A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Legal Industry Innovation under the Microscope

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

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By Marc Totaro, National Manager Professional Services, Business and Private Banking, Commonwealth Bank of Australia

For some, the word innovation has become synonymous with some of the most cutting-edge changes within the legal industry, and a disruptive force in legal circles. For others, the prolific references to innovation have firmed its place as another corporate buzzword.

In today’s rapidly changing legal services market, we think that innovation is an important part of adapting to ongoing change. But to understand its place within business, we first sought to offer a definition that would unearth the common traits of successful innovation in the legal sector and quantify its value to individual firms.

So what does innovation mean for your business, how innovative is the professional services sector, and how can you put it into practice within your organisation?

In our latest research into the state of innovation within the industry, CommBank spoke to firms in the legal sector to understand the state of innovation and how well legal firms were performing.

To first define innovation, we looked to the Oslo Manual – an international set of guidelines used by the OECD and local government bodies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics to collect and interpret innovation data.

Therein, innovation is defined “as a new or significant improvement in one of the following four key areas – organisation, product, process and marketing”.

This definition is important when compared to what innovation means to professional services businesses, with almost half telling us they equate innovation with improvement or new processes, ideas or products.

While this indicates that many firms have a high level understanding of the tenants of innovation, we also found that many are yet to enter the realm of genuine innovation when assessed against the international standard.

Innovation ‘Active’

Our research shows healthy levels of innovation amongst professional services firms, with 44% of businesses in the sector qualifying as ‘innovation active.’ This proportion was in line with the national average for businesses across all industries. The top performing industry was manufacturing, with 61% qualifying as ‘innovation active’.

While 44% of professional services firms were genuinely innovative, a further 33% of firms claimed to be innovating but were found to be simply putting in place improvements – a strong foundation to move into the realm of innovation, but nevertheless falling short.

The remaining 23% of firms were either not innovating or had abandoned their innovation plans.

When looking more closely at the four key areas of innovation - organisation, product, process and marketing – we found that firms were more likely to have implemented organisation-based innovation, and less likely to be innovating within their marketing activities.

Business size also appears to factor into firm’s innovation activities with small and medium sized businesses with turnover up to $20 million more likely to innovate than those with greater annual earnings.

3 Key Characteristics of Successful Innovators

Our investigation of the attitudes, behaviours and characteristics of successful innovators shows that there are three breakthrough factors that typically distinguish innovation active businesses from their peers that are only improving:

1. Encouraging employees to ask questions that challenge the conventional approach

2. Adapting products and services to make the most of opportunities, and

3. Running experiments and piloting new ideas to test new ways of doing things

These three factors work to kickstart innovation and generate the initial successes that drive businesses to pursue the benefits that moving up the innovation curve can provide.

One of the largest behavioural gaps between businesses who are innovating and those simply making improvements is their drive to adapt their products and services for a changing market. They also seek to build a culture of innovation and encouraging them to ask challenging questions.

Editor’s Note:

Though Leadership Award NominationIf your firm has successfully implemented an innovative new initiative or is doing something different in response to the changing legal landscape, then enter this project in the 2017 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards. Nominations are open until 21 July, and winners will be announced at the 2017 ALPMA Summit gala dinner on Thursday 14 September at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

About our Guest Blogger

Marc TotaroMarc Totaro is the National Manager Professional Services, Business and Private Banking Commonwealth Bank of Australia 
Marc has over 25 years of experience in professional and financial services in Australia and the UK. He has overall responsibility for Commonwealth Bank’s professional services industry strategy and client experience. Marc has extensive relationship management experience across a broad range of industries.

If you would like to discuss the latest trends impacting the legal industry and your business, feel free to contact me on 0477 739 315 or email marc.totaro@cba.com.au, alternatively you can read our Legal Market Pulse for the latest developments in the legal industry.


Forging new ground requires a commitment to technology

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

By Jacqueline Keddie, Business Manager, Nexus Law Group

Developing a business in unchartered territory can be a little daunting – there are no rules to follow, no paths that have already been forged. The success or failure of an innovative business often comes down to a commitment to investing in technology.

When Nexus Law Group was first established we knew we had a great idea. But great ideas don’t translate to success, unless you can put in place the infrastructure required to make them work. Traditional law firms have their pick of practice management software. Nexus did not.

