A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Q and A with Jodie Baker, Managing Director, Hive Legal

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Start-up virtual law firm, Hive Legal were crowned the 2014 ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Award winner in recognition of their innovative business model at the 2014 ALPMA Summit Gala dinner last week, over finalists  AdventBalance, PD Law and Swaab Attorneys

In this ALPMA Member Q&A, Jodie Baker, Hive Legal's Managing Director, provides insight into how Hive Legal's innovative, virtual business model works.

Pictured (left to right)

Jodie Baker, Managing Director, Hive Legal; Will Irving, Group Managing Director, Telstra Business; Jamie Prell, Legal Director, AdventBalance; Bronwyn Pott, Chief Executive Officer, Swaab Attorneys; Mel Cox, Director and Chief Executive Officer, PD Law; and Lisa Sikorski, ALPMA Victoria Chair and General Manager, Septimus Jones & Lee.

Q: Why did you decide to set up Hive Legal?

Two years ago I was working remotely from the U.S. for a progressive Australian company; I came to appreciate how technology could be leveraged to change the way professional services firms work, and realised that other markets were significantly ahead of Australia. I saw an opportunity to bring true innovation to Australia and the Australian legal industry, and to really change the way that lawyers work and engage with their clients, each other and even themselves.

The founding principals of Hive Legal had the advantage of starting with a clean slate – we were able to re-imagine the provision of legal services without the weight of legacy infrastructure, procedures or costs.

Our business is driven by clients who want a more cost-effective outcome, without compromising the quality of advice. Clients are demanding greater efficiency and turnaround times and we believe that the principals and senior lawyers who service the clients directly are best placed to determine how this can be done.

Q: How does your ‘virtual law firm’ model work?

Hive Legal is founded on collaboration (like bees in the hive), so this is not a silo model where practitioners work independently without co-ordination with other team members.  We work very closely as a team to deliver outcomes to clients. 

While we have a central hub, Hive Legal lawyers can choose when and where they would like to work. We believe that it really doesn’t matter if you produce the work at home or in the office or where you’re located as long as the quality is consistently delivered. 

However, we also recognise that there are a diverse range of demands on the time of all employees, and enabling an employee to accommodate to some extent those demands in a time shift capacity, or by working in different locations, will ensure that high quality staff are happier and more likely to stay with the firm. Our enormous output since the launch of the firm has been derived from hard work and, at times, longer hours - but staff are able to accommodate other demands by shifting their time without compromising deliverables to clients.

Many firms allow their staff to "work from home" or enable mobile working.  However, a corporate firm servicing blue chip companies (which requires significant collaboration between large teams) built on the assumption that this will occur for all staff has a fundamentally different vibe.

Making virtual work involves a number of technology and cultural priorities. 

We use technology to its maximum capability, so our employees can work collaboratively on client projects from any location at any time and reduce costs. 

This involves two elements: first; logistics – we partnered with a high security and highly reliable cloud platform provider and made a commitment to be paperless. Second; collaboration – our corporate clients require a team approach to complex matters, so our staff utilise multi-party video conferencing, collaborative software and a sensitivity to communication with each other to make this work.  And it really does! We have weekly meetings in the office to ensure regular face to face time, but otherwise we find that all employees are embracing the opportunity to work anywhere, any time, but not everywhere all of the time.

The end result is that we are able to have principals and senior associates in an efficient infrastructure for effective client solutions.  

We have adopted value pricing for all of our work.  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. This works comfortably and consistently with the virtual model, by valuing the deliverables our staff generate, not the time they put into it.

Where necessary, we also collaborate with larger traditional firms on specific projects.  A client will unbundle their legal services and expect the firms to collaborate. We’re keen to progress these partnerships and believe there is absolutely no reason that we can’t work together with conventional firms to deliver solutions for clients. 

Q: How is this effort paying off? 

Winning the ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Award is fantastic industry recognition of the value of our approach, and caps off a tremendous and very busy year for Hive Legal!  

Clients are embracing the technology and innovation forward model of Hive Legal at many levels. We have only been operating for eight months, and in that time we successfully attracted some great clients including large blue-chip household names in health, transport and energy and have grown from three to 11 employees. 

