Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

 

Allen & Overy’s (A&O) flexible legal services business known as Peerpoint has increased the number of lawyers on its books by more than 50 percent in the past year and now plans to launch it in New York and Frankfurt, as the firm looks to expand the service around the world.

The service, which was launched in London in 2013, draws on a bank of contract lawyers—referred to as consultants—to assist clients on projects during periods of high demand.

It now has around 300 lawyers on its books, up from 190 last May, and A&O is looking to roll out the service to more international locations.

Last year Peerpoint ran a pilot in Amsterdam,—its first in continental Europe. That is now a  permanent location for the service. The firm is now moving towards launching the service in the United States, with New York the most immediate priority.

“We’re looking closely at opportunities in New York as we’re seeing demand from clients there,” said Peerpoint chief executive Richard Punt. “There’s also more appetite among clients in the U.S. for remote working, so we may well look more broadly for the right lawyers.”

Frankfurt has also been identified as a possible launch area in response to opportunities presented by Brexit, as many financial institutions look to insulate themselves from the full impact of the U.K.’s exit from the European Union next year.

“As the Brexit process starts to kick in, banks and other organizations are taking steps that we can help them with,” Punt said. “We’re encouraging lawyers to realize this is the biggest legal change of their generation.”

There are also implications for demand post-Brexit, he added. “It’s a situation we are watching carefully. It will provoke a change in the market and we are ready to explore continental European markets including Frankfurt.”

About 40 percent of the consultants on Peerpoint’s books are former Allen & Overy lawyers, but the firm is looking to sign up more senior lawyers with a range of experience and it recently added former Marks and Spencer general counsel Robert Ivens to its roster.

“A big part of our effort at the moment is showing clients that senior roles can be fulfilled by consultants who are right at the top of the market,” Punt said. “Robert is a great example of this. People at that level are not necessarily becoming consultants because they want to do the same sort of work they’ve always done, but are keen to do something different.”

Punt added that the firm has been seeing increased demand for consultants with expertise in project management and a strong grasp of technology, including cyber and data security issues, as well as specific experience of legal technology.

Peerpoint’s focus on potential opportunities in New York comes amid Allen & Overy’s merger talks with the U.S. firm O’Melveny & Myers, which were reported last month by The American Lawyer’s London affiliate Legal Week.

Details of the talks have so far been contained to only a small number of senior figures, although partners—some who have expressed skepticism about the proposed tie-up—are expecting to hear more at the Magic Circle firm’s partner conference in Miami in June.