As a dispersed (embedded contractor) law firm, cutting a path in the ‘NewLaw’ space we had to create everything from scratch. Frankly, it hasn’t been easy.

It was out of necessity that the OpenLaw system was born - a unique practice management and remuneration system that connects independent senior specialist lawyers, allowing them to work together seamlessly and operate as a unified firm, fully supported and resourced by a central office hub. This innovative initiative was recently recognised as a finalist in the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards.

To create such a system and address the challenges identified, we invested heavily in the customisation of a new, cloud-based practice management software from New Zealand, the only software available internationally that allowed for extensive practice based customisation.

The software was revised to build a silo structure that allows independent lawyers to work in isolation or together in matter based teams when needed. It also allowed the formation of group based precedents systems, knowledge banks, billing systems and customised report building.

Beauty in simplicity

The power of the OpenLaw system is beautiful in its simplicity, when you seamlessly connect a pool of independent senior skill (as opposed to a pool of leveraged employees) and deliver to the market in this fashion, not only do previously discontented lawyers become highly engaged with far better remuneration benchmarks, you have a strong platform to compete with large national firms on their own turf. At the same time, through the low overhead structure, clients benefit from a direct access model and flexibility of service and pricing options and less relative fees. 

The rapidly growing Nexus team has been working with OpenLaw for several years and in the last 12 months we have been working hard to bring OpenLaw to market. This means that other dispersed law firms don’t have to start from scratch, like we did. As the saying goes – why reinvent the wheel?!

Introducing OpenLaw to the marketplace has significant potential to shift the industry as a whole to the Nexus style of practice, which is arguably better than traditionally structured firms for both lawyers and clients on a number of levels and, for once, represents truly positive industry disruption.

A new category of legal practice

Whilst others have focused on marketing strategies masquerading as ‘NewLaw’, with the OpenLaw system, Nexus has quietly been restructuring the law firm itself, creating an entirely new category of practice for lawyers.

The fixed remuneration model of OpenLaw emulates the incentive of a partnership without the need to be in an actual (outdated) partnership structure. This unique and innovative, solution enables independent practitioners to truly operate together as a unified law firm without the competitive tension that would otherwise exist.

The structure allows otherwise disconnected expertise to come together under one service platform, allowing effective competition with traditional ‘BigLaw’ firms, and providing a real practice alternative in a market sitting between the large firm model and sole practice, combining the best aspects of both worlds without the deficiencies of either (practice freedom with large firm resources and collegiate support).

With the low overhead OpenLaw model, we connect clients directly with some of the best lawyers in the industry - at up to half the cost of engaging the same lawyers in their former traditionally structured large firms. It is, in essence, an extremely efficient specialist lawyer delivery system for corporate clientele and we believe, the best option for the practice of modern law.

We believe that unless something produces a positive evolution for all participants in the legal process, then it does not represent true innovation. With this in mind, I know that Nexus is a true innovator and an industry disrupter with a difference.

Using OpenLaw, I am proud to say that we are now operating successfully in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, with its growth increasing exponentially across Australia.

About our Guest Blogger

Jacqueline KeddieJacqui is a Nexus Law Group’s Business Manager. Having practiced as a lawyer for many years before entering the world of legal recruitment, Jacqui is uniquely placed to understand why it is so important to help lawyers structure their career and realise their professional and personal aspirations and, hence, why alternate practice models are so critical to the profession. It was this understanding which led her to join Nexus where she now works with a wonderful team striving to make a difference within the legal industry.

Nexus Law Group has inverted the traditional law firm structure to reflect modern practice needs. It offers lawyers are more rewarding practice environment and clients a more efficient and cost effective service delivery.

Its unique OpenLaw practice model, based on cloud based software, is specifically designed to join together a collective of senior legal experts under a single, unified practice platform, enabling it to deliver high-end, specialist expertise under a ‘direct access model’. The system incentivises effective collaboration between experts, which results in better outcomes for clients.

The 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards were presented at the recent ALPMA Summit Gala dinner at the Medallion Club, Etihad Stadium.

Legal Process Outsourcing: An Australian Option

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

by Craig Osborne, Managing Partner, RMB Lawyers & CEO of Unison Outsourcing

Legal process outsourcing (LPO) has been active in Australia for over 10 years. Choosing an outsourcing partner is an important decision, but managing the relationship over time and pivoting quickly in order to stay ahead of the game, involves a solid business skill set.

