Virtual Bench: The Rise of Virtual Secondments / Lawyer as a Service
Here at The Bench, as a virtual law firm, we have always been advocates of flexible working and the 'working from anywhere as long as there is decent Wifi and coffee' ethos. Whilst the majority of our lawyers are based in the UAE, many of our team members work remotely across the globe from places such as leafy Surrey in the UK, ski resorts in France, bustling cities like New York and Singapore and surf villages in Australia and New Zealand. Our clients actually benefit from this geographical spread because we have a network of lawyers, all with extensive Middle Eastern in-house legal experience, that provide a 24x7 service by utilising the different time zones and working weeks.
In addition to providing the normal range of legal advice, The Bench has a rather unique offering in that we also offer our clients legal recruitment and legal secondments (e.g. the services of a dedicated lawyer for a set period of time). In the Middle East, the legal secondment model is fairly well established (especially in the banking sector) and the benefits well known. These include:
flexibility (e.g. in terms of duration and the ability to terminate the arrangement/service compared to firing an employee);
the ability to obtain specialists for specific projects (e.g. bring in an arbitration expert to help with a large dispute, an M&A/IPO specialist etc);
no hiring / recruitment costs or HR admin;
no headcount issues - just a monthly service fee payable; and
cost effective (normally on a cost + model) compared to instructing a law firm to undertake the work on a project basis (normally on an hourly rate basis).
The Rise of Virtual Secondments
In the past there has been a preference for secondees to be physically sat at a desk in the office during office hours even though this may not always be the most efficient method of utilising their time. In this Covid-19 era, we are now seeing (and are active proponents of) the rise of virtual secondments (i.e. those dedicated lawyers working remotely) or a Lawyer as a Service (LaaS) model. LaaS is similar to the better-known Software as a Service (SaaS) model, which is where a provider hosts software applications in the cloud and makes them available to customers over the internet for a monthly subscription fee. Along similar lines, LaaS provides you with access to the services of a lawyer over the internet (but also via phone / Zoom calls etc) for a fixed monthly fee.
Since Covid-19 all secondees, along with the rest of the permanent workforce, have been forced to move from the office to working from home. Whilst this may only be a temporary measure for some, we believe it has been a valuable lesson for us all in how we can transform our traditional office based roles to a more flexible, cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, virtual solution.
Our own virtual secondment offering, the Virtual Bench, has received excellent client feedback and uptake to date, which reinforces our belief that this model will become more prevalent in the 'new normal'.
One of the strengths of our Virtual Bench service is our Deep Bench of 50+ lawyers (ranging from paralegals to ex Partners from Big Law firms) who are currently available for virtual secondments. Also, if we don't have the right lawyer already on The Bench, we will actively go out to our wider network and headhunt the right person for the role. We are uniquely placed for this because of our legal recruitment side of the business, which provides us with an extensive network of lawyers in the region. By way of an example, we recently provided one of our key clients in the UAE with 5 senior lawyers, which was a combination of our FrontBenchers plus some excellent new lawyers we brought into The Bench specifically for that project.
Our secondment service can be provided from as short as 1 day to over 1 year, can be part-time or full-time and can even be a hybrid of onsite and virtual support. If it's going well for both sides, we can also offer to convert the secondment into a permanent hire. We have successfully done this with a number of our clients in the UAE and the feedback from both clients and our lawyers was very encouraging.
If you would like to chat about our Virtual Bench offering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or your normal contact at The Bench. Likewise if you are a senior lawyer with excellent Middle East experience, academic credentials and an entrepreneurial spirit looking for a better work-life balance working from anywhere please Approach The Bench at email@example.com.