In 2001, Maha Deeb, founder and CEO of The Legal Locum Network (LLN) noticed that because of her own legal background, many commercial and corporate lawyers were asking her to help them find more flexible career options. “The common thread was a longing to live a more balanced life, whilst still having the opportunity of practising in the profession they loved and excelled in,” she explained.
Deeb knew exactly what they meant. “As a mother of two little boys, I wanted it all – I wanted to do interesting and challenging work, while at the same time having the flexibility necessary for me to be a good mother,” she shared.
“In my case, the only type of work made available to me in practice on a flexible basis, was in an area which I found to be dull and repetitive. So I left practice and moved in-house. I was lucky enough to join a large progressive corporate, which afforded me the opportunity of flexibility while doing exciting corporate and commercial work. My personal experience was proof that it was possible.”
Deeb noted that the top tier firms where these lawyers practised could not – or would not – accommodate what they perceived to be unreasonable expectations from their staff, and this resulted in a steady exodus of high calibre attorneys from the profession.
“It was upsetting to watch more and more top talent fleeing from unsustainable pressure and giving up on a promising career in law,” Deeb said. “And that was when the idea hit me: I saw an untapped opportunity to solve their dilemma, while at the same time benefiting legal teams across the profession and industries with their excellent services.”
“This was some two decades before the emergence of what we now know as alternative or managed legal solutions, and long before these services gained the respect, acceptance and success they enjoy today,” she highlighted.
In selling the concept of outsourced legal services on a flexible, tailor-made basis, LLN initially hit a wall of incongruence, circumspection and even derision from firms and corporates. But Deeb persevered and eventually this pioneering new style of work caught on, and by 2005 LLN was providing the services of excellent lawyers to many blue-chip multinational corporates across the board of industries on a mutually flexible and hybrid basis.
“And of course the benefit to our locums was immense. An LLN’er recently dropped me a note saying: ‘Thanks for changing my life with LLN!’ She had been considering dropping out of law after more than ten years with one of the top tier firms because her work demands simply could not co-exist with her baby and home demands.”
Now that LLN has come of age and is in its twenty-second year, “it’s time for us to spread our wings,“ says Deeb, ”we spent much of last year reflecting on “what next?” and we came to the realisation that the expertise we offer is easily exportable globally through our model of working remotely, which has proven to be highly successful for us in South Africa.”
“Our research has shown that many corporate clients on the rest of the African continent are experiencing constrained budgets, but legal fees continue to rise and in fact have become prohibitive. This is where our tailor-made fee model makes us sought-after,” she explained.
With the pool of talent available to it through its locums, and because commercial, corporate and banking legal expertise is internationally interchangeable, LLN is well poised to provide the same professional service to clients in the rest of Africa, the UK and the UAE.
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