A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

How to successfully navigate the information-rich digital world

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

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By Whit Lee, Executive Director, Strategy & Legal Software Solutions, LexisNexis Asia Pacific

We live in an age of information, powered by technology. Where once a collection of Encyclopedia Britannica was required to find the answer to an obscure question raised in a lively pub discussion, now all that is needed is a 4G signal on one of the many devices inevitably resting on the table.

There are immeasurable benefits to technological development; for one, the wealth of our individual knowledge has grown colossally. But value doesn’t lie in information itself. Even a mountain of data and information does not necessarily equate to better intelligence and decision-making. Value comes from applying analytical and critical thought processes to that information.

The loss of analytical thinking

Over the last few years, studies have started to emerge revealing that we are gradually adapting to respond to information in an automatic, uncritical way. A generation of ‘digital natives’ will be entering the workforce in the coming decade, remarkable for their intrinsic aptitude for technology, but worrisome for their lack of critical nous.

In a Stanford University study published in November 2016, students were asked to evaluate the reliability of information posted online in order to assess their ability to apply critical thinking. For those of us who grew up using libraries, the findings are somewhat alarming: 82% of younger high school students were unable to differentiate between sponsored ad content and genuine news posted online, and nearly 40% of older students believed that a photo of misshapen daisies proved that there were toxic conditions around the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan – despite it being a viral post with no identifiable location characteristics or source given.

We are inundated by information, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Z Generation find it hard to distinguish between fact and fiction. But what it does highlight is the importance of maintaining skills in analytical reasoning. In order to successfully navigate the digital world, we need to adopt a scientific approach of critical, rational and effortful thought. In short: we all need to think like lawyers.

The rise of the machine

Hollywood has long visualised the future of machines, and fact is now surpassing fiction…though some may say the advent of artificial intelligence is far less exciting than we have come to expect; machines will not be taking over the world. But we still need to be prepared for further rapid technological advancement.

We know that the digitally-powered information-overload is not going to slow, but what we will see in the future are tools powered by artificial intelligence that take the analysis of data out of our hands, presenting us just with the most accurate and relevant answers we require. So why maintain skills in analytical thinking ourselves? Well, an answer doesn’t necessarily equate to a decision. A human element will always be necessary to assess and evaluate answers – which are, of course, simply condensed pieces of information.

The analytical thought process of a human is inherently different to that of a machine, because a human can take into account personal experience, empathy, and external drivers across a wide range of topics. Intelligent machines will remove the ambiguity of confirmation bias and the fallacy of false news, but are devoid of emotional intellect; humans are what give information meaning.

In practice management, as artificial intelligence tools start to enhance workflows and provide improved outcomes for lawyers and clients alike, intellectual agility will still be required in the analysis of information in order to make decisions and take actions that best suit the business. So while investment is made in the latest technology, so too must investment be made in that almighty gadget we each possess: our brains.

The future belongs not to those who will build the digital world, but those who will work in collaboration with it to deliver excellence that has undercurrents of both machine and emotional intelligence.

Editor's Note

Thought Leadership Awards NominationsLexisNexis is the proud partner for the 2017 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards. If your firm has successfully implemented an innovative new initiative or is doing something different in response to the digital world, then enter the project for an award. Nominations are open until 21 June. Nominate online now.

Winners will be announced at the 2017 ALPMA Summit, held from 13-15 September at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre. This year's Summit 'Sailing the 4C's' focuses on the four key 21st learning skills of Collaboration, Critical-thinking, Creativity and Communication. Readers interested in learning more about building analytical thinking skills at their firm should register before July 20 for early bird savings. Register now.

About our Guest Blogger

Whit LeeWhit leads the Legal Software Solutions (LSS) team, which delivers cloud-based and on-premise tools that drive improved outcomes for clients, helping them to make better decisions by combining world-class LexisNexis content with practice management workflow solutions.  Whit is also responsible for strategy and business development for the LexisNexis Asia Pacific business. As strategy lead, Whit is focused on how the organization is executing today as well as planning for tomorrow – ensuring we have the right resources allocated to deliver on both short and long term goals and that our investments in new products and solutions deliver value to customers. Whit holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

The Dangers of Silent Malware

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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By James Walker, Managing Director, Computer One

Ransomware masks a more serious threat, and your law firm’s network may already be compromised. Here’s how to know...

In early May 2017, the world witnessed the largest ransomware attack in history. Within 72 hours the WannaCry ransomware had encrypted files in more than 200,000 organisations across more than 150 countries - thanks to its novel use of an email entry point and then self-propagation through network protocols. It was the largest ransomware attack in history.

Or so we thought.

Less than one week later, on May 18th, came the news that WannaCry was not the first programme to take advantage of recently released National Security Agency exploits. Another variant, called Adylkuzz had already been infecting computers for three weeks, potentially on an even greater scale.

It was a benevolent kind of attack - this time

The creator of Adylkuzz had used the same exploits as WannaCry to create a botnet (an army of slave devices) and used it to mine the Monero cryptocurrency. Effectively, they had created a supercomputer capable of mining the currency quickly, making early gains that may later be worth millions.

And no-one even noticed.

It was only when researchers at Proofpoint looked into the WannaCry attack that it was discovered at all. Because although system resources were being stolen, Adylkuzz was generally a benevolent system infection, with the payoff for the creator not coming directly from the victims.

But its discovery underlines a new era for ransomware and corporate espionage.

A typical ransomware attack is messy and violent. It encrypts your files and demands a ransom as fast and as noticeably as possible. What it does, and what the creators want from you, is black and white.

