Chris O’Callaghan

Holman Fenwick Willan is launching a standalone consulting venture as the firm looks to target business opportunities in the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

The firm’s director of learning and development, Chris O’Callaghan, will lead the new business—known as HFW Consulting—which will aim to help clients develop their businesses and protect against risk.

The firm is focusing on opportunities in the Middle East, Asia and Australia due to an acknowledgment that the consulting markets in Europe and North America are, as O’Callaghan describes, “already very mature and competitive.”

“We see greater opportunity in the Middle East, Asia and Australia, where we think adding consulting services to our strong legal practices in those markets gives us a unique proposition,” he said. “That’s not to say we won’t talk to clients in the EU or the U.K. It’s about where we can add most value.”

The venture will advise clients on a wide range of development matters, including technology and risk and reputation, organizational development, training program design and delivery, talent management, assessment process design, cybersecurity, legal strategies, executive coaching, team building, risk, benchmarking, public relations and reputation management.

The initiative originated in the firm’s internal business services expertise, which O’Callaghan said “has provided a great deal of value internally” and can now “provide value to clients.”

O’Callaghan expects to see the business grow during the coming six to 12 months: “We’re already starting to see clients recommend these opportunities within their networks—it could be to their existing legal teams or teams in other companies. I see there being an evolution of this.”

Amid growing profitability, HFW’s recent expansion has seen it open new offices in the Middle East—launching a new Dubai office earlier this week—as well as forge alliances in Shanghai, Indonesia and Brazil.

The growing trend of firms investing in standalone consulting arms has recently seen CMS setting up a dedicated group responsible for joining up and advancing the firm’s legal services and technology offerings, and Mishcon de Reya adding a brand management arm to advise companies on reputation, launches and strategy matters.