Corrs Chambers Westgarth has today broken ranks with its legal competitors to launch a new legal resourcing company –Orbit – designed to meet the temporary in-house legal demands of both existing clients and non-clients alike.
Following similar moves from firms such as Allen & Overy and Freshfields in the UK, Corrs’ new Orbit business will supply ‘top tier, high quality’ lawyers with 3+ years’ experience to in-house teams to resource legal matters and projects.
Unlike existing ‘insourcing’ law firms, Orbit is a legal resourcing company that will engage independent short-term contractors to meet demand, with each lawyer operating as an incorporated legal practice or a sole practitioner.
It is also the first time a major local firm has chosen to disrupt the existing marketplace by offering clients an in-house legal resourcing option.
Corrs partner John Tuck says Orbit was designed to meet changing client needs while giving opportunities for lawyers looking for new ways of working.
“Increasingly, our clients want access to high calibre lawyers who can work with their teams on a flexible basis,” Tuck says. “Orbit lawyers will have the capacity to resource critical and day to day projects and provide flexibility to businesses in managing their legal teams and their costs.”
He says more lawyers also wanted to balance their personal and career goals and many are looking for new ways of working.
“They want to work at the top of their field but they also want more opportunity to pursue other interests.”
Corrs is currently recruiting suitable legal talent for Orbit, with a view to offering the new service to clients from early 2015. Tuck said the firm hoped to be able to field between 30 and 40 lawyers within 6 months.
Orbit’s independent contractors will need to go through the same “rigorous selection process” as other lawyers who join Corrs, according to the firm.
Tuck told Australasian Lawyer
the launch of Orbit supported the firm’s overall strategy, and he did not expect the move to erode its existing legal practice.
“We believe clients will continue to engage with us in the same way they are engaging with us today, that won’t change…What we will be able to do is help them to meet their short-term and medium-term project legal resourcing needs.”
While firms have been able to achieve this to an extent via secondment, he says that “clients are looking for more than a secondment model”.
“Secondments will continue, but this will be an additional way of clients meeting their needs, when the secondment model is not the best solution for them.”
The existing ‘BigLaw’ model of legal service delivery has been under pressure in Australia and abroad, with a range of existing and ‘NewLaw’ firms having sought to innovate in order to meet the changing demands of in-house legal teams.
The market has been characterised by the growth of larger in-house legal teams, pressure on external legal spend and private practice law firm profits, as well as the launch and growth of firms offering alternative delivery models.
Tuck says the practice of law is “changing all the time”, and that it was a “very dynamic market” in terms of how clients access advice and meet legal needs.
“We are being responsive to that, we are being innovative, because we understand what our clients’ needs are and are working out other ways to help them. Orbit is part of doing things differently and recognising the fact that our clients are looking for different ways of getting things done,” he said.
Corrs chief operating officer Jon Kenton noted that the Orbit model is now well established in the US and European markets, but that Corrs was the first law firm to offer the model in Australia.
The UK market boasts a range of legal resourcing services. Allen & Overy launched PeerPoint at the end of 2013, following the likes of Freshfields with its ‘Continuum’ business, Pinsent Masons
with ‘Vario’, and Eversheds’ ‘Agile’.
“We are working hard to innovate to meet more of our clients’ needs, while also pioneering new career options for lawyers,” Kenton says. “Orbit was a natural next step for Corrs,” he said.