Barriers to Using LPOs – Risk & Quality

Legal process outsourcing is more complex in some ways than other business process outsourcing, mainly because there are significant legal thinking skills that must be overlayed onto the outsourcing of law.  

LPO can deliver significant benefits to law firms and in-house departments. There is significant interest in it. The rise of outsourcing is directly linked to the commoditisation of work and strain on resourcing available to do legal work.  

Iin the Australian context, the outsourcing decision involves sending work to India, Philippines or Africa. These providers offer a cost-effective service across a broad range of tasks. In many cases, overseas outsourcers have experience working with law firms and have adapted to Australian standards. 

However, we know that users of outsourcing report that they are uncomfortable with sending work offshore. Once again, legal work is unique. Sending Australian work to non-Australian lawyers to an office overseas is a bar too high for many Australian lawyers.  And as any offshore outsourcer will admit, they are not law firms and take no responsibility for the work. 

Even domestic providers may present challenges to law firms. Handing off control to another entity can be difficult for lawyers committed to providing the highest possible service to their clients. In some cases, there may be a transition period while the outsourcing provider learns your firm’s needs and comes to understand your expectations.

I should know. As a managing partner myself, these two barriers alone make the risk of outsourcing overseas a little too high for me.  This is why we have created Unison Outsourcing – a project for which we were recognised as a finalist in the recent ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards.

Choosing an Outsourcing Partner

Most lawyers understand the benefits of outsourcing. Partnering with a quality outsourcer can help you meet objectives such as increasing profitability, increasing efficiency or using your people in more effective ways. However, the  leadership and management skills required for success in an outsourcing relationship are critical.  

Legal process outsourcing works best when a high quality law firm, or in-house legal team, works closely with a high performance legal process outsourcer. Too often, however, not enough due diligence is done when choosing outsourcers. 

12 critical issues to consider when choosing an outsourcing partner

  1. What metrics/ assurances does the LPO make to ensure that the work will be returned smoothly, cost effectively and at high quality?

  2. Letting your clients and stakeholders know that it is happening.  Clients and stakeholders are generally very positive about a high quality legal process outsourcing arrangement.  With legal work, outsourcing to an Australian provider will reassure them. 

  3. Use a provider that has a deep understanding of Australian law, its culture and application. 

  4. Where possible, use a provider that is a law firm governed by Australian rules and ethics. 

  5. Don’t accept outsourcers who say that they take no responsibility for the work they do. Spend the time to find one that is fully insured and subject to Australian law.

  6. Use an outsourcer that is as sophisticated as you in terms of business, change agility, leadership and use of technology.

  7. Choose a provider that understands that not all law firms or in-house teams have the same needs.  The truth is that every client in this space is very different.  The approach to delivery needs to be tailored to your needs.

  8. Use outsourcing as an opportunity to consistently overhaul and improve your internal systems.

  9. Outsourcing does not mean you have failed – quite the contrary.  You have been doing it since the day your firm began with Barristers.  Accept that you don’t have to have a mortgage on intelligence.

  10. Understand the capabilities and limitations of the outsourcing service.  The outsourcer does not compete with you.  It is an extension of your office's back end capabilities.  

  11. Understand that there will be initial teething problems and the best way to handle them is to work in a research and development phase with your outsourcer with each side bearing its own costs of that process – start with a small part of your business as a test case. 

  12. In due course, educate your employees to use the service to get the most from it.

Outsourcing is inevitable in legal services, but it must be a decision made with care. In the worst case scenario, outsourcing means entrusting your client information to the hands of an unknown quantity – a scary thought for many lawyers. The good news is that law firms and in-house teams using quality outsourcers will deliver their work at a higher level of performance and quality than their competitors. Lawyers can focus on high-level legal work and keep the paperwork off their desks. 

This means happier clients and higher quality work. 

In the current market, who doesn’t want to strive for that? 

About Our Guest Blogger

Craig Osbourne is the Managing Partner of RMB Lawyers, one of the biggest regional law firms in New South Wales, and the CEO of Unison Outsourcing. 

