Lawyers On Demand Ltd., the UK-based alternative legal services provider, is expanding beyond its lawyers-for-rent model and launching a law firm staffed exclusively by former in-house counsel who provide advice on contracts and other less-expansive legal projects.
LOD Legal is not a traditional partnership but it is branded as a law firm, taking advantage of changes made to the UK’s lawyer regulatory rules in November. Those rules allow individual attorneys to be licensed to provide basic corporate legal advice without being subject to the full regulations required of law firms.
The growth of LOD and comparable providers in the UK comes as several U.S. states and the American Bar Association begin to look at the liberalization of American regulations to enable new types of law firm ownership and practice.
LOD was co-founded in 2007 by Simon Harper, who was then a partner at the firm now known as Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. The Big Law firm remained an investor in the business specializing in renting lawyers to legal departments, in secondments, until it sold its stake following a transatlantic merger 2018. The company also operates a full-service law firm in Australia and New Zealand branded LOD Legal.
LOD brought in £50 million (about $65.05 million) in revenue in its last fiscal year running through April and had 605 global fee earners, Harper said. The company is comparable in the U.S. to Axiom, which also provides lawyers “on-demand.”
LOD Legal in the UK currently has about 30 former in-house lawyers handling general contract advice for clients. The firm is recruiting additional former in-house lawyers and will likely expand into different types of legal advice such as employment law, Harper told Bloomberg Law.
“What we set out to do is say, ‘What if we created a new sort of law firm to have an additional service that was law firm-style work but the staff were all experienced in-house counsel that could offer this more pragmatic, commercial advice,’” Harper said.
Examples of the firm’s early work include preparing a PowerPoint presentation about a contract that an in-house client could deliver to their business client and another client asking for a 10-point list of issues regarding a contract rather than a lengthy note, he said.
“In a way it was relatively straightforward because the lawyers were all ex-corporate counsel, so they could put themselves in that situation of the client and understand what they wanted,” Harper said.
The Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority in the UK in November introduced regulations to allow for what have been called “freelancers” or “SRA-regulated independent solicitors.” Those individual lawyers are not required to be registered as law firms.
Harper said the changes provided freedom to broaden the services it provided for clients in the UK.
U.S. state bars including those in California, Utah, and Arizona have considered new types of lawyer regulations. While those are still a long way from reality, Harper said they would be welcomed by alternative legal services providers.
“We all want to make sure that the reputation of legal services remains a really positive one, but I think the UK experience has suggested so far that that has been the case,” Harper said. “There has been a gradual liberalization in the UK and it has been welcomed.”