Matthew Kay: Our Vario model offers a new and better way to provide freelance legal services

Matthew Kay is Director of Vario for Pinsent Masons
Matthew Kay is Director of Vario for Pinsent Masons
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PINSENT Masons has pioneered a new way of providing freelance legal resource to clients who need specialist short-term or temporary legal assistance. Vario is now an established network of freelance lawyers which includes individuals with in-house and in-firm legal counsel experience, who come from a huge variety of backgrounds and usually hold a divergence of personal motivations.

Selecting a lawyer who has the right personality, work values and skills is core to the Vario model and ensures the end-client is matched with someone who can fit in seamlessly to their organisation and delivery quickly the services required.

To get the best out of our Varios, we work with them to understand their experience, professional and personal motivations, the legal work they want to be doing and how they want to do it. In parallel, our clients tell us what they need, the business challenge they are facing, the skills they are looking for, the type of individual who works well in their company and the period for which Vario support is required. In addition to standard recruitment techniques, Vario employs a range of psychometric and behavioural testing tools which helps pinpoint the ideal candidate – and crucially helps overcome unconscious bias in the selection procedure.

Unconscious bias can be influenced by our own backgrounds, cultural environment and personal experiences, and a person’s age, sex, religion and political beliefs can have an unhealthy prejudice on how they are perceived as a candidate, without the interviewer being aware of it.

One of the biggest issues of unconscious bias is that it increases the opportunity for missing out on good quality talent and decisions can be made which either reject or pass over individuals who would be a naturally good fit. It is not uncommon when recruiting that interviewers tend to lean towards someone who is in their “own light”, but ideally people should be assessed on their capabilities, technical skills and motivations, rather than if they reflect the character and ideals of the interviewer.

Test results are assessed by an independent business psychologist and a report is produced on each candidate. By this point, if the applicant has demonstrated the right behaviours and qualities, we are well on the way to establishing that they could succeed as a Vario, and a face-to-face interview is arranged.

So, who is right for Vario? Well, we are looking for lawyers with high levels of resilience, a flexible approach and who are comfortable with working in a situation where some ambiguity may exist. Often a client will require a freelance lawyer because of a “situation” – something has happened in the business (for example staff illness, a major diligence exercise or a crisis of some sort) and the client’s in-house team are under some pressure and need a specialist who can assimilate quickly in to the workplace and start adding value.

There is no luxury afforded of a long run-in period, which is usually the case when hiring new staff. The period from when we receive the first request for assistance to a Vario lawyer starting work can be as little as five days, so we are looking for people who are comfortable working in that type of pressured environment and who can hit the ground running.

Admittedly this is not for everybody and while there are many excellent lawyers who have extensive technical skills and have often honed their craft in private practice for years, it may not necessarily make them right for freelance work.

The focus on removing unconscious bias in the selection process should ensure that Vario produces excellent matches and we can be very confident that when we recommend a Vario to a client, that we are introducing an individual who will uphold the extremely high standards expected across Pinsent Masons’ international operations.

Matthew Kay is Director of Vario for Pinsent Masons