RMB Lawyers created Unison Outsourcing to provide capital city based law firms and corporate in-house legal teams with high-quality, Australian based alternative to using overseas based providers. Costs are kept low due to its physical location in regional NSW, and services are provided on a fixed fee basis.  Unison works in conjunction with customers to decompose legal processes into constituent parts and manage them back into their customer’s work flow in an efficient and cost-effective way. 

RMB Lawyers were recognised as finalists in the 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards for this innovative project.     

Note: This article was also published in the January 2016 edition of Lawyers Weekly.

Using robots for client service delivery at law firms - The Conveyancing Shop case study

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

By Sirpa Gunn, CEO, The Conveyancing Shop 

In 2015 we employed our first robot.

George came highly recommended by his previous employers, Auckland-based accountants, Wise Advice.

As with most new technologies, not everyone was convinced that George would be a good fit in our close-knit team. At first, our staff felt a bit skeptical and perhaps a little threatened by his presence. But as they witnessed the benefits he brought, they came to fully appreciate the change and to value his contribution.

George is a wheeled robot fitted with a screen for a face. George can be controlled remotely, so the screen can turn towards whomever is speaking. This allows us to have remote meetings with groups of people without asking them to crowd around a screen.
george the robot
We employed George as a time-saving device for our specialist lawyers. With four branches across Auckland, our specialist lawyers would often have to travel to speak to clients. With travel time, the meeting itself and catching up with staff in the other branches, our very valuable team members could spend over two hours attending a 30-minute meeting. This is certainly not the best use of time for a law firm partner. We found Skype didn’t work well for a lot of clients – they expected to see a specialist lawyer in person and huddling over a screen makes the meeting awkward and stilted. The reaction to George whizzing into the room was quite different – clients love him!

Initially, we had just intended George for our senior lawyers to have meetings in other branch offices. Our mobile legal executives then started taking him to meet with clients at their homes or workplaces. This lets our clients talk to lawyers back in the office to explain legal details like guarantees and loan documents. We even allow clients to login and use George to attend online meetings with us in our office.

While technology is a fantastic means of automating processes, there is a danger that it can negatively impact on the customer experience – nothing can replace personal interaction. Perhaps unusually, I believe law firms are in the customer service industry. We are there to use our legal knowledge to provide exceptional service to our clients. We keep this in mind whenever implementing new technologies – our goal is always to use technology to increase our face-to-face time, not reduce it. George certainly helps us to achieve that. The time saved on travel means our lawyers can take more time in meetings to make sure clients have all the information, and know their options. It has also freed us up to provide more value-added services.

George has become something of a talking point. He’s our team mascot – something new and fun that fits with our innovative reputation. 

Was George a good investment? Yes – he was a left-field investment, but one that’s significantly added to our clients’ experience. In the travel time saved alone he would have earned his keep within the first few months.

Editor's Note

Thought Leadership Eye Level

The Conveyancing Shop were finalists in the 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards for their innovative use of George The Robot to reduce costs and improve service delivery at their law firm.

Check out the online discussion panel featuring the finalists discussing the challenges of operating in a digital, divergent and differentiated legal environment with ALPMA President, Andrew Barnes and InfoTrack Executive Chairman, Stephen Wood.

About our Guest Blogger

Sirpa GunnSirpa Gunn is a Conveyancer and CEO of the Conveyancing Shop Lawyers Limited. Sirpa oversees the smooth running of the firms four branches and Auckland wide mobile legal service.  After more than 10 years in this role, there is little she does not know about the industry and is regularly invited to present seminars and speak at events.

Sirpa has a Master of Management degree and, prior to establishing the Conveyancing Shop with Director Thada Chapman in 2005, she worked in international business and hospitality management. She believes her diverse experience has been a key factor in her success, as she has been able to adapt her focus on customer service to the legal industry and work on integrating technology to create a better client experience and increase the productivity of her firm.

Sirpa is a strong advocate for the rights of asylum seekers in New Zealand and sits on the board of the Auckland Refugee Council. She is also a partner of Rocket Practice, a consulting firm that assists Australian and New Zealand Accounting and Legal Practices adapt and thrive in the digital era.

How innovative technology can change the way law firms do business

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

By Ian Perkins, Managing Director,  lawlab

Investing in technology, changing service delivery and creating new service platforms for people will be standard legal practice within the next 10 years.

