Magic circle firm Allen & Overy has announced it will expand its on-demand contract lawyer business for top-end clients.

The firm’s Peerpoint service was started last November to enable lawyers to work for it on a contract basis and meet peaks in client demand.

Four clients have signed up to receive the service directly, the firm said today, with a chief executive, Deloitte’s Richard Punt (pictured), appointed to lead the expanded business.

Lawyers working more flexibly on a freelance basis have become increasingly prevalent in high-value work in recent years. International firm Berwin Leighton Paisner was the first firm to create a dedicated ‘lawyers on demand’ service, while newcomer Axiom Law has more than 600 lawyers on its books to provide legal advice as and when clients require it.

Earlier this month Xenion Legal claimed a first by setting up a ‘legal innovation centre’ in Franfurt, led by Filip Corveleyn, formerly of A&O.

A&O has established a base of around 30 lawyers to work in Peerpoint and has begun to recruit more for the expansion into direct work with clients.

Wim Dejonghe, A&O global managing partner, said Punt’s recruitment showed the scale of its commitment to alternative models for clients.

He said:  ‘The fact that some of our major clients have also embraced the service, and are keen to work with us to develop the model further, is a testament to the quality of the business and the people involved.’

Punt, who joins in November, added: ‘Having led Deloitte’s client relationship strategy and worked extensively in the legal sector, the rapidly changing nature of client demand is very clear to me. I admire Allen & Overy’s ambition in pioneering new ways of working. They have recognised both the opportunity and the imperative presented by the fundamental shift towards new delivery models in the legal market.’

Research by Allen & Overy earlier this year on the appetite for new models indicated the rate of change the legal market is undergoing. It reported that 63% of respondents said they had used contract lawyers in the past two years, while three-quarters (74%) said they expected to use contract lawyers over the next five years.