Software that is designed to remain low-profile and undetected on your firm’s network for as long as possible represents a nastier kind of infection. Often called Advanced Persistent Threats (APT’s), the function and use of such software is not clear and the purpose of the attack can only be determined after detection and observation.

This kind of software goes hand in hand with secret file theft or erasure, secret recording of voice and video, untraceable physical security breaches and more. The creativity of the threat actor is the only real limit.

Every device connected to your network has the potential to be a spy on your conversations, actions and files. Every laptop has the ability to record sound and video. Every IP phone is connected to your network and could be compromised. Digital video cameras, physical access controls and more all have potentially dangerous exposure to your network and your firm's intellectual property.

Your firm may already have been infected. But here’s what you can do...

It’s not all doom and gloom. The development of this new kind of signatureless, pervasive but low-profile threat has spawned a new generation of cyber-security products specifically designed to counter APT’s.

Cisco Umbrella, for example, covers every endpoint in your network, looking for out-of-character network traffic. A laptop that starts transmitting packets of information to a remote and rarely-contacted network at 2am, or a printer that moves a lot of data outside business hours may be silently syphoning your firm’s secrets.

Umbrella compares the traffic it has observed to what it knows is “normal” for your system. It also checks every connection to an IP address against a database of suspect IP addresses forged from witnessing over 60 million IP requests every day – Cisco claims it sees nearly 2% of the entire Internet’s traffic, giving it a solid base of trusted vs. suspicious IP addresses.

If the destination IP address is already flagged, Umbrella can suspend the transmission and report it to your IT team. If it’s not flagged it can still generate a request for a deeper investigation, so that you can stop the exfiltration of data.

Another product, called Darktrace works along similar lines. Darktrace sits over your entire network, observing the behaviour of all the endpoints connected to the system. Developed by Cambridge mathematicians and former MI5 operatives, it observes a wide range of activities, connection requests and data transfers to identify suspicious activity and can even stop malicious activity autonomously, just seconds into an APT’s deployment.

There’s always the question: “Why would an attacker care about hacking us?”

All this concern over APT’s seems the stuff of spy thrillers that wouldn’t really apply in the context of most Australian law firms - until you put yourself in the shoes of the attacker. Inside information on new patents, details of messy celebrity divorces, and discussions around setting up foreign entities for listed companies are all valuable assets in the hands of someone who can make money from them.

Even if an attacker doesn’t intend to make money directly from the knowledge, threatening to expose your firm to serious reputational and economic damage by leaking stolen information is a serious threat that we know is already making attackers rich – you just don’t hear about it because ransoms are being paid quietly.

The economic motivation is clear and real. The tools are readily available and new, silent attacks are happening every week. It’s not a case of “if”, but “when”, your network will be compromised. 

And “when” may already be in the past.

Editor's Note

Interested in learning more about IT defences and the steps you can take to mitigate the risk of a data breach in your firm and the next steps to take should a breach occur? Then come along to ALPMA QLD's July practice management seminar "What your firm needs to know about the upcoming Mandatory Data Breach Notification" presented by James Walker, Managing Director, Computer One on July 19 in Brisbane. Register now for this event. 

About our Guest Blogger 

James WalkerJames Walker is the Managing Director of Computer One, an IT Services company that covers the full spectrum of delivery, from a Managed Helpdesk through to complex project management, Network Management and Information Security. Computer One has been working with legal firms for almost 15 years and has experience in solving a range of IT challenges faced by the legal fraternity, from software integration to security, network configuration and productivity enhancement.

Computer One is offering a free two week proof of value trial which could immediately identify if your network has already been compromised.  Contact Computer One on 1300 667 871 or sales@computerone.com.au to arrange.

Managing Brand Integration

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

By Tineke Mann, eBusiness Manager, TIMG 

Mergers and acquisitions are common in the legal sector – but as many who have embarked down this path know, getting the post-acquisition integration right is not always easy! In this post, we share some of the key learnings from our acquisition of LitSupport in the hope that this will help you on your journey.

The Information Management Group (TIMG) embarked upon the challenge of successfully acquiring a complementary brand to enhance their service offering in early 2014. TIMG solve information management problems daily for thousands of businesses, large and small, in every major industry, across Australia and New Zealand. Our offering is simple; help clients store, manage, integrate and access important information securely, compliantly and effortlessly.

By December 2014, TIMG successfully acquired LitSupport; a leading organisation that specialises in providing secure and confidential information management services to law firms and corporate legal departments. The brainchild of Val Pitt some 20 years ago, LitSupport grew from a home-based business to a national organisation with over 130 employees and a service network spanning Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Why integrate?

Why would LitSupport embrace being absorbed into TIMG you may ask? 

“Times were changing. The legal industry was and is facing increasing pressure to improve performance and manage costs across all areas of operations” Val Pitt, Communications Manager, LitSupport said. “A union with TIMG enables us to deliver greater efficiencies and innovative solutions for our clients.”

TIMG similarly identified the need for innovation in the managed services and information management space. 

Chris Cotterrell, General Manager TIMG Australia recognised the need to provide a complete service offering to clients, ensuring they continued to grow and revolutionise the space.

“Investigations were completed by Ernst & Young, our parent company Freightways and TIMG management and it was decided that LitSupport offered the services we needed to compete in our industry, as well as offering an excellent cultural fit for both teams”.

The combined expertise in both companies has seen a positive outcome with TIMG now offering a full suite of services with greater capabilities to their clients. 

The integration challenges

The transition, however, has not been easy and has had opposing challenges for both parties in different ways.

Val acknowledges the positives and negatives that have accompanied the journey and acquisition of LitSupport within TIMG. 