From humble beginnings in the NSW country town of Nyngan in 2001, somewhat geographically challenging when competing with big city law firms, we are now one of Australia’s most efficient high volume national conveyancers, with additional offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin, servicing both our own clients and acting as an outsource provider to other law firms.

We were proud to be recognised as finalists in the ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards for Project Rundl.

With more than 15 years’ experience in the conveyancing area, we’ve become known for our legal expertise in the property industry and our commitment to specialisation in conveyancing, while always focusing on providing outstanding customer service. To do this, we invested a lot of time, resources and money in technology development to create a way to make conveyancing easier and more transparent for all parties.

The geographical divide

To overcome the geographical challenge of being headquartered in a small town we set out to create an online network that connected everyone involved in a property transaction, including real estate agent, finance broker, conveyancer and buyer. Our goal was for all components of a property transaction to be completed easily and provide a better experience for customers. It was our aim to put the customer at the centre of the transaction. And that’s what we achieved when we implemented Project Rundl, a cloud-based transaction collaboration platform.

Innovative technology for streamlined property transactions

Rundl makes the property transaction process quicker, more efficient and more open. Gone are the days of long email chains and constant phone calls to chase up approvals, forms and sign-offs, and to get updates on where the process is at. 

The beauty of an online tool is its ability to speed up communications and document sharing between everyone involved in a property purchase or sale. This includes the customer and brokers, lenders, real estate agents, aggregators, accountants, lawyers and insurance firms.

Simplifying the customer’s journey from point A to point B and providing a streamlined, hassle-free service, at a realistic, fixed price were key reasons for implementing the project.

The way of the future

As technology advances, so does the need for businesses to become more agile in order to maintain a competitive edge. At the heart of it, great service at a reasonable price is what we see as the future of the legal industry, and in conveyancing we’re keen to be at the forefront of that development. Rundl allows us to provide that for our clients.

The idea behind Rundl was to create an open business network for delivering smart and efficient professional services. For customers, having an open, transparent platform is an extremely useful tool in the buying and selling of property. It means that they can be remote or busy and not have to worry about meeting face to face with any of the service providers involved in the transaction. 

Collaboration is key

Through the development process we’ve discussed, Rundl is an engagement tool that is capable of decentralising workplaces and cities. This is very important if you’re based in Nyngan, with a population of just over 2,000. Put simply, you could be located anywhere, but if you have a truly collaborative network, then where you are is not really important. The focus for our client facing relationship is via a secure social media style engagement.

Rundl can be adapted to other legal transactions

One of the exciting things about Rundl is that it isn’t just for conveyancing. It is easily adapted to streamline any legal transaction that involves a standard process requiring collaboration across multiple internal or external parties. Rundl bridges the paper and digital divide ensuring that clients and lawyers are not left behind in the drive to digitise legal and other transaction services such as litigation. 

Working towards better outcomes

In a time when many law firms are looking to outsource to improve efficiency, Rundl will also allow us to build better systems to make Australians more productive and cost-effective and eliminate the need to take our businesses offshore. Greater efficiencies will also allow lawyers to spend more time on the strategic high value work rather than being bogged down in routine tasks.

While the legal sector is known to be quite slow to change when it comes to technology, investing in technology will give us more employment opportunities within Australia, something I’m passionate about. 

For other law firms considering tech development, it’s important to understand the challenges associated with building software to be both effective and reliable. It takes time, dedication and a skilled team of tech talent, but ultimately, or at least in the case of Rundl, it has certainly paid off.

Editor's Note:

Lawlab were finalists in the 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards.  

Check out the online discussion panel featuring the finalists discussing the challenges of operating in a digital, divergent and differentiated legal environment with ALPMA President, Andrew Barnes and InfoTrack Executive Chairman, Stephen Wood.

About our Guest Blogger

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins is the Managing Director of lawlab, a specialist Australian legal services provider that takes the guesswork out of property transactions. He has been a lawyer in the banking and property sectors since 1997 and is a content expert in the property space. 

Member Q & A with Lachlan McKnight

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Member Q&A with Lachlan McKnight, CEO of LegalVision

Online law firm, LegalVision, was crowned the winner of the 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards, at the Gala Dinner of the 2015 Summit last week, ahead of finalists RMB Lawyers, LawLab and The Conveying Shop.

In this ALPMA member Q&A, we interview Lachlan McKnight, CEO and founder of LegalVision, about their award-winning innovative inbound customer acquisition strategy.

