A company’s legal needs can be short-term or long-term, steady or fluctuating, recurring or one-off. But whatever they are, quality is non-negotiable.
Sadly, the legal profession’s traditional offerings for business have been of just two types: Retain a law firm for a time-limited engagement at excessive hourly rates, or hire in-house attorneys as full-time, permanent employees.
Recently, firms like Axiom, Elevate (ElevateFlex), Eversheds Sutherland (Konexo US Legal Resourcing), Fenwick (Flex by Fenwick), and Peerpoint (Allen & Overy) are making high-quality, on-demand lawyer support available.
This Matters to Your Business
When I was an executive at GE, I worked frequently with the general counsel of my business unit — its top legal guy, the one to whom our CEO looked for high-stakes advice. Multiple decades into a career at GE that spanned multiple global enterprises, this attorney had earned my deep respect — both for his technical professional skills and for his business acumen. Since then my former colleague has worked for various clients as counsel at Axiom.
My other main contact at Axiom was a lawyer of similar lofty profile to my GE friend, who practiced for years at an AmLaw 100 law firm and was chosen by a Top Ten U.S. law school to teach its students about professional practice.
The other firms named above select and vet for quality at a similarly high level. For instance, Ian Chapman, a Cambridge University-trained partner at Allen & Overy, came up through its Peerpoint on-demand attorney unit.
These firms offer a solution to the dilemma presented by the legal profession’s two bad alternatives:
Alternative No. 1: Get the law firm lawyer you really need on a time-limited basis, but at prohibitive prices. Why prohibitive? Because you (appropriately) pay handsomely for a highly credentialed attorney; but you (needlessly for the most part) pay for his / her less capable and less useful young colleagues assigned alongside that highly credentialed attorney.
Alternative No. 2: Get an in-house lawyer for a fixed-cost annual rate of salary and benefits — but hire him / her as a permanent employee for what amounts to a non-permanent need.
Hence Axiom’s rhetorical question in its recent “When Do You Really Need the Expense of a Law Firm?”
“The question is not: Do you need a law firm? Of course you do. Elite law firms will always have a place in the legal resourcing ecosystem. The right question, instead, is: When do you really need that law firm? The answer may be: Not in this inflationary economy.”