June 14, 2021

DealTech: Remote Dealmaking Likely to Thrive in 2021 Despite Return to Office - Experts

By Rupert Cocke

DealTech (formerly known as M&ATech) covers technology trends aimed at M&A professionals. If you would like to give us any feedback, please contact [email protected]

Remote dealmaking is likely to continue to thrive throughout 2021 even as fully vaccinated M&A professionals slowly return to the office, experts said.

Fieldfisher’s flexible resourcing platform, CondorFlight, has had an optimistic start to the year, said Stephen Ingle, who runs the firm’s alternative legal services (ALS) platform Condor. Its activity levels at the beginning of the year have doubled, he said

Although flexible resourcing was quiet during 2020, remote working also gained traction at the same time, Ingle said. CondorFlight expects a strong supply of work and a deep pool of resources in the months ahead, he said.

CondorFlight has 30-odd engagements at the moment, with a pool of 80 to 120 people, Ingle said. It offers paralegal services with a legal wrap for quality control, he added.

Clients used to be sceptical of the impact that a consultant could have remotely, said Catriona Blamire, head of client development, UK, for Allen & Overy's global flexible resourcing platform Peerpoint. However, remote working has gained acceptance, particularly for transactional roles, she said.

“We’ve now had successful placements from beginning to end where they’ve never set foot in the office,” Blamire said. This approach opens up opportunities for international support without relocation or trips, she added.

Legal consulting is becoming an increasingly attractive option for M&A lawyers who want more flexibility, Peerpoint’s Blamire said. Deal activity often happens in short bursts, so flexible resourcing platforms can offer new working patterns, she said. Peerpoint has a panel of more than 350 lawyers.

Widespread use of tech to facilitate dealmaking during the pandemic has been a key factor, said Rusty Wiley, CEO of virtual data room (VDR) provider Datasite. Dealmakers quickly adjusted to the new world, he said, adding that some found advantages to remote dealmaking over the in-person methods favoured in the past.

“Going forward, dealmakers will still require clear strategies and strong relationships to get deals done, but they will be using more technology to streamline the process,” Wiley said. Automating activities like uploading files will allow practitioners to focus on higher-value activities or achieve work/life balance, he said.

Around three quarters of dealmakers already know what their return-to-work plans are, according to a Datasite survey of more than 240 dealmakers in North America. However, one in four plan to change jobs, the survey said.

The survey also found that 60% of women and 41% of men experienced burnout during the pandemic. Meanwhile, 34% expect to use more tech in future, while 24% see fewer in-person meetings and 22% think they will travel less than before.

Meanwhile, the growth of ALS and flexible resourcing platforms will enable alternative career paths to emerge, according to Condor’s Ingle. This will be particularly true in areas like data analysis, customizing legaltech and delivering engagement, he said. However, one downside of remote working is that it will be harder to judge bonuses, he said.

CondorFlight was launched in 2016 alongside Condor itself, Ingle said in a previous interview in March 2020. At the time of the launch, clients were asking Fieldfisher for secondees while law firms were getting leaner, he added.

CondorFlight Grounded offers secondees to cover one-off projects, maternity cover, and sabbaticals, while CondorFlight Remote offers partners and senior lawyers the ability to work remotely on a per-hour basis.

Peerpoint was launched in 2013. Although many consultants chose to work remotely in the early days, this was less true by March 2020, according to its former managing director. It moved more towards a secondment model over the years, he said at the time.

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