An innovative Scottish legal services business that works on fixed fees and offers clients an outsourced in-house legal function is looking to replicate its model south of Hadrian’s Wall, Legal Futures can report.
Vialex, based in Edinburgh, is also eyeing up becoming an alternative business structure (ABS) once they are allowed in Scotland.
Set up by former Dickson Minto partner Keith Anderson in 2010, Vialex is not currently a registered law firm and does not need to be as all of the areas of its work – banking and finance, commercial contract and regulatory, corporate and intellectual property – are unreserved.
Chief operating officer Keith Dinsmore, a former DLA Piper partner, explained that the desire to bring on non-lawyers “quite quickly” – such as the head of Vialex’s spin-off employment consultancy Navigator – was behind the decision not to become a registered practice, but that the firm has been talking to the Law Society of Scotland about its planned ABS regime. “The prospect of external capital is something we have our eye on as well,” he added.
Vialex works on fixed fees and offers annual contracts that provide companies with unlimited access to the advice that is agreed as being within scope – the model is similar to, and in fact predates, that offered in England by Riverview Law. ‘Pay-as-you-go’ advice is also available. Vialex Legal Counsel Services manages the procurement of any services which the firm does not offer.
Mr Dinsmore – who before DLA worked with Mr Anderson at Dickson Minto – said the way to provide clients with “real value” is by getting to know them, and the best way of doing that is to break down the obstacle of clients feeling that the clock is ticking whenever they call. Vialex also tries to provide advice like in-house lawyers do, he explained. “In-house lawyers are not expected to say ‘this is the law’. It’s ‘this is what to do with it’.”
With several well-known names as clients, the firm is now looking to expand. Mr Dinsmore said: “The ambition is not to get big in a centralised way but to build operational hubs around the UK. We want to replicate what we have here with senior lawyers well known in the market and corporate/commercial skill sets who reach out to their local market.”
He said Vialex recently picked up a client in Yorkshire and has also been instructed by large City law firms to work in the background or handle matters that are too small for them. “There is a rising demand from clients for a different way of doing things.”