If you’re an associate at a Biglaw firm, you’re probably scrambling for billable hours right now like a squirrel desperately trying to find one last nut before the winter comes. You need to hit your hours target, and you need to hit it now.

But what if someone were to step in and try to take those precious few hours away from you? And what if that person were a contract attorney? You’d probably lose your mind and start flooding the Above the Law inbox with your indignation and rage.

Hey, don’t come complaining to us. After all, apparently you asked for it….

Word on the street is that Allen & Overy is launching its very own contract attorney collective. Rather than rely solely on existing associate manpower to get work done, the firm plans to work with these “consultants” when its full-time attorneys are completely swamped. Here’s the scoop from Legal Week:

The service, named ‘Peerpoint’, will initially contract A&O alumni with high-end or specialised skill sets to assist the firm during periods of high demand. It would also look to use lawyers from other top tier firms seeking greater flexibility.

Peerpoint is being overseen by the firm’s head of business improvement Ben Williams, and will involve between 20 and 30 lawyers working as self-employed legal consultants.

Although the project is correctly focused on work carried out by A&O’s London office, the firm said it would look to expand internationally.

This innovation may be coming soon to a city near you, and there’s no one to blame for it but yourselves. Wim Dejonghe, the firm’s managing partner, claims that this move was spurred by client and associate request. Maybe things are done differently in the U.K., but we’ve got a sneaking suspicion that requests like that wouldn’t have been lodged on American soil. (By the way, where do these magical Biglaw contract attorneys come from? We’re more than willing to bet that many of them were laid off in the past during the times of heavy Lathaming.)

Dejonghe says that “[t]he traditional law firm model is under pressure and lacks flexibility,” and that A&O is searching for greater flexibility in this “low growth market.” Enter the contract attorney. In Jolly Olde England, these are “high-calibre lawyers who enjoy the challenge of working with top-tier clients without the added demands of working in a large law firm.” In the United States, these are lawyers who enjoy the challenge of working with a mouse to determine the responsiveness of documents reviewed.

Imagine how the partners at your firms will revel in their new low-cost labor as they cast their eyes upon well-paid associates with disdain. Be sure to thank your brethren from across the pond for this holiday gift.

A&O launches contract lawyer business [Legal Week via Morning Docket]
Top UK law firm plans to use alumni as contract consultants, hopes to expand program globally
[ABA Journal]


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