More signs of a gig economy are showing up in UAE's business services landscape. Next up is legal services on tap. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: In the UAE, more services are becoming available on ‘fractional’ basis. There’s property investments in Dubai, where ‘fractional’ title deeds can be obtained by more than one owner. Through this year, fractional property ownership opened up new ways for investors to tap red-hot possibilities in Dubai.

And now, even legal services are on call the fractional way. Call it a merging of traditional legal advisory delivered in new-fangled ways. That’s what the founders at Oryx want to deliver.

What this does is potentially free up businesses who do not want to appoint someone as an in-house legal professional but source those same services - even on a need-to basis - from outside.

“Under the fractional model, Oryx is not operating as a law firm but provide the same services as would be provided by an in-house legal team,” said Vanessa Abernethy, co-founder of Oryx. “The firm assigns a senior strategic level lawyer who has a general corporate and companies law background or specific industry expertise.

Vanessa Abernethy and Natalie Boyd of Oryx, the law firm Image Credit: Supplied

“That individual handles and manages the day to day legal needs of the client personally, where they have expertise, or outsources specific transactions, where they don’t have the expertise, to a law firm with that capability. Just as a general counsel working in-house with the client would do.”

A hard sell?

When it comes to legal matters, companies, whatever their size, have preferred having on call an in-house team or individual to take care of matters. But at a time when businesses - especially in the startup or early stage - are working on their cash flow priorities, they could consider outside legal resources, especially if it comes on a need-of-the-moment basis.

“The benefit is it allows companies to access legal support from an individual who will get to know their business from the inside and at a fraction of the cost of hiring such a person as an employee on a full-time basis,” said Vanessa. “The individual assigned partners with the senior management of the client internally to oversee and manage the full spectrum of legal needs.”

Market sources say such fractional services should be seen in a wider context. There is more outsourcing of specialist work being done, across a broad category of corporate needs.

“There is clearly a trend of new-gen business ventures thinking beyond having everything done in-house,” said a tech industry consultant. “If businesses can outsource their IT (with cloud) or audit needs, why not legal?”

That does away with the need to cover benefits such as medical insurance, flights and end-of-service gratuity, and other costs associated with onboarding an in-house team/individual to manage the legal side.

It’s a gig economy after all.

Not the legal norm

Currently, there are other legal services providers offer mid-level support on a ‘project by project basis or for a finite period of time’. “We are not aware of anyone following our model of senior strategic level in-house support only, potentially as a permanent solution,” said Vanessa. “Our consultants have all worked at partner level in a law firm environment previously and so are able to step in at Board of Director level or just below, for cost effective and commercial internal legal support.”

Launch and expansion
Oryx Law was established by Natalie Boyd in the UK in 2018, and working mostly with clients in the Middle East. It then led to the launch of Oryx Legal Consultants in the UAE, licensed onshore in Abu Dhabi, together with co-founder Vanessa Abernethy. The firm is in the process of opening an office in Dubai.