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UnitedLex CEO Daniel Reed

Legal services provider UnitedLex is targeting a tie-up with a UK law firm on the back of a major ‘new law’ deal that has seen a US firm outsource hundreds of its staff to the company.

The deal with US law firm LeClairRyan, announced last month, has seen more than 300 of the firm’s employees transfer over to a new joint venture, dubbed ULX Partners.

UnitedLex is now looking to agree a similar arrangement with a UK law firm, and is understood to have been approached by several UK firms about a potential deal.

Law firms that join ULX Partners will receive minority equity stakes in the venture and rely upon it for their legal support functions – including HR, IT, knowledge management, pricing and procuring – while also benefiting from greater access to external capital, as ULX Partners is not constrained by US bar rules prohibiting outside investment in law firms.

UnitedLex CEO Daniel Reed told Legal Week that ideal candidates would be law firms with an innovative outlook and robust capabilities in four key areas – corporate, litigation, real estate and intellectual property.

The company has increased headcount in its London base from 10 to 82 during the past two years, with about 70% of the team focusing on commercial transactions and documentation and the other 30% handling litigation-related work.

Reed said the UK was a key priority for UnitedLex, citing a growing acceptance in the market of new thinking about the ways in which legal services are delivered.

“Law firms need to think about what’s in the best interest of the clients, and to do that, they need to think like the client, and be like the client,” he said. “Law firms can broaden and deepen client relationships by thinking differently about their platform and use of technology.”

UnitedLex last year sealed what was billed as the legal sector’s largest-ever managed services deal, with $25bn US tech company DXC Technologies.

That deal saw DXC – a Fortune 200 company formed by the merger of US IT company Computer Sciences Corporation and HP Enterprise’s enterprise services business – transfer a “substantial” part of its in-house legal team to UnitedLex, with more than 250 UnitedLex professionals supporting DXC’s legal operations.

Such managed legal services deals are relatively rare in the UK market, with the most high-profile example being Thames Water, which last year handed a five-year contract to Eversheds Sutherland to provide day-to-day legal work for the company, with a 20-strong Thames legal team transferring over from Berwin Leighton Paisner, which had held the role since 2010.

The company also recently won a major exclusive contract to provide technology services to GE in areas including legal operations, litigation, investigations, e-discovery, forensics and document review.

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Ben Wheway

Ben joined Legal Week from the Press Association in 2005 and has since held a number of roles including news editor, online managing editor, production editor and bassist in Legal Week's in-house covers band The Scoops.

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