“The hardest part for me has been letting go of decision making after twenty-one years of being the key decision maker. In contrast, the most rewarding part of the integration has been being part of a much larger organisation where accountability is shared and you are surrounded by many levels of support and expertise”.

The journey for TIMG has been focused on driving the acquisition from a strategic perspective, ensuring goals in the immediate future and in years to come are achieved. 

“There were areas we needed to tackle head on, areas that required a longer strategy to ensure a smooth transition, and areas we had little control over,” Chris said.

Mr Cotterrell explains how an earn-out period is still in place until 1 July 2017 and resulted in TIMG having limited authority for the first two and a half years of the acquisition which came with its own set of challenges.

Consideration factors in brand acquisition extend far beyond the immediate strategic vision. Chris Cotterrell explains: 

“Culturally, it’s difficult to integrate small owned business structures with a larger organisation that operate with a more corporate structure and related governance”.

“TIMG managers and those involved with LitSupport have been very excited about the service offering and the value this service will have for TIMG clients. TIMG has successfully signed an agreement with Ringtail to resell it as LitReview in line with the TIMG branding. This is an exciting development as legal and corporate clients will now have access to the most advanced eDiscovery tools” he continues.

Advice for others

With every acquisition, ensuring clear communication to clients is vital. 

“Branding and synergies will be the main focus in our immediate plans, with a five-year aim to triple the digitisation and processing revenue” Chris states.

As with all business changes, learnings will be had and will be different depending on the side of the table you sit at. 

Val recalls the experience: “I would not have changed a thing. I never look back – the future is way too bright. If I could offer advice to an organisation exploring the same avenue, I would encourage them to choose carefully, be prepared for change and commit to a successful merger”.

For TIMG the acquisition and integration challenges continue as the company continues to grow. 

At the start of the acquisition, integrating finance and payroll was prioritised; swiftly followed by the integration of CRM and job management to ensure client workflow remained unaffected.

“We should have taken a much more active role in cost control at that point of the journey. Costs blew out and bringing these back in line has been a painful process” Chris recalls. 

Internal considerations should also be allowed for, he said.

“More time should have been spent earlier with LitSupport staff to help them adjust to our wider vision. It’s taken almost three years to adjust the view that we are not two separate businesses, but one; TIMG.” 

As Chris highlights, people and their behaviours play an important role in any acquisition, and the management of these behaviours is time-consuming but necessary to provide clear vision and to set realistic expectations.

“If I could advise a business who were about to take on a similar journey, I would advise them to manage expectations, review systems and processes and don’t assume they will be compliant just because of certifications. 

Above all, make sure the cultures of the two businesses will work well together” Chis advises.

About our Guest Blogger

Tineke MannTineke Mann is the eBusiness Manager for TIMG, the information management service provider. Tineke is passionate about helping lawyers simplify their work-life through more efficient management of records and top data security. In addition to working closely with a range of clients tailoring solutions, she manages teams of eDiscovery experts, Online Backup specialists and in-house developers.

Blockchain & Smart Contracts…Why is it important, and what can I do with it?

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

By Ashley Kelso, Senior Associate, AustraLaw

There are a number of technologies at the moment that are on the verge of bringing a wave of innovations to many industries. These include:

  • Machine learning
  • Internet of things
  • Blockchain and distributed ledger
  • Smart Contracts
  • IPFS (decentralised storage of data)

We in the legal industry must at least gain a working knowledge of these technologies if we are to leverage them, give effective advice to our clients, and address the risks that they entail.

Most of the above technologies are fairly self-explanatory:

  • Machine learning allows us to train a computer by trial and error to perform repetitive analytical tasks (this holds major potential to allow smaller firms to punch above their weight)
  • The internet of things is about feeding data from sensors to an internet-connected server and then performing some action or analysis on it (the weather app on your iPhone is an example)
  • Decentralised storage is basically a cross between bit torrent (peer-to-peer file sharing) and dropbox (cloud-based storage). i.e. files are sourced from ‘the cloud’ by reference to their content rather than their location on a server. So if an identical copy of the file you are after is located on a computer nearby, your computer doesn’t have to pull that same content all the way from a server in the US.

However, smart contracts and blockchain technology require a little more explaining. As smart contracts are built on blockchain (e.g. Ethereum) and distributed ledger (E.g. Corda) technology, it best to start with an explanation of blockchain.

Blockchain – how does it work?

As an engineer I always found it more effective, when dealing with complex ideas, to communicate them visually through diagrams and drawings. Blockchain technology is a complex idea. This video provides an excellent visual explanation of what a blockchain is and what it is useful for.

Blockchain as a register of transactions

As the video demonstrates, blockchain provides the benefits of:

  • A trusted common register of information that is highly resistant to forgery
  • Decentralised recording of transactional data (good for data preservation, but also a privacy issue)

The importance of reliable common registers to record the exchange of property rights between parties will be well familiar to those involved in conveyancing and sale of business work.

Smart contracts

The first blockchain technology was Bitcoin. This simply tracked the creation and exchange of bitcoins between users. However, it is the next generation of blockchain technology called Ethereum that has really got people interested. This is because Ethereum allows users to customise the kinds of transactions that are performed, recorded, and tracked on the Ethereum blockchain.

Users can do this by writing smart contracts and loading them onto the Ethereum blockchain. In simplistic terms, a smart contract defines the items of value that parties to the contract will be exchanging, and the rules by which they will be exchanged. (i.e. Define the things whose state will be tracked, and how their state will change based on the information that the contract receives).

What do smart contracts look like?

