Disruptive Innovation: New Models of Legal Practice

August 27, 2015

The FLEX by Fenwick program was featured in the University of California Hastings study Disruptive Innovation: New Models of Legal Practice that was recently covered in Law360.  Authored by Professor Joan C. Williams and the Center for WorkLife Law, the study explores five new models for legal practice that improve work-life balance.

“Entrepreneurship has hit the law, with entrepreneurs innovating a large variety of different models to offer not only a new value proposition for lawyers, but also a new value proposition for clients,” the study noted.

Williams and her fellow researchers identified FLEX by Fenwick as one such innovation. Through FLEX, lawyers work in-house for clients on temporary assignments. The program offers lawyers more control of their hours and career; they can choose to work full-time onsite or as little as five hours per week remotely. Launched in 2010, FLEX now has about 70 attorneys and provides counsel to companies at all stages of growth – from startups to the Fortune 500.

FLEX not only gives lawyers an alternative to the field’s traditional career paths, but also provides companies with high-quality and cost-effective legal advice for their day-to-day needs. Fees are one-third to one-half to those typical at leading firms.

FLEX lawyers work with clients who are growing quickly (both small and large companies) in a wide-range of practice areas, but predominantly provide lawyers who specialize in negotiating routine and complex commercial and technology transactions, as well as managing corporate matters such as M&A, corporate governance and securities. The more experienced FLEX lawyers are also sometimes asked to act as temporary general counsel for young companies, but also are able to work with well-established companies.

“Bigger companies [with] robust legal departments need interim staffing solutions because they either don’t have headcount to hire more people or someone’s going on a leave or they have more work than they can handle but they see it as a spike,” FLEX co-founders Ralph Pais and Alex Smith told the researchers.

A win-win for both lawyers and clients, FLEX represents one of the new approaches innovative firms are using to redefine work-life balance in the legal profession, according to the researchers. “These firms pride themselves on doing things differently than traditional law firms,” the report noted.

The related article is available through Law360.