Since November 2015, DLA Piper and Lawyers on Demand (LOD) have joined forces to develop an innovative collaboration model in the United Kingdom.

LOD was launched in 2007 by Simon Harper, partner at the law firm Berwin Leighton Pasner (BLP) and Jonathan Brenner, human resources director at that time. In 2012 BLP spun off the firm’s Lawyers on Demand service retaining an 80 percent stake.

LOD provides freelance lawyers who work with clients for assignments or projects. Lawyers have access to the know-how, support and training of BLP. Many lawyers of Big Law firms are drawn by this new model due to its flexibility. In fact, many are former DLA Piper alumni, which might explain, in the view of Mark Cohen, the firm`s collaboration and its choice to externalize this service.

DLA Piper retains the services of LOD’s freelance lawyers on demand. The firm benefits from offering an enhanced service to clients, reducing costs and improving its efficiency.

On the other hand, LOD announced last February its merger with AdventBalance, Australia’s leading flexible legal service provider, creating one of the world’s largest New Law businesses and representing the first cross-continent merger of its type.

The new business, to be called LOD, will still have BLP as a shareholder, but will operate independently. The combined business will have offices in London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, over 600 lawyers and a client base comprising over 500 companies and firms. Among the benefits cited are the ability to offer more opportunities for lawyers, an integrated and global service for clients, the possibility to take on more complex projects and the development of a global platform to accelerate growth and further expand internationally.

In line with the recent merger, DLA Piper and LOD have announced this April the extension of this new hybrid collaboration model to Australia –after only 5 months after their initial arrangement–, proof of the success of the partnership and a response to client demand. In this regard, when announcing the merger, Simon Harper commented that time has proved that happy lawyers means happy clients and that AdventBalance has exactly the same approach.

Post-merger, the business will support DLA Piper through its platform of lawyers, knowhow and technology. In addition, the new agreement also underlines DLA Piper’s commitment to retaining talent through the provision of a wider range of career choices for both staff and alumni.

The great growth of firms such as Axiom, LOD or AdventBalance in recent years proofs the success of this flexible service delivery model in the legal industry, both for clients and for lawyers. We will certainly see the expansion of this model across the globe in the years to come.

In addition to this model, there are a host of new players in the market offering a varied range of services –such as cybersecurity, contract management and data management services, amongst others– that are also experiencing significant growth.

In an increasingly competitive and demanding market, law firms are increasingly aware that there are more efficient ways of providing legal services and that by collaborating with these new providers they can improve service delivery to clients and their competitiveness in the market.

The arrangement between DLA Piper and LOD is a recent example of success of the collaboration between one of the main law firms in the world and a legal services provider that has experienced great growth in recent years.

In the coming years we will see various collaboration models between law firms and new providers –what could be called “legal symbiosis” –, which may result, in some cases, in mergers and acquisitions and, in others, in non-exclusive partnerships.

The symbiotic relationship is widely present in nature and takes place when two organisms of different species benefit from each other to such a degree that they can even mutually depend to survive. The image of this article represents the symbiosis between crocodiles and butterflies. This latter suck in the parasites that lie in the eyes and lids of crocodiles, preventing infections. On the other hand, butterflies drink crocodile tears to obtain the necessary salt for the production of eggs.

Similarly, I believe that traditional firms and new legal services providers shall identify forms of mutual collaboration in the future, in such a way that both profit from their respective differences –a kind of “legal symbiosis”–, even depending upon one another to survive in a highly competitive industry.

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