To avoid talking too much in the abstract, here is an example of a smart contract from the Ethereum website.  It is written in a programming language called Solidity.
In basic terms, the ‘functions’ become actions that users can perform on the contract – for example, to tell the contract to process a transaction between two parties, or to check the balance of an account. Ethereum provides an application called the Ethereum Wallet that allows you to load your contracts on to the Ethereum blockchain and provides a user interface to interact with your contracts.

Risks and benefits of smart contracts

Smart contracts are the reason that people are talking about blockchain. Benefits include:

  • Automatic execution of the contractual effect of events (i.e. reducing the legwork of contract administration)
  • Automatically generates a record of all transactions that is highly resistant to forgery
  • Ability to create entire trading environments and schemes to exchange customised items of value (e.g. could be used to implement a private carbon credit scheme)

Negatives of smart contracts on Ethereum include:

  • Privacy of contract data
  • Difficult to prevent a party from exploiting a bug in the contract code
  • Charges Ether to process transactions (Ether is the currency of Ethereum)

There is a rapidly growing developer community around this technology; AustraLaw has already had an enquiry about drafting a smart contract; and a quick glance at the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance site demonstrates keen interest from major corporates (including Thomson Reuters). Exciting and uncertain times lay ahead.

More information

Corporates experimenting with blockchain technology

  • The Commonwealth Bank participated in a successful demonstration of the use of smart contract-IoT system which allowed payment to be trigged once a shipment of cotton reached a geographical location.
  • The Queensland Treasury Corporation and the Commonwealth Bank have demonstrated the ability to use smart contracts for the auction and issuance of bonds. 

About our Guest Blogger

Ashley KelsoAshley Kelso is a senior associate at AustraLaw. He holds degrees in mechatronics engineering and law. Prior to becoming a lawyer he worked in project management and systems engineering roles in the Department of Defence. This background allows him to communicate effectively across multiple disciplines and industries to assist clients more efficiently with their ADR and contract needs.

Ashley has a keen interest in applying the tools and methodologies of engineering to optimise the quality and efficiency of legal services.

Invest in Yourself

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

By Stephanie Beard, Human Resource Manager, Harwood Andrews

"What can you do to ensure that you are ahead of the game and you can play above the line?"

Don’t wait for someone else to provide you with opportunities for your professional development, take responsibility for your own career path. Here’s how:

Never stop learning

One thing that we can take control of is how much we want to continue to learn.

It is a competitive world we live in, and committing to professional development can set you apart from your competitor. It can be your point of difference.

It also builds confidence and self-belief. Look for things that are going to give you a broad perspective. Read as much as you can. Social media also provides a fantastic platform to follow thought leaders.

Take control of your career path

The first step is simply to write it down! You need to answer the following questions:

  • Where you are now?
  • Where you want to get to?
  • What you need to do in between?

Really identify where you want to be and how you are going to get there… then fill in the gaps.

But before you do this, you must identify your strengths and the areas where you need further development. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with your assessment.

Some questions might be -

  • How do I rate my ability to do the job? Where are the gaps? What do I need to focus on?
  • Can I build relationships easily, am I liked and respected?
  • Do people want to follow me? If not, why not?
  • What do I need to do to improve my leadership and interpersonal skills?
  • How do I rate my personal drive?
  • How much time am I prepared to commit to this?

Back this self-review up by seeking out some feedback from other people that you trust, both internally and externally - mentors, HR Managers, Principals and supervisors can all offer valuable insights to help you progress your career.

Review and Adjust

Review your progress and, if necessary, adjust your goals. Start undertaking professional development targeted at addressing your weaknesses and supporting your desired career path. This does not have to be overwhelming - you can start with small goals. Remember that professional development doesn’t take away time, it adds value. It is an investment in yourself and your future – you deserve it!

Professional development comes in many forms

Professional development is not just about advancing your technical skills in what you are doing; it is a whole range of things. Don’t forget to look at your less tangible skills. While it is important to continue to develop and enhance your technical skills, don't neglect building stronger interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, communication and negotiation skills. The importance of these softer skills in moving your career forward cannot be under estimated.

Have the courage to put yourself outside of your comfort zone; this is when you will grow both personally and professionally.

It can be as simple as joining a professional membership association within the industry that you are working in, learning and consulting with your peers or attending networking events. Speak to your mentor, shadow someone that you aspire to be and learn from them.  Read as much as you can - this is a must!

What have I done?

I have been a member of ALPMA for many years, which has enabled me to deepen my understanding of the legal sector - from understanding trends in the macro environment to driving change in the micro firm environment. It has also given me the opportunity to meet some wonderful like-minded people, where I have formed some great friendships and working relationships with people who I know I can trust and rely on for assistance and support.

I regularly attend conferences where I have been inspired by great speakers from all over the world. Sometimes that is just what I need to reignite my passion and to continue being the best that I can be. You can learn so much at a conference, and it provides a broader perspective. No matter what you are doing, you need to understand the business from a holistic approach. I always walk away from these events with some key take-aways which I can take back to my work place.

I have been involved in the ALPMA Summit Committee for the past three years, where I have been able to learn from my fellow committee members who work in different areas of the legal industry - which has provided a broader perspective. This has also given me the opportunity to chair a panel session and to present at national level. This was outside of my comfort zone, but I felt that real sense of achievement by doing it.

I am a certified member of AHRI, the national body for human resource management and I am involved in the Geelong Regional Committee for AHRI.

I read a lot. I follow the top fifteen thought leaders and coaches in the world on Twitter and LinkedIn. I take the opportunity to read and share articles on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Personally, I also invested time in formal study which I paid for myself. I have undertaken two Masters Degrees, an MBA (with a major in HR) and an MBC (Masters of Business Coaching). Undertaking these studies has enabled me to form lots of networks with people outside the industry that I work in. I left school at 16 and returned to study in my early 40’s. Anyone can do it if the motivation is there. Full time work, study and managing a home life was difficult to balance, but I was determined to succeed because I wanted to!

