offer is quite different in respect of the talent market to what the traditional law firm captives offer. They are generally after alumni with private practice experience, and we are after lawyers with top tier backgrounds, but who have also worked in-house and have significant commercial experience. There is a difference, and our clients feel that.

How do you see the future of BigLaw captives such Peerpoint, Agile, Vario in the UK and Orbit and Flex in Australia?

The market is growing faster than any single NewLaw provider can service it and our view is that everyone has a place in the market. To us, it validates there is a market for this form of NewLaw service, and for what we started eight years ago.  They are all different offerings, targeting slightly different markets. Sure there is some overlap, but if everyone is doing a good job, we will all grow the market together. We will just keep focusing on what we think we do best – having the highest quality people and providing clients with more efficient, flexible and cost-effective ways of sourcing legal services.

Are you able to comment on the logic behind the DLA Piper alliance? And progress so far?

DLA Piper wants to be able to provide high-quality lawyers for their practice groups and clients but doesn’t want to incur additional fixed overheads. Given the pressures on the traditional law firm business model (BigLaw as you describe it), this is simply smart business.

They also looked at whether they should build something themselves or work with an external provider. They decided on the latter. We work closely with them and currently provide secondees for both the firm itself and their clients in multiple markets around the world.

Finally, it must be an exciting ride as MD of the Australian part of Lawyers On Demand? What’s the best thing about your role?

It has been very exciting – 6 years ago I joined a small Perth law firm working in a cutting edge business space – NewLaw.  Much of our time was spent simply explaining the concept to clients and lawyers, and while we knew we were onto something, we had to encourage them to give it a  go. Now I work for a global company, NewLaw is (almost) mainstream, clients are installing alternative legal services panels, and lawyers are deliberately choosing to work in NewLaw to further their careers.

My job is the perfect use of my varied background: law, HR, and business. I love that we are doing something different and creative in law that shakes the industry up and gives clients better options. And I think it is such a privilege to hear people’s career and life stories.  I am proud of the opportunities we give to lawyers to broaden their careers and balance their lives.

Sandra Gibson | LOD – Lawyers On Demand, Managing Director, Australia

lod-editorial-featureReaders will be interested in this full page advertisement.

Lawyers On Demand placed it in the Australian Financial Review on November 20, 2016.

It’s a long time since a BigLaw firm placed an ad like this. Sign of the times?


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