INTERNATIONAL law firm Clyde & Co has taken a leaf out of Harper Macleod’s book, setting up a referral service that will enable firms across Scotland to access its dispute resolution capabilities on a non-compete basis.

As with Harper Macleod Connect, which has been operational since 2008, the Clyde & Co service – which is being marketed as an outsourcing agency - will accept referrals from firms whose clients require a service they do not offer themselves.

Unlike Harper Macleod, which offers its services across a range of practice areas, Clyde & Co’s agency will focus on dispute resolution only, although that will include mediation, arbitration, settlement meetings, joint consultations and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

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Disputes partner Anne Kentish, who joined Clyde & Co when it took over her former firm, Edinburgh-headquartered Simpson & Marwick, in 2015, said the arrangement would allow smaller firms to pass on their clients when necessary without fear of jeopardising those client relationships.

“We want to support law firms in Scotland that provide excellent legal services to clients but are not in a position to offer dispute resolution services if their clients need them,” she said.

“By instructing us, a firm can outsource their dispute resolution needs but, crucially, remain in control of the relationship with the client.

“We can be as involved as the client firm wants us to be, from offering a fresh pair of eyes in a basic strategy review to running cases to trial, we can work behind the scenes in a way that works for the instructing firm and their client.”

Dispute resolution is by far Clyde & Co’s biggest area of expertise, accounting for around three-quarters of the turnover generated in its Scottish practice.

Within that, professional negligence, regulatory and clinical negligence are particular areas of focus and Ms Kentish said this will be reflected in the kind of work it is likely to be instructed on on behalf of other firms.

“The service is bespoke and based on what the client needs, but it’s clearly going to be in line with our wider offering where we have a broad range of skills across the pursuit and defence of disputes of all sorts, including mediation, arbitration and litigation,” she said.

“We also have an employment team who can support.

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“As a leading disputes firm with experience across disciplines and sectors we felt that we could help other firms who can’t offer their clients the full range of services they might need.

“This is true where they can’t offer any disputes support but also - and perhaps especially the case - where they might be able to offer some but not all of what their client needs. We can fit in and provide these services.”

In recent years Clyde & Co, which is headquartered in London and has 52 offices around the world, has introduced a number of revenue-generating initiatives that would not have been found within a traditional law-firm set-up.

Its analytics arm DataLab, for example, uses data analysis to not only improve the way it delivers its services but to come up with new products for clients too. Clyde Code, meanwhile, is a consultancy that offers advice on smart contracts, blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

The dispute resolution service, which the firm is only offering in Scotland, fits in with that trend: while Clyde & Co will not be looking to establish links with any of the clients that are referred to it, the arrangement will nevertheless open up a new revenue stream for the business.

“We’re always keen to work for organisations who need to draw on our skills, expertise and experience, so if this provides us with more opportunities to do that it’s hopefully a win-win situation,” Ms Kentish said.

The firm typically acts for medical defence organisations, corporates, individuals, private hospitals and insurers, with clients including Johnson & Johnson Medical, Zurich and Aviva.

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Since launching 12 years ago Harper Macleod Connect has handled close to 8,000 referrals, doing work on behalf of a third of all Scottish-headquartered firms.

The work is referred on a non-poaching, fee-sharing basis, with Harper Macleod’s lawyers operating as an extension of the firm making the referral.

Recent referrals have seen Harper Macleod provide banking and finance advice to the client of a firm that did not have experience working with commercial lenders in addition to handling a number of intellectual property matters for a firm that had received several enquiries from prospective clients but did not have the expertise to deal with them itself.