Share your knowledge

Don’t forget to share your knowledge when you do get the opportunity to attend a seminar or a conference, or you have read an inspiring article. You can do this in many ways. Sharing articles on your intranet, writing a report to your Board after attending a conference or taking the opportunity to present at a lunch and learn session. This will help you demonstrate the firm's return on investment in your professional development, help position you as a thought-leader at the firm and encourage others to seek out new ideas.

I have done all the above and, as a result, my firm has sponsored me to attend both the ALPMA Summit and the AHRI National conferences for many years. I know that I am a better HR Manager because of attending seminars, conferences and participating on committees. It is a win/win for both myself and for the firm as I gain a better understanding of what is happening from a global point of view in the world of business and I share that knowledge.

This is the challenge:

Having read this post, ask yourself “What am I going to do to invest in my personal development?"

Take responsibility for your own career now. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you, by then it might be too late!

About our Guest Blogger

Stephanie BeardStephanie Beard is the Human Resource Manager of Harwood Andrews where she provides both strategic and operational support to the business. Stephanie holds a Masters of Business with a major in Human Resources Management together with a Masters of Business Coaching. She is a passionate HR professional who works closely with the CEO and shareholders of the business to build a positive and supportive culture where everyone can be the best that they can be.

Want to know the one simple thing that might save your firm?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

By Leticia Mooney, Director, Brutal Pixie

Did you mindfully design service to be a strategic element of your firm? Chances are you didn’t, or haven’t. But designing the service may well make the difference between a firm that survives the ‘lawpocalypse’, and one that doesn’t.

Nobody has the solution to the problems we believe that our businesses are facing. Marketers tell us to do one thing, technologists another, business gurus something else. We seem to be in an age when we have to be doing many things outside of core business, just in order to survive. Some lawyers believe robots will take their jobs, others that robots are the promised land.

So, where in all of this thinking, are the people you are serving?

Somewhere in the middle of all of the things we ought to be doing, we have to deliver services to people. We have to do what we promise and what we’re good at. The challenge for law is to stop looking at its own bellybutton, and start gazing deep into its customers’ eyes. Just being a firm with great lawyers won’t be good enough in the long term.

If your firm is like the vast majority of businesses in Australia, the delivery of your service has been something of a default. Working out where that default has come from can be quite tricky.

Generally, though, the style of service that we put in place in our businesses comes from one of two places:

  1.  Prior examples, in other firms or businesses in which we’ve worked, where things were done a certain way (and seemed to be the way things are done)

  2.  Prior bad examples, of the kinds of things we hated and swore we would do differently.
But beyond this point? Most of our time is spent thinking about what we want to do. We spend our time thinking about the work that we need to complete, about how busy we are, about how much more business we need.

It’s pretty rare that we focus those questions on the people who come to us. We don’t often stop to wonder what they need to do, the work that they need to complete, about how busy they are, and what your service means to them.

Enter, service design.

Service design is the bridge between strategy and customer experience. It happens when you stop and ‘rethink, reimagine, and re-create every stage and aspect of interaction between customers and your company, regardless of what is being sold and whether a transaction actually occurs’.[1]

A consistent business is not consistent by accident, but by design. It requires us to be proactive in every sense. It’s a removal of friction, from the customer end. More importantly, great service is a result of it being woven into the fabric of your business. It’s not something that is at the whim of management, intentions, or even the culture. If you don’t create it, it doesn’t exist.

Law isn’t designed to think this way. Most firms, which are ultimately run by lawyers, have never been introduced to this level of detailed corporate strategy, or this level of product design. Most business models, even in law, learned from manufacturing: Where ‘metrics are based on the quantity and quality of finished goods’[2] rather than the value of your interaction with customers.

That interaction is where the service happens. The quality of that interaction is the point on which the longevity of your firm rests. It’s not in the technology, the way you bill people, or even what kind of niche you target; though, your service design will consider all three. In the 21st century, what will make the difference between your firm and another one will be in how beautifully you’ve designed the service to remove friction from people’s lives.

You won’t instinctively know how to measure that value. In fact, it’s likely that even if you do have a clear corporate strategy for your firm (which many don’t), that you won’t have designed the service within it. Even the most customer-focused enterprises somehow seem to leave the client stuff out of their strategic documents; ultimately, it’s their downfall.

Customer journey maps are the plans and activities of the hour, it seems. But knowing who your customers are, where they come from, and how you capture them is literally just the surface. Delightful service design goes beyond that work and reworks the interactions at every stage, at every touchpoint, on that journey. It also considers service over a client lifetime, and not just ‘how do we bring them in’.

By going right back to the basics of great relationships, and standing in your clients’ shoes, you will be able to truly shift your practice or firm, and position it more strongly in the face of an uncertain future.

[1] The Art of Customer Delight, Strategy+Business, 1 Nov 2016. URL: https://www.strategy-business.com/article/The-Art-of-Customer-Delight?gko=e9da8. 
[2] ibid.

Editor’s Note

2017 ALPMA SummitWant to know more? Leticia is a speaker at the 2017 ALPMA Summit, held from 13 – 15 September at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. She will be talking about using creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication to rethink how you relate to your clientele.

You can learn more about delightful service design, and how to start reimagining the service of your firm at her upcoming online workshop.

About our Guest Blogger

Leticia MooneyLeticia Mooney is the Director of Brutal Pixie, a company that partners with law firms to improve how they relate to people. Leticia is passionate about making communication human, and believes that it's in our humanity that we'll find our success.

