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A&O Advanced Delivery & Solutions: No more 'business as usual'

A&O’s Advanced Delivery & Solutions suite rethinks ‘business as usual’ and finds smarter, more effective ways of working.
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Advanced Delivery & Solutions (AD&S) covers a growing suite of businesses delivering A&O’s services in new ways, developing market-leading legal tech, fostering innovation and providing specialist strategic advice to clients.

“AD&S is evolving into a real powerhouse for innovation in how we deliver our traditional services and how we develop new services,” says Andrew Trahair, partner and head of AD&S. “The pandemic has thrown up a lot of challenges, but that plays to our strengths.”

During 2021, aosphere – its first business – marked its 20th anniversary and Peerpoint opened in the U.S. and Middle East.

“Our Markets Innovation Group has also been very active”, Andrew says, “providing scaled solutions such as IBOR Matrix, which is helping financial institutions transition from LIBOR and other benchmarks to new risk-free interest rates at scale. In fact, digitisation is an area for which we’re developing a broadly more comprehensive strategy, both internally and for clients.”

Meeting the ‘more for less’ challenge

Our Legal Services team in Belfast  is also approaching a milestone anniversary. In the ten years since its launch in 2012, it has grown from just a few lawyers to nearly 130 associates, legal professionals and scientific and technical analysts. “We’ve successfully responded to the ‘more for less’ demand from clients,” Andrew says, “by using tech-enabled, cost-efficient resourcing on elements of larger matters, while maintaining  the quality clients expect."

The team, led by partner Angela Clist, is made up of experienced associates who manage junior legal professionals in a range of projects, from large-scale document reviews to specialist research.

“The model of Belfast working in close partnership with the rest of our international network, supported by project management and workflow technology, has been very effective – so much so that we’re looking at opening two more bases to cover  other time zones,” Andrew says.

The continued rise of A&O Consulting

Another success has been the growth of A&O Consulting since its launch in 2018. “We started A&O Consulting in response to requests from clients for high-level, strategic guidance on regulatory issues, which they weren’t finding elsewhere,” Andrew says.

“Our CEO, Sally Dewar, has built a hugely talented and experienced international team of former regulators, industry leaders and consultants, which has been key to our success with clients.”

In addition to its regulatory and compliance expertise, A&O Consulting is advising businesses on wider areas of governance – including sustainable business outcomes – corporate purpose and culture, and business transformation.

Sally says, “it’s been another busy  year for us, with the pandemic presenting ongoing challenges, including the impact on businesses  of emerging from lockdowns and adjusting to a new normal.”

A particular growth area is transforming in-house legal functions. “Data is central to every area of a business now, so making better use of it is becoming a hot topic for general counsel wanting to measure, track and improve the performance of their function.”

The team recently developed a data-driven reporting model for the legal and compliance team within a global asset manager. “We built a platform  with around 80 performance metrics to provide insights that will improve decision-making and risk management – ultimately enabling the legal function to improve showcasing its value to the wider business,” Sally says.

“Our plan for the coming year is to continue expanding our use of consulting services across A&O so that we dovetail non-legal consulting with our more traditional legal services seamlessly for clients."

What else is coming up for AD&S?

A priority for the coming year is to expand the Legal Services team beyond Belfast into new markets. Andrew says, “we’re planning a ‘follow the sun’ capability which will see us opening a hub in Perth, Western Australia, to cover the Asia-Pacific region in the second quarter of 2022. In the U.S. we’re in the process of identifying the best location based on time zone, availability of talent and cost. We’re also planning to extend our eDiscovery and document review services, particularly in the U.S.”

International expansion is also on the cards for legal tech, opening a base in Asia in the coming year and, further down the line, establishing a presence in the U.S. “With three new offices on the U.S. West Coast now, there’s an obvious link up with all the tech innovation there.”

Underpinning all of this, Andrew says, are AD&S’s practice group leads and process improvement specialists now working across A&O’s global business.

“Collaborating with our practice groups to adopt and integrate AD&S services is a key priority for us – that is how we can best help clients respond to the challenges they face and ensure we remain at the cutting edge of the market.”

Data is central to every area of a business now, so making better use of it is becoming a hot topic for general counsel.

Sally Dewar

Bringing interim lawyer placement into the mainstream of law

Peerpoint, A&O’s flexible resourcing business, opened its newest bases in the U.S. and Middle East in 2021, and now has more than 350 consultant lawyers across its network.

Peerpoint launched in 2013 at a time when contracting was common practice in sectors such as IT and creative industries, but less so in law. As head of talent Marie Kirby explains, the past eight years – and certainly the last 18 months – have brought consulting fully into the mainstream of the legal sector.

Marie says, “some people are calling this ‘the great reset’. It’s certainly been  a time for individuals and businesses  to reassess priorities and look at the future differently.”

The trend at the start of the pandemic was largely an influx of lawyers at the early stages of careers coming to Peerpoint, she says. “They’d either left jobs to go travelling or taken a role that didn’t materialise because of Covid and were stuck in ‘no-man’s land’. So they turned to us as a way of finding new options while keeping a top name on their CV.”

The broader trend as the pandemic continued, however, has been people adjusting to a new reality and choosing consulting as a long-term option. “A lot of people are rethinking their careers and looking for the variety, control and new learning opportunities consulting brings,” says Marie. “In-house lawyers, for example, can sometimes hit a career ceiling and see fewer options to progress, so consulting offers different challenges and opportunities in new environments. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest, and this change can give their career the boost it needs.”

