Disruptive ABS declares war on law’s “outdated and inflexible” working patterns, as DWF gains two ABS licences

Turner: I don’t care why you want to work flexibly

Multi-disciplinary alternative business structure (ABS) Alpaca is continuing with its efforts to disrupt legal and other professional services by declaring war on traditional working patterns and offering flexible working to all staff – and making three board-level hires as a result.

Meanwhile, national law firm DWF has been granted two ABS licences that allow it to run its costs and advocacy practices as separate businesses with their own clients.

Yorkshire-based Alpaca combines financial, HR and business consultancy alongside its legal offering.

Launched in May, the firm made news in September when it bought Genus Law’s book of business – the now-closed but once high-profile ABS that started life as Brilliant Law.

Alpaca attributes its growth to a flexible subscription model, enabling clients to ‘dial up or down’ the level of each professional support in a given month.

It has hired corporate banker Sarah Shay as chief commercial officer – she will work school hours only during term time; Jane Wilson, formerly of Addleshaw Goddard among others, as human resources director on four days a week; and Harriet Cowie, joining from Q Hotels, as financial director, also four days a week.

Two solicitors who have also joined on flexible terms following the Genus Law deal. They each work four days around school hours.

Richard Turner, CEO of Alpaca and a speaker at next week’s Legal Futures Innovation Conference, said the new directors would not have made the move but for the offer of flexible working.

“Whilst it’s a cliché that millennials now expect flexible ways of working, we’ve found a similar demand at senior levels, with more experienced employees wanting a better work-life balance. Frankly they just never believed it possible within a traditionally staid, 9-5 – or perhaps 9-9 – industry.

“We built Alpaca without silos because clients told us they were sick of the wasted time and money that comes from instructing multiple advisors, each in their own professional bubbles.

“We also extend that disruptive model to ways of working in professional services. Eleven out of our 12 employees currently work flexibly – including two of the founder directors who work four days a week to allow them to look after their children.”

Mr Turner said a lot of senior talent was lost as roles remained “outdated and inflexible”. There was, he argued, a fear that ‘clients won’t understand’.

“I’m on a mission to kill the myth that the only appropriate working pattern is an eight-hour, five-day work week.

“The obvious trigger for flexibility is kids, but I don’t care why you want to work flexibly as long as we agree on a fair price and you commit your full efforts to Alpaca,

“I’d rather have employees refreshed, ambitious and hungry to achieve than oppressed and a slave to an archaic, or even anarchic, working pattern.”

DWF’s two ABSs form part of its new specialist business division, Connected Services, itself a standalone company that the firm said “forms an umbrella over a range of complementary specialist business solutions, as well as consultative services and products, that sit alongside DWF’s core legal offering”.

There are seven companies in Connected Services: DWF 3Sixty, a software and application development company, DWF Advocacy, new claims management company DWF Claims, DWF Costs, DWF Forensic – a team of forensic accountants – DWF Technical & Adjusting, and DWF Ventures.

DWF Costs Ltd is headed by Simon Murray, who joined in the summer after DWF bought NeoLaw, the costs arm of Staffordshire firm Keelys.

DWF 3Sixty was acquired as part of Triton Global, the ABS DWF bought out of administration at the start of the year.

DWF Ventures, meanwhile, is described as a unique “ideas incubator”. The firm said it would focus on “driving client-focused research and development opportunities and nurturing early-growth services”.

Andrew Leaitherland, DWF managing partner and CEO, said: “This is a milestone for DWF and very much reflects the strategic direction of the business.

“Our aim is first and foremost about finding the best ways to solve our clients’ challenges, so by introducing a wider range of solutions and technologies to sit under one roof with our legal offerings, we are better equipped to support our clients in a more holistic way.”

A few tickets are still available for our conference next week. Click here for all the details.

    Readers Comments

  • Edward O'Rourke says:

    Great to see another firm brining innovative working practices to the legal industry. Adding to the plethora of new ideas being implemented by a profession facing a lot of change.

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