Q: What are the challenges of being an online law firm?

A: LegalVision is a primarily online law firm, providing high-quality, cost-effective, fixed-price legal services to Australian businesses seeking legal assistance, advice or documentation. We are also a tech start-up, focused on disrupting the legal industry.

Being an online firm, we acquire most of our clients online. Paid digital marketing channels are increasingly expensive, meaning profit margins for all law firms spending on digital advertising are decreasing. We needed another strategy to generate customer visits to our website and business leads we could convert to clients – without having to pay for them. It was also important to clearly position legalvision.com.au as the pre-eminent online resource for small and medium businesses looking for legal information and guidance.

Q: How did you address these challenges?

A: We implemented an inbound content marketing strategy. This required a significant investment in creating a constant stream of legal articles for our website and designing landing pages which encourage business owners to contact us once they’ve read the article. 

Over the last year, we’ve had each lawyer spend 1/20th of their working month creating content. Convincing all of our lawyers that they could indeed write 10 legal articles in a day took - and continues to take - a considerable amount of time, and leadership ability. 

We’ve created over 1,000 pieces of unique content, a resource that Australian SMEs can now access completely free of charge. We’ve also hired a full-time head of legal content, and built an inbound client care team to deal with the huge number of queries coming through.

Q: What were the results of your inbound content strategy?

We now generate 20 organic new customer leads per day from our inbound content strategy. Combined with the leads received through other channels, this has allowed us to scale up our offering rapidly. 

The type of work that our articles generate is generally contained and project based, for instance commercial lease reviews. We’ve hired two to three lead lawyers each month in the first six months of this year, most of whom work flexibly and remotely and on a part-time or casual basis. We are proud of our ability to bring back talented lawyers into the profession who are looking for a more flexible lifestyle.

However, the greatest impact of our inbound content strategy has been on the new clients LegalVision has won through it. 

Many small and medium businesses struggle to afford high quality legal services, and many decide to not use a lawyer at all. Our inbound content strategy is all about letting them know there is an affordable way to receive high-quality legal advice.

Tens of thousands of small and medium businesses now visit our website on a monthly basis. Although they may not become LegalVision clients, they now have the opportunity to access free legal information in an easily understandable, digestible format.

Q: What does winning the ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards mean to you?

We are thrilled to be honoured as legal industry thought leaders. Recognising this project, and LegalVision’s overall approach to the provision of legal services, also acknowledges that the transformation of legal services, often described as “new law”, isn’t just limited to those firms focusing on ASX listed clients. Our focus on SMEs, and on modern client acquisition methods, is truly innovative and provides a model for the broader industry to learn from.

It is also a terrific way to acknowledge of the hard work of our staff. Over the course of the last year, we have transformed legalvision.com.au into Australia’s most visited legal services website. For a business that only launched in December 2012, this is an outstanding achievement. 

Editor’s Note:

Interested readers can learn more about LegalVision’s innovative content marketing strategy at the ALPMA webinar “Winning Business Online” on Thursday 7 October, at 1pm. ALPMA members can attend free, while eligible non-members can attend for $99.00 (including GST). Register now

Check out the new online discussion panel featuring LegalVision and the other Award finalists, RMB Lawyers, LawLab and The Conveyancing Shop, plus the ALPMA President and InfoTrack CEO, discussing the challenges and opportunities associated with operating in a digital, divergent and differentiated legal environment.

About Our Guest Blogger

Lachlan McKnight, CEO LegalVision

Lachlan McKnight is the CEO of LegalVision. Lachlan previously worked as a corporate lawyer in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Hong Kong with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Norton Rose, two international law firms. 

Lachlan’s now settled in Australia and thoroughly enjoys building a business which is transforming the way in which Australian businesses access legal services. LegalVision are the 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards winner.

Turning Thought Leadership into Action

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

by Stephen Wood, CEO, InfoTrack

In a recent ALPMA blog post by Glenn Tullia of St George Bank, Glenn discusses the importance of adopting innovative payment solutions for all businesses “whether a sole trader or a large business looking for integrated payments”.   While at first glance it might seem an unusual point for the legal industry, it is actually very important as legal practitioners should have, or at least be moving towards, a more consumer-centric approach to providing services and using that mindset shift to innovate how they practice and deliver legal services.  