An appealing choice for both lawyers and clients

The current market is heavily talent-driven, Marie says. “Clients’ use of consultants has steadily increased since Peerpoint launched, attracted by bringing in extra resource without fixed costs, finding specialists for specific work or scaling up to cover larger projects. Add in the additional challenges brought by the pandemic, and it’s easy to see why demand for consultants has grown  so much.

“We have so many great opportunities right now that also offer more flexibility in how and where people work. Some roles are entirely remote; if clients can’t source the right talent in their local market, they’re often open to someone doing the role from another location. Ultimately, they want the best people.”

Peerpoint isn’t just about sourcing roles, Marie says, it’s about building careers and supporting consultants to be the best they can be. “That’s particularly important for early- to mid-stage lawyers to ensure they don’t get stuck at a certain level. We actively help people move through career stages or change direction in the flow of work.”

Expanding Peerpoint’s footprint

Internationally, Peerpoint now covers most major regions. “Listening to where clients need more resource will influence how we next expand our footprint,” Marie says. “In the meantime, we’re excited about growing our UAE and U.S. businesses alongside our more established regions.”

Diversity is a key priority too, to support the ambitions of both A&O and its clients in this area. “We’ve had real success working with A&O’s returners programme, for example, bringing back into work people who’ve had extended career breaks”, Marie says. “Consulting is a great option for people who have commitments outside of work and it’s helping to bring a more diverse group of talented people on to the Peerpoint panel and to our clients.”

Alumni are always high on the wish list, Marie adds. “A&O’s alumni network has been our biggest source of talent from day one, so if anyone is rethinking their priorities and career, come and talk to us. A lot has changed in the consulting market and there are more options and ways of working than ever before.”

aosphere – 20 years of making the complex simple

Update: This article was published in December 2021. Please note that aosphere ceased to be affiliated with Allen & Overy on 8 February 2024 and is no longer part of the Allen & Overy group. aosphere is a separate business that is not regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A&O does not receive any referral fees from aosphere.

Launched on the legal market in 2001, aosphere offered something not seen before: in-depth analysis of complex legal and compliance issues, researched by specialist lawyers and condensed into user-friendly online guides for clients – one annual subscription fee, no billable hours and no hidden costs.

Today, aosphere has nearly 600 global business subscribers, 15,000 individual users and 15 products ranging from derivatives and e-signatures, to financial services marketing rules.

Disrupting the market

“Twenty years ago, our clients’ approach to cross-border legal compliance was to commission bespoke surveys or conduct their own lengthy analysis,” says Marc-Henri Chamay, CEO of aosphere.

“We could see huge duplication of effort, major cost implications and increasing difficulty keeping up with regulations. We felt we could address that by developing a set of standard resources on the most common yet complex issues, to give clients instant answers to their global compliance challenges.”

Three trends have accelerated the adoption of aosphere, Marc-Henri says. First, globalisation and the number of jurisdictions clients operate in; second, the increasing complexity of regulation; and third, a stronger focus on cost control.

Navigating data privacy

aosphere has responded to these changes by launching new services in new areas. Its latest product, for example – Rulefinder Data Privacy – analyses the complex area of data privacy law.

“Data privacy is like water: it gets everywhere,” says Claire Farley, executive director of aosphere. “More jurisdictions and sectors are introducing regulations as regulators are increasing their focus, so we felt there was a real need for a tool to help clients.”

As with other aosphere products, Rulefinder Data Privacy’s analysis is organised in layers of detail, from traffic-light colour coding and at-a-glance summaries, to sourcing reports from leading local counsel.

“Its strength lies in our team of experts,” Claire says. “They’ve asked the right questions at a local level and thought through how we display content for different scenarios.”

Claire joined aosphere in 2007 to design a new Shareholding Disclosure product and has worked on the development of several others since. “We’re often working with clients who have used other aosphere products and have ideas for where we can help them in more areas.”

A good aosphere product, Claire explains, covers recurring legal or compliance issues across multiple jurisdictions where the content is constantly changing.

“Rulefinder Data Privacy is a perfect example. I became involved at the stage of simplifying the incredibly detailed and granular content the team was collecting, and thinking through fact patterns for organisations, like where they process data, where individuals are located, and what the governing laws of relevant contracts are.”

The key to aosphere’s success

“Central to aosphere’s business model is simplicity,” Marc-Henri says. “We monitor extremely complex topics for a huge number of jurisdictions, but the skill is in how we summarise and deliver analysis in a simple way.

“The breadth of information we’ve acquired, the quality of our team and the simplicity to clients of paying an annual fee with no hidden charges – that’s why our client base has grown.”

While Covid-19 hasn’t impacted most areas of compliance, it has, says Marc-Henri, put a spotlight on certain issues. “Last year, for instance, we launched a service analysing the validity and enforceability of e-signatures.”

Looking ahead, a key aim is to expand aosphere from its base of mostly financial services organisations to the wider corporate world. “With a product like Rulefinder Data Privacy, we’re providing a solution to a challenge that virtually all multinationals face,” Marc-Henri says. “Tackling these types of universal issues is what drives us on to the next phase of aosphere.”

Some people are calling this ‘the great reset’. It’s certainly been a time for individuals and businesses to reassess priorities and look at the futuredifferently.

Marie Kirby

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