Law firm Allen & Overy expands into regulatory consulting business

11 July 2018 4 min. read
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London-based international law firm Allen & Overy has expanded into the regulatory consulting business by launching the Allen & Overy Strategy Group. The separate business will be led by Sally Dewar, currently JPMorgan’s head of international regulatory affairs in London. According to A&O, the consultancy is a response to client demand for broader business advice in the regulatory arena.

Allen & Overy is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious international law firms. Founded in 1930 in London, the firm has over 5,400 employees across 44 offices in 31 countries – including more than 175 lawyers at its offices in NYC and Washington, DC. The global law firm posted revenues of $1.95 billion last year.

Like the Big Four accounting and consulting firms, Allen & Overy has been diversifying its service portfolio and innovating its business practices in recent years. The firm launched Peerpoint in 2013, which links flexible contract independent lawyers with clients in a sort of gig-style lawyer economy. Over a decade ago, A&O launched its online legal services, which provide online subscription products to help clients reduce legal, regulatory, and operational risk.

More recently, A&O started developing legal consulting/hybrid solutions that use a consulting style approach to solve clients’ legal challenges – deploying tech, business process, project management, and law services to provide hybrid legal solutions.Law firm Allen & Overy expands into regulatory consulting businessNow, the law firm has edged more forcefully into the consulting scene by launching the Allen & Overy Strategy Group – the firm’s new regulatory consulting business. The separate business will initially offer clients regulatory business advice which complements the regulatory legal services A&O already provides.

A&O Strategy Group will be headed by Sally Dewar, currently a managing director at JPMorgan in London, and head of international regulatory affairs. Prior to that, Dewar was Managing Director, Risk, at the Financial Services Authority. Dewar is a leading expert in regulatory issues and governance.

“Sally has a fantastic track record and reputation in the market,” said Richard Cranfield, Allen & Overy partner and co-head of the Financial Institutions Group. “She is the ideal person to lead this exciting new venture.”

The law firm is a leader in providing legal expertise in financial services regulation, and the new strategy group will satisfy client demand for broader business-focused advice in the area. “The pace and scope of financial regulation continues to grow as regulators become ever more invasive,” remarked Cranfield. “Our clients have asked for a broader advisory capability to complement our market-leading legal practice.”

A&O is betting on clients looking for legal consulting business advisory predicated on a stronger legal foundation, namely that of an elite Magic Circle law firm. A&O is now moving into the space of established legal consulting firms like FTI Consulting, while the Big Four firms have also all expanded to provide legal consulting. Deloitte was the final Big Four firm on the scene, opening its Legal Management Consulting practice earlier this year.

“We know that there is a gap in the market for advisors that have both in depth legal and technical insight but also the scope and scale to deliver tailored business outcomes,” Cranfield added. “This is where the Allen & Overy Strategy Group offers something special to the market.”

Innovation Station

Aside from diversification, A&O has also jumped headfirst into the innovation sphere. Launched last year, Allen & Overy’s Fuse startup incubator is a tech innovation space that links tech firms, A&O lawyers, technologists, and their clients in a collaborative environment to help develop innovative legal and regulatory solutions. Bloomsbury AI, a startup from the second cohort of the Fuse incubator, was acquired last week by Facebook for upwards of $23 million.

Bloomsbury AI has developed natural language processing that uses machine reading to scan documents and answer questions about them. Facebook will use the AI tech and natural language processing experts at Bloomsbury AI to tackle the problem of fake news and other ‘flagged content.’ Currently, Facebook mostly uses human ‘scanners’ to find and censor undesirable content. The firm hopes to shift this process to AI in the coming years.

“We are incredibly proud that one of our cohort has attracted the attention of Facebook, a company that will no doubt help it reach its full potential,” said Fuse Chairman and A&O Partner Jonathan Brayne. “We work very closely with the companies in Fuse, we get to know the people, the business and the ideas and so we feel confident that this is an excellent move for Bloomsbury AI and we wish them all the best.”