Should I stay or should I go?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

By Michelle McColl and Maura McConnell, Co-Proprietors, In2view Recruitment

There are promising signs that the employment market is picking up in the legal sector.

According to the results of the latest ALPMA Australian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey, an increasing number of Australian and New Zealand law firms plan to hire new staff in the next twelve months.  In Australia, this number has jumped by 20% - with 51% of firms indicating they plan to recruit new staff in the next 12 months, compared to 31% last year.

For the first time since the survey commenced, the number one HR issue identified by Australian firms was employee retention and talent management, closely followed by 'finding good staff'.

A more buoyant employment market obviously presents both an opportunity for those who are considering changing jobs and a threat to employers.

Counter Offers

As recruiters, we are seeing an increase in the number of counter offers offered to employees who have been offered a job elsewhere to encourage the staff member to stay.  Counter offers can be presented in a number of ways, such as a salary increase, promotion, opportunity to earn a bonus or other incentives/benefits.


Managing Counter Offers

If you find yourself in this position, there a number of things to consider:

Counter offers add a layer of complication to the recruitment process, and leave you wondering whether maybe you owe something to your current employer, and that maybe things will improve if you stay.

Consider why?

The first thing you should do is consider why the offer has been made by your employee.

Typically, counter offers are made because:

  • replacing you will be an expensive and time consuming exercise;

  • your employer will lose all your knowledge, experience and expertise;

  • your employer requires you to complete the project on which you are currently working;

  • your employer does not have the time and resources to re-train a replacement;

  • losing staff may reflect badly on your manager/employer.

Consider what next?

You need to consider that now your employee knows you have been considering leaving, relationships may be strained moving forward.  Following your resignation, your loyalty and commitment to the business will be in question, and you may be treated differently. 

Your employer may begin seeking a replacement, regardless of whether you stay or leave.

Also consider why you are being offered this new package now, rather than prior to your resignation?

It is also important to reflect on why you felt motivated to move in the first place.  In what ways is your new employer an improvement on your current employer?  Why do you want to work for them?  What opportunities does the new position offer that cannot be matched by your current employer?

Finally, research reveals that most people who accept a counter offer are likely to leave their job within six to 12 months in any case. 

Are you just deferring the inevitable if you accept the counter offer?

In the end, the decision will come down to what is best for you and your career moving forward.  Good luck!

Editor's Note

ALPMA 2017 Salary & HR Issues surveyIf you would like to learn more about the 2017 legal employment market, salaries offered for legal, management and administrative roles at Australian and NZ law firms, bonuses and benefits paid and the biggest HR challenges facing law firms, then purchase the 2017 ALPMA Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey Report.  This survey is available for $550 (incl GST) for ALPMA members or $2,200 (incl GST) for non-members.  If your firm participated in this research, you have received a complimentary copy of the report.

About our Guest Bloggers

Michelle McColl and Maura McConnell are the co-proprietors of In2view Recruitment, which opened its doors in 2008.  Between them, they have in excess of 40 years’ experience in the recruitment industry, gained across many industry sectors.  In2view are ALPMA SA Corporate Partners and the SA State Partner for the 2017 ALPMA Australian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey.

4 ways collaboration will shape the legal industry in 2017

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

By John Ahern, CEO, InfoTrack

InfoTrack recently interviewed a number of industry leaders on their predictions for the legal industry in our 2017 Legal Predictions eBook. One of the common themes across the board was the important role collaboration will play in the future of the profession from technology through to continued support for mental health.

Collaboration is also one of the key learning skills that will be central to the 2017 ALMPA summit - working effectively and efficiently with others, sharing knowledge, talent and experience to achieve desired outcomes. As the disruption and digitisation of the legal industry continues, methods of collaboration will evolve to shape the profession in new ways.

Cross-blending of professions

Today's lawyers have more diverse academic and professional backgrounds than ever before. The traditional arts degree is no longer the norm, and those entering the profession are bringing varied skill sets. Firms have begun to recognise the value in other specialised backgrounds that can translate to higher levels of understanding and communication. This can help differentiate service and create stronger rapports and trust with clients who can have confidence that they're dealing with someone who has more than just legal expertise.

Whether it's construction, computer programming or biology – different backgrounds are providing the next generation of lawyers with diverse skills and knowledge that they can share with others. Educators area also recognising the need for more diverse skills, with universities beginning to collaborate with technology providers to ensure that students are on top of the latest tools and understand how to integrate them into their practice.

Online collaboration

All the surveys we’ve conducted with partners over the past year indicate that firms are investing more in technology because they recognise that it is allowing for new levels of collaboration between lawyers, other professionals and clients. The InfoTrack/IPS Legal IT survey found that 2/3 of firms are offering client collaboration platforms and 95% recognise the importance of a mobile and flexible work environment. Firms are implementing tools to allow for easier collaboration not internally but with clients as well.

The property market is a perfect example of increased online collaboration. Governments across Australia have accelerated the digital transition of the property market. New e-Conveyancing technology is allowing lawyers, conveyancers, real estate agents, buyers and sellers to collaborate online to complete the contract, signing and settlement of property with greater speed, transparency, and convenience for all parties.

Cloud computing

The move to the Cloud will accelerate in 2017. The InfoTrack/IPS survey revealed two thirds of firms already have business-approved cloud strategies in place and 97% are considering key platforms that are cloud-based or fully hosted via SaaS arrangements. Firms have greater faith in cloud security as trusted providers have proven they're experts in data sovereignty

The Cloud helps with mobility, collaboration and business continuity by allowing firms a naturally connected model that can work on any device from any locations. It allows for a system that's scalable to changing client demands and volumes.

