DLA Piper has bucked the trend among international law firms to set up their own contract lawyer service by collaborating with Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP’s) flexible resource arm Lawyers on Demand.

The firms’ ground-breaking venture will enable DLA to tap into a pool of its own alumni, which will be set up and managed by LOD on behalf of DLA.

The venture, which takes immediate effect, will initially be rolled out in the UK, followed by other key markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2016, representing significant expansion for LOD. It follows the arrival in March of new managing director Tom Hartley, who has previously held roles including chief executive officer at Kroll and been a partner at KPMG and who was brought in to help grow the LOD offering.

Under the new venture, DLA will also be supported by LOD’s own team of freelance lawyers, which now operate either as ‘Managed Teams’ for more routine work, ‘On Site’ which replicates the secondment model, or ‘On Call’ which offers flexible support for project work.

The venture represents a significant step change for LOD, which, despite having first-mover advantage in the contract lawyer market, having launched in 2007, as of April this year had just 230 lawyers on its books. By comparison, Axiom had 900 in the same month. The low number is said by practice development director Tim Bratton to be a result of not wishing to compromise on quality and LOD certainly has a large number of enviable clients including Balfour Beatty, Vodafone and Barclays.

A number of major international firms have established their own contract law offering in the past three years, including Allen & Overy with its Peerpoint offering, Eversheds with Agile, Pinsent Masons with Vario and Addleshaw Goddard with AG Integrate. However, the process of selecting the right candidates and creating an efficient platform is notoriously time consuming and a statement today (11 November) said that this new venture is “part of LOD’s strategy of building a suite of flexible solutions for law firms, allowing firms to tailor their offering to clients using LOD’s powerful platform of lawyers, knowhow and technology.”

DLA has made no secret of its plans to launch a flexible resource and, led by global co-chief executive Simon Levine, has explored a number of options before deciding to work with LOD to create a scalable model.

Hartley said: “Today’s announcement marks a step change in the way all law firms can address flexible working and resourcing, a unique model which we believe will be the catalyst for significant change in the industry. We are delighted to be working with DLA Piper, a truly innovative, global firm which shares our vision for the future. Like LOD, DLA Piper is a fast-growing, dynamic business and we are proud to be part of driving the firm’s continued success both in the UK and internationally.”

Both LOD and DLA Piper were recently recognised at the FT Innovative Awards 2015, with DLA Piper named ‘Game Changing Law Firm of the Past Ten Years’ and LOD ‘s co-founder Simon Harper recognised as ‘Legal Innovator of the Year’.