One of the State's largest corporate law firms, William Fry, is expanding with the launch of two new divisions to facilitate flexible working patterns.
The firm’s new PeopleBridge service will recruit and vet lawyers from outside the firm, and place them inside its business clients on temporary assignments. It will operate in effect as a kind of lawyer insourcing provider for businesses that need to boost their in-house legal capabilities for specific projects, such as audits, crises or major merger and acquisition deals.
William Fry managing partner Owen O’Sullivan says PeopleBridge could add 30-50 lawyers to the firm’s roster over two years. It already makes its lawyers available for secondments to selected corporate clients, and Mr O’Sullivan said this would continue.
However, PeopleBridge is focused on recruiting from outside the firm, especially among lawyers who may not want a full-time permanent role and want to dip in and out.
“There is demand for this on the client side and the lawyer side. We will build a stable of people of the right calibre,” he said.
The second new division launched this week is William Fry Connect, which will see it recruit solicitors to work under its banner on a paid-as-you-work basis, aimed towards legal professionals who, for family or personal reasons, don’t want to take on full-time roles.
Normally, partners and staff lawyers at firms work under contract with requirements on both sides. William Fry Connect will see it build platform of outside lawyers, which it will screen, to work intermittently as they advise the firm’s clients.
Whereas PeopleBridge is a client-facing brand, William Fry Connect has been developed as a below-the-line endeavour, with no new client-facing aspect.
The William Fry Connect concept may in future be expanded to recruit flexible working networks for other functions outside of core legal services. The platform could, for example, be expanded beyond lawyers to provide non-executive company directors or for corporate administration roles.
William Fry banking and finance partner Matthew Cahill was involved in setting up the two new divisions. He says the structures are common among large firms in, for example, the UK but has not previously been sold in the Irish market in this way.
“We vet the lawyers to ensure they are of high calibre. It could suit people who maybe have childcare issues or are nearing the end of their career and want to work flexibly,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan said all new lawyers recruited under the flexible initiatives would get the full administrative support of the firm. “What do we get out of it? We get to give clients and lawyers flexibility, and to move with the times and be seen as a progressive law firm.”
William Fry has 79 partners and 460 staff, has its headquarters in Dublin’s docklands and other offices in Cork, London and the US.