Mental health

All of the experts in our 2017 Legal Predictions project agreed that mental health is still a serious issue in the profession. Though New Law is introducing more flexible business models, competition is fiercer than ever and the pressure is high. Law is a naturally isolating and high pressure occupation. The "sink or swim" mentality leaves practitioners prone to anxiety and depression. Though there is more awareness and support, it's still an issue that is hard for many to discuss or be open about. Mental Health Month in October is a great way to bring these issues to the forefront and have firms work together to develop strategies and programs to continue to tackle this important issues. It will take collaboration both within firms and across the profession to continue to fight the stigma that surrounds mental health and create a more open environment.

The need for collaboration will continue to grow as the legal landscape evolves and becomes more global. The ability to work with anyone, anywhere will increase opportunity for shared knowledge, experience and learning.

Editor's Note

2017 ALPMA SummitInfoTrack are the Principal Partner of the 2017 ALPMA Summit, Sailing the 4C's, being held 13-15 September in Brisbane.
Registration is now open for the 2017 ALPMA Summit, and there are great savings for those who register early! Register now!
This year's Summit will help you ensure your firm is well-positioned for success in the 21st century. Our theme, Sailing the 4C's, focuses on the critical 21st century learning skills of Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking and Creativity, as identified by the influential P21 organisation.

About our Guest Blogger

John AhernJohn Ahern is CEO of InfoTrack, proud principal partner of the 2017 ALPMA Summit.

John joined InfoTrack in 2015 as the Chief Technology Officer taking charge for establishing the company’s technical vision and leading on all aspects of InfoTrack’s technology development. John was appointed to the role of Chief Executive Officer in May of 2015 where he is now responsible for maintaining the extensive growth of InfoTrack in the Australian market.

John has over 20 years' experience in the Information Sector, having worked in a number of engineering, sales and executive positions. With a strong technical background, he has vast experience in designing and developing products and has delivered platforms from inception to production.

Embedding 21st Century Skills in Your Firm

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

By Ann-Maree David, 2017 ALPMA Summit Chair

By now, we all know that the legal industry is in the midst of unprecedented disruption. Successive ALPMA Summits have focused on all that is new and evolving - modes of working; technology; systems; understanding clients as customers; NewLaw. The focus has been on helping firms understand what is coming.

In 2017, our focus as legal industry leaders needs to go deeper and become reflective, examining how to effect change, to innovate, to participate in and ultimately thrive amidst constant and rapid-fire of a changing legal landscape.

We need to ask ourselves – ‘how well is my firm prepared to weather this storm?’

‘Have we set ourselves on a pathway for success or are we just paying lip service to the idea of change – while continuing on with business as it has always been?'

And we need to accept that this requires fundamental changes to everyone’s mindset, to the firm’s culture and to the very way that it does business.

The ALPMA Summit Committee too has been reflecting on these issues. And to this end, our 2017 program centres on four core 21st century skills:

creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking, as defined by the influential P21 organisation.

If you think we’ve swapped the annual Summit for a HR forum on soft skills, think again!

While these are each core interpersonal skills and competencies essential for succeeding in the ‘Gig economy’, they also speak directly to an organisation’s systems and processes, its strategy and value proposition and, most importantly, the management style of every successful organisation’s leadership team.

Let me explain further.


In the “old” world of work, professionals built mastery in specific skills – for example, law; finance and accounting; economics. Obviously, those skill sets remain valid and valued. However, when a problem falls outside a specific skill set, creativity and innovation are required to build pragmatic solutions.

Creativity is more than coming up with new ideas; that is merely imagination at play. Creativity requires grunt, a willingness to take risks, and a commercial appetite for investing in ideas to allow them to become reality, perhaps after many iterations. In what has become a truly commoditised world, creativity is what distinguishes one organisation from all the rest.

Creativity is most often seen as a feature of culture. Take a look at some of the innovative giants of our time – Google, Apple, Tesla. Or closer to home, the Big 4 accounting firms and NewLaw firms which are now evolving into our strongest competitors and in some cases led by your former partners or employees. Creative problem solvers are drawn to organisations that promote autonomy and an innovative mindset and encourage and reward thinking and doing things differently.

Creativity also goes to the core of strategy: changing the conservative way of doing business, opening the corporate mind to new drivers and new behaviours to proactively participate in disruption rather than simply be disrupted or, worse still, be left behind as collateral damage. And while often perceived as “freewheeling” and without bounds, creativity should be viewed for what it can generate if resourced appropriately in terms of time, money and training.


Many law firms are still structured to leverage individual skill for the firm’s benefit and to measure and reward solo efforts in terms of productivity, billability and performance. Yet today, collaboration in and between cross-functional teams, workplaces, companies, sectors and countries is the norm.

Thanks to heightened connectivity, there is a very real expectation that individuals may work flexibly and/or virtually. They need to be capable of self-direction but at the same time equipped with strong team-building and participation skills. And while the ability to work together evidences successful work practices and processes, it is the end result of that collaborative effort that affects the bottom line. Collaboration across diverse networks both internally and externally featuring unique expertise and perspectives will give rise to a greater variety of ideas, solutions and innovation than can be generated alone.

Adding clients and even competitors to the collaborative mix is gaining traction in some areas of laws, as firms scramble to retain clients demanding better value and deeper understanding of their business from law firms.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is part of a suite of higher-order thinking skills which also includes problem solving. Critical thinking can be described as the systematic process of identifying, analyzing and solving problems. It entails reflection and independent thought rather than reliance on intuition or instinct. It can be distinguished from the traditional experience of learning or accumulating facts or knowledge, the aim of which is simply retention. Critical thinking encompasses making sense of what has been learned and then applying it to new situations.

