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Ten years on Pinsent Masons’ Vario flexible services has come of age

Posted: 27th July 2023
Geraldine Kelm, Partner, Head of Account Management, Vario Flexible Services

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that when Pinsent Masons launched Vario in 2013 it was primarily in response to a spike in demand from clients for secondee lawyers to provide ad hoc or emergency legal cover.

But we realised clients wanted more than a “firefighting” approach and would welcome a longer-term sustainable solution, while a growing number of lawyers were seeking an alternative career path which addressed the age-old work-life balance conundrum.

Our firm is constantly evolving and Vario – which was named to reflect variety, change and flexibility – is aligned with our focus on listening to our clients and understanding their needs.

Fast forward 10 years and Vario is now a fully integrated practice group within our global professional services firm – providing a wide range of expertise from flexible resources to managed legal services, company secretarial services, legal tech and process consultancy, and project management services.

Ten-year-old Vario is an international community of lawyers and legal professionals with a 2000-strong bench of freelancers, and an employed bench of lawyers, paralegals, legal technologists, project managers, solution architects, company secretaries and other professionals, all of whom are working to deliver professional services to clients of the firm. Now operating in seven countries through the Pinsent Masons office network, Vario still addresses fluctuations in a client’s in-house team availability, but it is supplemented with a menu of professional services which can be flexed up and down depending on client requirements.

Clients still want to instruct the firm on matters as before, but they are seeking evermore flexibility, responsiveness and innovative solutions, and they expect a Vario type offering to be an intrinsic part of the service. Much of the work is delivered nowadays by a combination of freelance lawyers and employed professionals from within the firm. This has meant that the freelance model is stronger than ever, with new opportunities for work and ways to do so arising continually.

Back in 2013, freelance work models like Vario were seen as an option for lawyers looking to take a step back from their career, but now it is mainstream and accepted as very much a sustainable career option – professional governing bodies such as the Law Society of Scotland now recognise legal freelancing as a career option.

The huge variety of work remains a driving factor for Vario lawyers and the relationship with Pinsent Masons and the quality of work we are engaged in on a daily basis is a big draw, while there some lawyers who prefer to concentrate on law and are happy not to take on other responsibilities such as business development.

All our freelancers understand the benefit of forming good relationships and the importance of strong interpersonal skills which are necessary for assimilating quickly into new working environments. For most of our Varios it’s a chosen career path (but it can be temporary) and there is a reassurance of working with an internationally renowned law firm which provides them with world-class resources.

We engage freelancers who are both technically strong and suited to a flexible career and, using a team of independent business psychologists, we look for the characteristics required to prosper within a more flexible career – such as resilience, social confidence and reliability.

Vario is well established in United Kingdom, Germany and the Asia Pacific region and was recently introduced in Ireland – but we are not stopping there and expansion across other European and Middle East jurisdictions is on the 10 year horizon.

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