In the first multi-continent merger of its kind, NewLaw leading firms LOD – Lawyers on Demand and AdventBalance joined together in October, 2016 under the joint name and brand LOD – Lawyers on Demand. As LOD – Lawyers on Demand detailed at the time, “the deal…saw the creation of one of the world’s largest New Law businesses with market-leading positions in Asia, Australia and Europe”.
Following this blockbuster merger, both firms “doubled the size of the business and now work across eight offices (London, New York, Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth), with over 650 lawyers and a world-class, international client base comprising over 500 companies and firms.”
This merger exemplifies the increasing acceptance of the NewLaw business model in Asia among General Counsel and BigLaw firms alike. Asia Law Portal recently had the opportunity to interview LOD – Lawyers on Demand Head of Asia John Knox, about how LOD is changing the dynamics of NewLaw in Asia. Here’s that interview:
LOD – Lawyers On Demand just went through a major merger between LOD and AdventBalance. How has this combination changed the dynamics of NewLaw in Asia?
The merger was about creating scale, and global coverage for our clients, and we now have that with 8 offices (London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth & Brisbane) and over 600 lawyers and consultants. I do think the combination has changed the dynamics of NewLaw in Asia and globally to be honest. There used to be one big global player (Axiom) and a lot of other smaller players. There are now two big global players (Axiom and LOD) and a lot of other smaller players. Our mission behind the merger was simple – to provide global coverage for our clients and greater career opportunities for our lawyers, consultants and HQ staff. Asia is slightly behind the rest of the world in its acceptance of NewLaw players and alternative models, but that is changing quickly. Singapore for instance is now our third biggest office behind London and Sydney.
The number of NewLaw firms in Asia has expanded in recent years, and is now offering more than seconded lawyers placed with the general counsel’s office. How has LOD changed with the market and what services do you offer above and beyond secondees to the general counsel?
The number and type of NewLaw businesses in Asia has definitely expanded in recent years. On one hand this creates more competition but on the other it validates and grows the sector for all. LOD has also grown over the years and we now provide a wide range of services for our clients beyond just straight secondments. This still does include secondments (to provide both extra coverage and additional expertise where required), but also now includes flexible and often remote OnCall type arrangements as well as managed teams and solutions that involve us project managing people, process and technology (a powerful combination). An example of this is where we have recently built a large team of lawyers to support a global banking at the end of each quarter with increased workload. The General Counsel has real time access to everything that is being done through a tech enabled dashboard we have built. We have also recently launched an online marketplace from freelance lawyers in the UK – www.spoke.law. It needs to be said however that unlike some of our competitors we do not 1) see ourselves as a technology company or 2) think one size fits all when it comes to managed services. We are a people business and we design our managed solutions/services to suit each and every specific client need in a bespoke way. This is the way the market is going.
Some critics of NewLaw argue that NewLaw is dependent upon BigLaw for legal talent. What role do you see LOD playing in the future in the development of legal talent?
We do rely in some parts on BigLaw training our lawyers (in the early stages of their career anyway) but we actually recruit most of our lawyers out of in-house roles not BigLaw. We look for lawyers that have had some BigLaw training and exposure, but we also want them to have had significant in-house commercial experience. It means that our lawyers are far more business savvy and can solve complex problems rather than just providing legal advice and opinions. Our clients feel this difference and it is one of our key differentiators. Once we have recruited someone then we also provide our own ongoing training and development along the journey.
At present, LOD in Asia is active in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. What other jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific region do you see LOD expanding into prospectively and what primary challenges do you see in this expansion?
Yes at present in the Asia-Pacific we are just in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth). We would like to expand further over time but at the moment we can adequately support our clients from these locations. Our clients are multinationals and Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia is where most of the legal talent is. The challenges to expanding further in the region are obviously just bandwidth and regulatory acceptance of the NewLaw model (regulatory acceptance however is improving by the day). We are without doubt the largest NewLaw player in the region.
LOD works proactively with a team of dedicated professionals who identify client needs and work to create client solutions – separate and apart from your practicing lawyers. How integral is this division of labour in LOD to your success and what implications does it have for the legal services sector as a whole?
Yes we do have a dedicated HQ team of over 60 people, in addition to our 600+ lawyers and consultants, and this team is absolutely critical to the successful running of the business. This team focusses on recruiting talent, sales, customer service, marketing & communications and finance & operations. We hire people with industry experience but who have also worked outside BigLaw and are experts in their fields. As an example, we now have a team of 13 dedicated client solutions professionals that do business development, account management and structure solutions to solve our client’s needs. Our lawyers don’t want to have to worry about developing the business – they just want to focus on doing high quality work for clients.
What advice would you give junior lawyers or even law students considering their current career options? Should LOD be at the forefront of their mind as a probably prime legal employer in the Asia-Pacific region in the near future?
My advice would be to do what you love and do it in a way that supports the other things in your life. Work is important but life is short and you need time to spend with family, travel and do anything else that you enjoy doing. If LOD is the answer to that for some people then that is great.