The former chief executive of DWF has re-emerged as non-executive chair of flexible lawyer business The Legal Director (TLD) and announced the creation of his own ‘digital law firm’.
Andrew Leaitherland, who unexpectedly left the listed law firm in May, has created arch.law, which will both provide legal services itself as a ‘distributed’ law firm and also bring together a group of ‘preferred partner’ businesses to offer clients a range of services.
TLD is the first of these to be announced. The firm, which recently converted to an alternative business structure after appointing two non-lawyer directors, provides experienced commercial lawyers to work in-house on a contract basis for SMEs that do not need full-time legal directors.
As we reported in May, it has doubled in size in four years and now has more than 40 former in-house lawyers on its books.
TLD was founded by Ed Simpson, who Mr Leaitherland said had been his first major client 20 years ago, when Mr Simpson was general counsel of technology company BTG. Mr Simpson approached Mr Leaitherland two days after his surprise departure from DWF – a move he said he could not discuss – to join the board.
Mr Simpson said: “Andrew understands how to carefully manage the successful growth of a legal services business. His appointment and our partnership with arch.law will give more choice to our clients in the services that they choose to buy.”
The philosophy behind arch.law is that clients need “solutions rather than services and need their advisers to come together, cohesively, to provide them with the right solution for their particular opportunity or issue”.
Arch.law will be a distributed (or virtual) law firm, but Mr Leaitherland said such firms could not on their own be the answer to all clients’ legal needs. He is building a combined offering of legal solutions, some of which will be delivered by arch.law but others through a preferred partnering approach.
He told Legal Futures that he planned to bring four other businesses together as preferred partners, covering litigation funding, legal technology consulting, managed legal services and subscription-based legal advice.
Arch.law has just begun recruiting at all levels of experience: arch.portfolio enables experienced lawyers to form their own personal service company as a sub-contractor of arch.law. The lawyer receives between 70% and 85% of the fees generated, together with up to 15% of fees from work they refer elsewhere within the firm.
Then there is arch.resource, for lawyers, paralegals and other support team members to be available on a contract basis to support lawyers throughout the business, and sometimes the preferred partners.
Finally, arch.direct will employ those who do not want to be self-employed or want to use it as a stepping stone to arch.portfolio. People will be able to move between the three models during the tax year if they want.
Arch.law is also committed to being a zero-carbon law firm and has set up a charitable foundation which will receive a donation for every invoice raised.
Mr Leaitherland describes those he is looking to recruit as “hungry ghost lawyers”.
These are people “who constantly want to build and develop their practice but for whatever reason cannot secure the investment or development that they need in their current law firm”, or have successfully built their practices but are not being recognised financially for their contribution.
His research has found that around 2,000 lawyers are now working at some 30 distributed law firms in the UK and he predicted that more and more firms would appear in the near future “as lawyers look for different ways of working compared to the traditional model”.
He added: “Chairing The Legal Director, I look forward to helping it navigate the next stage of its impressive growth journey and ensuring that The Legal Director and arch.law work together to provide the right solution to our clients’ legal needs.”
Meanwhile, another distributed firm, nexa law, has launched its nexaGC platform, offering in-house counsel to growing businesses and to the legal teams of larger corporates.
Nexa said its growth has come in part “from a strategic play to attract more former general counsel into its consultancy model”, and now employs nearly 20, including the former data protection and GDPR lead from BT Group, the former GC of Etihad Airlines and another from US pharmaceutical giant Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Sales and recruitment director Nigel Clark said: “Former in-house lawyers make ideal partners for growing businesses…
“Rather than act like a law firm and simply try to sell in multiple service lines, we can give fast-growth businesses access to a virtual general counsel at a fraction of the cost of employing one even part time.”