Herbert Smith Freehills launches ‘first of its kind’ alternative legal services office

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Herbert Smith Freehills is to open an alternative legal services (ALT) office in Melbourne, in what the firm claims is a first for Australia. Based on St Kilda Road the office, which opens in November, will be the first opened by a legal firm in Australia, and follows the opening of a Shanghai ALT office and a ‘pop-up’ ALT office in Perth.

With 65 employees the office will provide services such as 24 hour document review, claims assessment, due diligence, commercial contracts and legal analysis. Libby Jackson, Herbert Smith Freehills’ Global Head of Alternative Legal Services told Australasian Lawyer that the focus was on efficiency: “we’re really trying to create quite an innovative way to bring the talent together with the technology to deliver certain types of exercises that clients really want to be delivered with a really keen eye on value for money.”

“The fact that [clients] can access not only the core technical expertise of our partners and our associates but also the cost effectiveness of this type of business, all under the HSF’s roof, all risk managed by us, the whole thing seamlessly, right the way through from the core technical top of the piece, right the way through to the execution.  That is our really compelling proposition for clients.”

Melbourne was chosen because of its local talent pool and availability of office space out of the CBD, Jackson added: “this business has a younger demographic than the main part of the law firm so we needed to be in a place that would be attractive to [them].” The office will rely Herbert Smith Freehills partners to bring in business, Jackson said.  “We see our partners as a tremendous way, because of their relationships with clients, to sell the type of work we do.” 

Bringing ALT service provision in-house is growing in popularity; Herbert Smith Freehills opened a Belfast ALT office in 2011, later joined by centres in Brisbane, London, Sydney, Shanghai, Melbourne and the Perth pop-up, which will now become permanent.  Herbert Smith Freehills says in 2015 its 350-strong team processed 63 million documents, reviewed over 3 million documents and 5,000 property leases, and managed the administration of more than 500 funds.