Indeed last year's Thought Leadership Award winner and finalists all have that in common – innovative business models designed to deliver a better service to clients in the way clients want. 

So what do clients want and how can organisations and practice managers deliver? 

1. Be the hare

In the classic children’s story, the slow and steady tortoise won the race but in today’s fast-pace environment, clients want speedy responses.  Encourage practitioners to respond to client queries within a reasonable timeframe and discuss timing milestones with clients at the outset to manage expectations. Use the advanced technology available to your company to automate processes or speed up research work.  

2. Always ‘On’

The 24/7 world we live in dictates any idea of the traditional working day is well and truly over but we also need to ensure our lawyers have a work/life balance. Is there any work that can be outsourced locally or overseas while we sleep?  Do you have automated email responses to let clients know you have received their email and will be back within a certain timeframe?  Appear ‘always on’ particularly when dealing with overseas clients or international work. 

3. Get Mobile 

Gone are the days of being tied to the desk or lugging a giant stack of books to court. Take advantage of mobile technologies and apps to enable lawyers to meet at a client’s office or work from home while still delivering the highest quality research and advice you always have. 

4. Be transparent 

In a world full of choice and information, clients want to know as much as possible before committing to a service provider. If your company can, be transparent about your fees and time expectations. Can you use a value pricing model or publish set fees for certain common practices?  

5. Communicate easily 

Communicate in the best way for clients – do they prefer communication by email or over the phone? Can your lawyers have Skype meetings or even send information by text?  

6. Be clear 

Understanding the law and your own personal or business situation can be complex for many clients so lawyers need to communicate clearly. Take advantage of the latest technological advancements to present information in the clearest way possible. 

7. Lead the Pack 

Last year’s Thought Leadership Award winner Hive Legal has certainly implemented this approach by re-imagining the delivery of Australian legal services to better connect with client needs.  Hive Legal was founded by a group of experienced partners from large law firms and Managing Director, Jodie Barker, explained at the 2014 awards ceremony why they started with a clean slate when it came to building their business model:
Clients are demanding greater efficiency and turnaround times, and allowing employees to determine the best way to provide this, with an open mind to how that might be achieved, ensures that we can accommodate client needs more effectively. Conventional firms push work down to junior lawyers.  
We put principals and senior associates in an efficient infrastructure for effective client solutions.”

Hive Legal leverages technology to its maximum capability, enabling employees to work collaboratively on client projects from any location at any time and reduce costs.  It is also one of the few Australasian law firms to adopt value pricing.  The scope and value of each project is discussed with clients, a resourcing plan and timeline is developed, fees and billing milestones are agreed upfront with the client and the budget is then locked in.

Indeed, all of the 2014 Award finalists showed a very client-focused approach to their innovations: 
  • At AdventBalance, all firm’s lawyers all work on-site with clients rather than in the office yet retain high staff engagement. 
  • Swaab Attorneys developed a digital Separation Survival Kit that helps its family law customers better understand, prepare for and manage legal documentation associated with the separation process. 
  • Whitsundays based firm, Property and Development Law delivers improved client service via a mobile app and client portal.
With so many great examples out there, it is easy to look for ways to turn thought leadership into clear actions for your organisation and your clients. 


Editor's Note

If your firm is doing something a little different, then you should nominate your innovative project for an ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Award, which will be presented at the 2015 ALPMA Summit Gala Dinner on Thursday 10 September,  at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.  

Entry is simple - just complete the nomination form, answering five questions about your project, and provide relevant contact information. 

But hurry!  Entries close 5pm, Thursday 9 July. 

About Our Guest Blogger

Stephen Wood was appointed CEO of InfoTrack in early 2010. As CEO, Stephen is responsible for the InfoTrack business, both in defining its future, and in achieving the steady growth aspirations. Throughout his 23 years in the ICT industry, Stephen has worked with the legal profession, this sees him bring a wealth of experience to InfoTrack, particularly around how to leverage technology to drive business efficiency in the legal market.  

InfoTrack is the 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards partner.

InfoTrack's latest data visualisation tool REVEAL has been used for almost 10,000 searches by 2150 clients since it was launched a month ago, as it shows complex data very easily and can help in so many situations such as: 
Family Law – identifying all the assets a spouse has before divorce proceedings 
Acquisition – explore all the debts a business has before purchasing 
Insolvency – easily understand whether you will receive money from a debtor.  