Critical thinking as a skill is becoming ever more valuable as the rapidly changing and complex world throws up more and more novel situations and problems which cannot be resolved using a traditional mindset. Critical thinking is also essential to cut through the masses of information and data that are so readily available online.

But critical-thinking doesn’t just happen spontaneously! It is a learned skill that needs to be nurtured and encouraged, embedded within the firm DNA. It has to be ok for your most junior staff to question your Managing Partner on why things are done in a particular way – and then supported in creating and implementing a better way.

Ask yourself – ‘when was the last time that this happened at my firm?’


Oral and written communication sits at the very core of any legal practice. However, in the 21st century, the framework of business and interpersonal communication has fundamentally changed. Once considered effective if there had been a simple transmission of information from one source to another, today communication involves a complex system of synchronous and asynchronous messaging often between a myriad of parties from all over the world, across multiple technology platforms operating 24 x 7, 365 days per year (and not just when your firm is open!) This is an evolving feast – and achieving cut through in this clutter requires new skills and a completely different approach from simply sending out a newsletter once per quarter and banging up a website.

21st Century Leadership

Most importantly, each of the 4C's speak to leadership. Law firm leaders and management teams are having to respond to unprecedented threats and opportunities. They have two choices: assume a defensive posture or adapt and thrive. Modelling traditional leadership qualities such as confidence and courage and optimism – and embracing collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication - sends messages which reach far beyond internal stakeholders to influence corporate brand and, ultimately, the market for your services.

Is it time for you firm to embrace 21st Century skills?

Editor’s Note

2017 ALPMA SummitWant to learn how to help your firm embed 21st learning skills into its operational DNA? Then take advantage of early bird savings, and register now for the 2017 ALPMA Summit ‘Sailing the 4’C’s’ to be held from 13 – 15 September at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. Check out the website to learn more about the fantastic line-up of speakers, exhibiting at Summit, the social program and much more!

Register now.

About our Guest Blogger

Ann-Maree DavidAnn-Maree David is an Executive Director of The College of Law, the largest provider of practice-focused legal education in Australasia. She has worked in the legal profession for over 30 years, in public and corporate sector roles and in private practice as a solicitor.

Ann-Maree has held a career-long passion for developing and delivering education and training programs to enable all involved in the delivery of legal services to thrive both personally and professionally. She is a longstanding member of ALPMA, and a regular contributor to both the Queensland Branch’s monthly seminar program and the annual ALPMA Summit Program Committee which she chairs.

In addition to leading the College of Law’s Queensland campus, Ann-Maree is President of Australian Women Lawyers and chairs the Queensland Law Society’s Equalising Opportunities in the Law Committee.

Innovative payment technologies and how your business can benefit

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Compu-stor ad

By Bessie Hassan, Money Expert, finder.com.au

New payment innovations have created a cashless society where customers can now make payments using their wallets or mobile devices. As these modern payment methods become the norm, it’s essential that businesses adapt quickly in order to remain competitive.

Whether it’s contactless payments, mobile wallets, or providing the infrastructure for in-store finance, there are now multiple ways customers can make transactions to suit their needs and it’s up to businesses to make these readily available.

While these payment technologies provide greater convenience for the customer, they also provide businesses with higher conversion rates and rich insights related to customer behaviour. Combined with this, the payment methods also allow businesses to provide a higher level of customer service with greater security.

Here are a few new ways to pay, and how your business can benefit.

1) Higher conversion with interest-free payments & in-store finance

Providing interest-free payments means your customer can make purchases either online or in-store that they pay back interest-free. Both Afterpay and Openpay have partnered with countless retailers, so it’s worth jumping on board if you haven’t already done so.

With in-store finance, you can partner with credit providers or you can offer your own finance in-store. For instance, you can promote credit offers such as CreditLine from Latitude Finance that’s currently available at several retailers.

Having the option of interest-free payments and in-store finance could see your sales volume grow as customers may be more likely to convert. It removes friction of a complicated and lengthy checkout process and providers customers with the resources to complete a transaction.

2) Value-add with ‘tap and go’ mobile payments 

Updating your payment technology to accept contactless and mobile payments is a good way to appeal to customers’ changing spending habits.

This is how it works: for purchases valued under $100, customers can ‘tap and go’ using their debit or credit card, and if they have Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, they can pay using their mobile phone.

There are some features of mobile payment systems that provide you with valuable information, such as WAP billing. Online purchases made through WAP billing can provide richer media to customers such as games and apps, and it can provide additional features including previews and delivery details. Providers such as Bango and Netsize are the most common players in this space.

3) Tailored marketing with digital wallets

As you can access consumer’s credit card information, shipping address, and other payment data, supporting mobile payments will give you greater consumer behaviour insights.

What’s their preferred payment method? How much are they spending, on average? Where do they live? This information can help you target your marketing communications at a higher level which allow for a more efficient allocation of resources.

In the next few years, new payment methods will only become more advanced so it’s important that you’re across new developments in this area. Whether it’s providing in-store finance options through instalment plans or providing the technology to facilitate mobile phone payments, there are many ways you can embrace new payment methods to provide a superior customer experience and reap the financial benefits.

About our Guest Blogger

Bessie HassanBessie Hassan is the Head of PR Australia and Money Expert at finder.com.au - Australia's most visited comparison site - and often features on national radio, TV, and throughout online publications sharing her best money-saving hacks and property advice. Bessie is passionate about helping Australians find better, whatever it is they're looking for.

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