UK legal outsourcing business "with a heart" goes on massive City lawyer recruitment drive

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By Legal Futures

7 March 2012

Denis-Smith: mission is to create a community of ex-City lawyers

An innovative legal outsourcing business that uses former City solicitors to provide law firms and in-house departments with temporary support is set for a massive expansion, Legal Futures can reveal.

Obelisk Legal Support, which offers transactional, contract and litigation support services, already has on its books around 60 lawyers, and is looking to reach 500 by the end of the year.

The lawyers have generally left full-time City roles – with an average of five years’ post-qualification experience – to have children and want to return on an alternative or project basis. They are non-practising as they are providing support rather than advice.

Obelisk offers a temporary solution for work overflow at junior/legal support level, deploying individuals and teams. It has three units: English-qualified legal support (including secretarial support); foreign lawyer legal support (across 17 jurisdictions so far); and a language division offering translation and document review by lawyer linguists.

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Obelisk chief executive Dana Denis-Smith, who previously practised at Linklaters, said demand from mid-tier firms is growing fast as they seek alternative ways to manage the peaks and troughs in

their work. The growth would allow the company to service bigger clients, who demand bigger teams. The aim is to build the resource even if there is not always work for the lawyers to do, which will in any case suit the way many look to work.

Obelisk allocates and manages the work based on the principle of ‘pooled capacity’ – each lawyer gives the time they have available around their family. This typically is a few hours per day. Obelisk is responsible for delivery and quality controls.

Ms Denis-Smith said Obelisk’s consultants are able to handle more quickly and cheaply work that firms and in-house departments might otherwise employ paralegals to do. They work either onsite or remotely.

She continued: “Our mission is to create a community of ex-City lawyers who possess fantastic skills but want to focus on their families first and foremost.

“I think we are – outside of the pro bono world – one of the first B2B legal businesses with a heart: we respond not only to the need of our clients for a more competitive pricing arrangement, but also to the requirements of this highly skilled pool of people to remain engaged with the workplace until they are ready to commit again to full time/part time employment. But the engagement is done with a clear view of their circumstances in mind and therefore they feel supported by us.”

Obelisk was formed in 2010 and has an advisory board made up of Professor Stephen Mayson, barrister Peter Ling – formerly regional general counsel for Asia and Australasia at BP – Reed Smith partner Jeremy Glover, and Paul Basger, head of legal at 2ergo Group.

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