Are you a thought leader?

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

by Stephen Wood, CEO, InfoTrack

Thought leadership is an overused, and dare I say abused, word in today’s boardrooms. Everyone wants to be a thought leader and every company wants to show thought leadership - but not everyone does.  As we launch the 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards, it’s a great time to reflect on what exactly thought leadership is and how, as organisations, we can demonstrate it. 

Daniel W. Rasmus, the US based future strategist, recently defined thought leadership as:

 “…an entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.”

I agree with Daniel and would go one step further - I believe thought leadership should disrupt markets.  I believe it should fundamentally change the way we see things or think about things, both from a corporate and personal sense. Thought leaders and thought leading organisations create new paths for us to travel down. 

When I think of thought leaders, I think of people who changed our world – from Ghandi to Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates to Steve Jobs - they opened our eyes to a new way of working or living. 

Jodie Baker, Managing Director of Hive Legal, the winner of the 2014 ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Award, discussed her thoughts on thought leadership and innovation with us recently summing up: 

“Innovation is not about improving the way things are done, but changing it. It’s not about thinking outside the box, it's about asking is the box the right shape in the first place, should it be a star?”

At InfoTrack, we constantly ask ourselves what we can do differently, better, how we can fundamentally change the customer experience to enhance their day. This is what moves us forward. While it may not affect the world the way the thought leaders mentioned above did, our mission is to make the working day better for the hundreds of thousands of legal researchers in the world. 

What does it take to be a thought leader?

When we think about thought leadership and innovation in a commercial sense we tend to think of technology – the iphone, flat screen TVs, electric cars – but the most important elements of thought leadership in the legal sector is not about what we are using to innovate our service but how we are enhancing it. 

Recently we surveyed a wide range of legal firms and in-house counsel across Australia and New Zealand and the results showed the areas most in need of change and thought leadership in the Australasian legal sector are:  

  1. Addressing gender diversity (85%)
  2. Enhancing service delivery (53.3%) 
  3. Providing competitive and alternative pricing options (50%).
(Note: respondents could choose more than one option)

While technology can help with all of the above, the change needs to begin with the strategy and then focusing on the tools that can help bring that strategy to life.  The survey also showed us that client demands for greater efficiency and economic conditions continue to be the major drivers for change in law firms. 

Biggest Innovation Drivers

  1. Client expectation and demand (79.17%)
  2. General economic conditions (54.17%)
  3. Regulatory change (31.25%) 
  4. Existing competition (29.17%)
  5. Non-traditional new entrants from domestic market (27.08%).
(Note: respondents could choose more than one option)

Looking Outside

Often we should look outside our own industries to see where change is happening and how that could apply to our sector. We need to expand our reference points to help expand our own sector in its thinking and practice. 

Who is driving innovation internationally?

 Our survey respondents felt that outside of Australia, the countries driving innovation in the legal sector are: 
  1. United Kingdom (29%)
  2. United States (28%)
  3. Asia (18.7%) 
  4. Europe (4.6 %).
And that we could learn most from the following industries: 


I personally can’t wait to see what the entrants to The 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards are doing to demonstrate thought leadership – from the calibre of last year’s entries I am sure it will be very exciting. 

Editor's Note

If your firm is doing something a little different, then you should nominate your innovative project for an ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Award, which will be presented at the 2015 ALPMA Summit Gala Dinner on Thursday 10 September,  at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.  

Entry is simple - just complete the nomination form, answering five questions about your project, and provide relevant contact information. Entries close 5pm, Thursday 9 July. 

About our Guest Blogger

Stephen WoodStephen Wood was appointed CEO of InfoTrack in early 2010. As CEO, Stephen is responsible for the InfoTrack business, both in defining its future, and in achieving the steady growth aspirations.  Throughout his 23 years in the ICT industry, Stephen has worked with the legal profession, this sees him bring a wealth of experience to InfoTrack, particularly around how to leverage technology to drive business efficiency in the legal market. 

For readers interested in visualisation, InfoTrack recently gave all clients access to their brand new visual workspace tool at no charge. Named REVEAL, this sophisticated, visual tool enables clients to search multiple databases, and use the results of those searches to create a custom workspace displaying all information in a simple and comprehensible manner. 

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