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On Monday this week, top tier law firm, Minter Ellison, announced that they had
just launched a contracting arm.


The  Minter Ellison Flex website
(‘The confidence to be agile’) loudly proclaims:


Tapping into our diverse pool of talent – from
three-year lawyers through to former General Counsel – working with Flex is an
efficient and reliable way for clients to maintain or boost in-house legal
resource capacity, offering continuity and quality of talent in temporary


We pride ourselves on our integrated approach. Flex
operates across Australia and is one part of Minter Ellison’s broader service
to clients. Our pool of talented contract lawyers have ongoing access to
specialists, know how, training and support of a top tier firm.


On the Client tab you find out:


We cater for scenarios such as periods of extended
leave, the need to rapidly add capacity, and temporary requirements for special
projects – when only top quality, reliable lawyers who can ‘hit the ground
running’ will fit the bill.


In other words, Flex is operating as an inhouse recruitment agency for


Minters are not the first large law firm to move down this path in


Corrs have Orbit and Allen & Overy have Peerpoint.


Juliet Fay, the person responsible for Flex at
Minters, appears to have no specific recruitment expertise, and from her
current LinkedIn profile, appears to be a consultant to Minters, rather than an


Tammy Mills, the person responsible for Orbit at
Corrs, appears to have no specific recruitment expertise. 


Tony Corcoran, the person responsible for
Peerpoint at Allen & Overy, appears to have no specific recruitment


It’s unclear from a viewing of the respective websites, what additional
full time staff each business has.


intrigued by this development, I contacted a few agency owners who specialise
in the legal sector, or who have legal recruitment divisions, to seek their
respective views.


A summary of
their collective responses would be represented by this this quote from Liza Gazis, Managing Director of Mahlab (NSW) Pty


“The move by Minters is indicative of a growing trend in the legal
profession to offer clients end to end legal services, this is one of a number
of services being offered as part of a bigger strategy. This trend started in
the UK and a number of Australian law firms now offer such services. Whilst I
would like a situation where all work was funnelled through to agencies this
will never be the case. This is just another service provider albeit  in a
non-traditional form  (and, one responding to client needs around changing
workforce needs).


Mark Smith, Managing Director of people2people,
made a point that had occurred to me as I read more about these new divisions:


Probably the most interesting
part of this is the pitch by “Flex” to have lawyers register
with them for work. The more senior, highly
skilled legal professional is in short supply so unless they invest in active
sourcing techniques I am unsure a link on a website will tap talent. Para legal
or those with less experience are easier to come by but I wonder how many in
house legal teams would approach Minters for this type of person when they can
tap this market through their own connections really pretty easily.


Ultimately I think Minters are
trying to trade on their very reputable brand. It reminds me of the moves made
by the big 4 into recruitment for accountants in the 90’s. Although they have
great connections and some of the teams were successful, in most instances they
have closed these departments as it wasn’t their core business.


The focus of
these law firms is to keep the client work inside the tent at almost any cost.


The big law
firms know that their traditionally lucrative, charge-by-the-hour, business
model is under threat from new and aggressively marketed service options,
predominantly resourced in lower-cost jurisdictions.


The threat,
and an example response, is starkly outlined on page 27 of the 2013 RBS white
paper: A perspective on the legal market.


In our survey, 100% of respondents said that they expected the level of
their firm’s utilisation of legal process outsourcing (LPO) services to either
stay the same or increase within the next 12 months, while 97% said that the
level of back-office outsourcing would stay the same or increase.


In 2007, Clifford Chance launched a low-cost base, called The Knowledge
Centre, in New Delhi, India. The magic circle firm became the first major firm
to set up its own ‘offshore captive’ legal process outsourcing operation.


In the 2012 annual review, the firm revealed that The Knowledge Centre
provided support work to its legal teams in 27 offices outside India and
supported on a total of 850 matters providing almost 50,000 hours of support to
London, Singapore, Paris, New York, Amsterdam, Washington, Hong Kong, Milan,
Dubai, Madrid and Abu Dhabi.


What does
this mean for the recruitment industry?


Lisa Gazis
articulates it succinctly:


I have been recruiting for a long time and the only thing that has not
changed is the need to have….. a strong network  of unique, highly
sought-after candidates”.


If the
recruitment industry keeps its focus on this core strength then we will
continue to have a very healthy future, much more healthy than some traditional
top tier law firms, I suspect.


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Helen Papas, Managing Director, Legal Personnel, Sydney

Some of the firms offer “innovative services”, something similar to Flex and at the moment a number of firms seem to be on this bandwagon of offering additional services to clients.

At Legal Personnel we don’t necessarily hold a negative view to the idea of Flex and it does show that major law firms are operating more like businesses than strictly law firm. And it is also possibly due to client demand to keep everything under the one roof, so to speak.

Having said the above, the type of “high calibre lawyers” Minters says it will contract out to clients could be in short supply. One would wonder why these “high calibre lawyers” aren’t already gainfully employed.

This model could, however, suit a lawyer who “wants a work life balance” and/or is nearing retirement.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how successful Minters Flex initiative is going to be. The number of these “high calibre lawyers” might just be in short supply when push comes to shove. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t offer specialist legal agencies the opportunity to participate and provide contract lawyers as we currently do to some clients.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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