Route1 moves into contract law recruitment
London, 2 May 2017: If one thing is clear from the fallout from the Brexit vote last June it is the acceleration of change it has caused in the UK legal profession. With uncertainty rampant in cross border and market related transactions, recruiters, lawyers and law firms are all commenting on the slowdown in high end transactional business, particularly in the City. Many firms that focus on this business have put in place hiring freezes or even used Brexit as an excuse to lay off underutilised staff in the past few months. And the traditional post-Christmas hiring spree has also been significantly muted in the past three months, reflecting more uncertainty.
As practitioners in these sectors pause, one of the main changes we think Brexit will accelerate will be thinner operating leverage models in the profession. Leverage has been shrinking at many leading firms and partners wishing to maintain margins are under increasing pressure to utilise technology or outsourcing solutions for the more process driven elements of transactional work. But how do firms ensure they have the ability to rapidly staff back up to something like their legacy operating leverage when the need arises? The answer is contract lawyers. Contract lawyers are part of a much bigger trend in consulting and professional services – the gig economy is not just for baristas and other casual staff – and technology is making remote working much easier. Just look at how many firms are introducing flexible working practices to retain good staff.
Contract lawyers are provided by either full time platforms like Axiom, or from on demand services like ES/Agile (the Eversheds Sutherland interim lawyer offering) and both are seeing increasing demand for their services. Traditionally, the target market for these providers was in-house legal teams, but this is changing. More and more law firms are now also seeking cover for maternity leave, or special projects, from these suppliers, from paralegal to partner level. For example, ES/Agile has traditionally placed legal consultants into their Client’s in-house teams, but is now also providing consultants to the main Eversheds Sutherland firm. This diversity in contract roles, from private practice to in-house, from junior to senior roles means the opportunities for legal consultants are rapidly increasing. As Brexit serves to accelerate the use of skinnier leverage models, increased demand is leading to a need for them to identify and utilise higher levels of appropriately qualified legal staff.
As a result, many are now working with Route1 to help them find talent, including Axiom, ES/Agile and Korum. The reason why Route1 is so compelling for them, is because we can provide targeted data on our users to a much higher level of detail and more efficiently than traditional recruiters. Our award winning platform acquires, and subsequently learns about user behaviour, reinforcing its knowledge of how engaged a user is, what it looked for in the past and what it is likely to look for in the future. This is currently the case for over 6,000 legally qualified users who have actively elected to join the platform since we launched a year ago. We can identify for example how many lawyers of a certain skillset and seniority are in a specific region of the UK, which is of immense value to contract law providers covering the regions. We always do this on an anonymised basis to preserve our central USP for our users – that they will not be cold called and cannot be identified until they choose to engage with an employer – contract or not.
Contract law is not just a “fill” for a candidate either. Many use this service to have an entrée and test of a number of in-house roles. As Daniyal Stanton, who left private practice several years ago to pursue a career in flexible lawyering says: “Working in flexible lawyering has given me a much better work-life balance, enabling me to combine the demands of practicing as a senior corporate commercial lawyer with raising a young family”. He goes on to state however that client demands are often no less intense than his previous experience at a leading US firm in the City. ”Don’t make the error of thinking this is an easy life – I am often travelling across Europe and juggling numerous projects in my current role as European General Counsel of a manufacturing business.” However, he mentions that “[contract law] is a career path with much more variety, optionality and control”.
Traditional attrition from major UK firms at the 2-4 year PQE level traditionally has been driven by three equal factors: US firms offering more money, in-house roles offering a better work-life balance or a departure from the profession altogether. So when an in-house role that may ultimately lead to that dream job out of the profession for an associate comes into a contract lawyer, this can be a very compelling choice for them.
Notes for editors/About Route1
Route1 is a new online marketplace connecting lawyers and legal employers. In just under a year after launch, we represent 200 legal employers, including six of the top ten leading law firms. Lawyers downloading our app are rapidly growing in number, with over 8000 users downloading the app to date. We think this rapid adoption is not only part of the new disintermediation phenomenon – think Uber, AirBnB and Kayak – but is driven by disaffection with traditional recruitment methods in the modern workplace. Our rapid uptake by users shows that an app that provides targeted and direct information about a job opportunity to lawyers’ mobiles, with filtering that can be set by a user to salary level, location and other parameters, is of high value to busy professionals. Busy professionals who do not want to be cold called by agents who often do not understand them or their business. Our value proposition to employers is that we charge only 5% for a placement in comparison to market rates that are multiples above that level, rich user data in terms of salary, location and browsing behaviour that can be used by employers to optimise effective candidate targeting and provide informative and relevant job descriptions to them.
We have completed a double beta test of the platform over nine months in the UK and over six months in Australia. As a result, we are in the process of adding improved functionality for our candidates and employers. We are also rolling out the platform to other recruitment segments as a dynamic, GDPR compliant hiring and database management tool.
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Route1 was founded in the UK in 2015 and is headquartered in London. Its founders and investors include experienced lawyers, digital entrepreneurs, recruitment consultants and HR professionals. The company’s website is www.route1.co.