Our intention is to keep growing as the client demand dictates and people of the right cultural fit become available. 

Editor’s Note:

Interested readers can hear Jodie Baker and the ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards finalists from Swaab Attorneys, PD Law and AdventBalance, talk about law firm innovation in this online discussion panel “Legal Innovation: If It Was Easy, Everyone Would!”

Read the media releases and news coverage of the ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards.

A Brief Inventory of NewLaw in Australia

Monday, August 25, 2014

By Jordan Furlong and Sean Larkan, Edge International

You’ve probably been hearing more and more about “NewLaw” lately. What exactly is it supposed to mean, and what does it have to do with your law firm?

George Beaton, who coined the “NewLaw” phrase and has written more than anyone else on this subject, describes the NewLaw business model as the antithesis of the BigLaw model. We recommend reading George’s extensive writings on the subject in order to further acquaint yourself with this concept and its examples. 

For our part, and for the purposes of identifying the firms and companies that qualified under this name, we defined NewLaw as:

This definition allowed us to encompass not just law firms, but also new legal talent combinations, legal service managers, and legal technology that both changes how lawyers practice and places the power of legal service provision in clients’ hands. 

We used that definition in a post earlier this year at Jordan Furlong’s Law21 blog, “An incomplete inventory of NewLaw,” which listed more than 80 entities that qualified under this definition. But most of these examples hailed from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. At the invitation of ALPMA, and drawing upon the knowledge base of Edge International’s Australian partner Sean Larkan, we’ve produced a similar inventory for the local legal market.  

First, a few exceptions and disclaimers. 

Several innovative legal companies and technologies whose primary focus is the marketing or management of law practices, rather than the creation and delivery of legal services, are not on the list. 

We also decided not to include e-discovery providers, partly because we’d spend several pages cataloguing all the players in this market, but also because e-discovery is increasingly accepted as part of litigation and isn’t all that “New” anymore. 

With PriceWaterhouseCooper’s recent foray into the Australian legal market, through the acquisition of Sydney’s LCR Advisory, the legal profession must again get ready to say hello to accountants practicing law. For now, however, we are leaving accounting firms off this list. 

American legal document and consumer law portals LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer provide a sort of hybrid combination of legal documents available online and networks of affiliated law firms that supplement the documents with higher-value services. More like them will emerge.

A Brief Inventory of NewLaw in Australia

With those points out of the way, here is our brief inventory of NewLaw entities in Australia and environs. As you will see, they are invariably small or mid-tier operations.
  • AdventBalance - “A firm that combines the expertise of outside counsel with the best qualities of a sophisticated in-house team.”  
  • Bespoke Law - “A network of experienced lawyers who are available to provide clients with tailored support without watching the clock.” 

  • Curwoods - “Our team of experienced professionals, combined with our Artist-in-Residence program, means that we balance thoughtful creativity with innovative commercial solutions.” 

  • Hive Legal - “We embrace the opportunity to value our work based on the outcomes we achieve for our clients and have a strong preference for value pricing.” 

  • Integrated Legal Holdings Ltd - “A growing network of member firms, affiliates and strategic relationships, targeting growth markets and segments in Australia and the Asia Pacific region.”  
  • M+K - “A growing firm of commercial lawyers and industry advocates, devoted to the needs of businesses and asset owners in the mid-market.”       

  • Marque Lawyers – “We started our firm with the desire to practise law in a new and better manner, and in particular to do away with the business of charging for legal services on the basis of the time spent doing it.” 

  • Nest Legal: “Online after-hours lawyers for busy Victorians ... We offer fixed-fee services in estates, conveyancing and unbundled coaching for self-represented litigants. ... Our prices are all listed on our website.”                       

  • Plexus - “We have unshackled talented lawyers from grey suits, high overheads, billable hours and the costly partnership structure – along with many other anachronisms. ... We are transforming the value of legal.”       

  • Pod Legal - “An innovative law firm offering expertise in intellectual property, technology law and social media law. We provide fixed fee quotes and we stick to them ... no matter what.”       

  • Salvos Legal - “We provide quality commercial and property law advice on a paid basis. However, all of our fees fund our ‘legal aid’ sister firm. Both are wholly owned by The Salvation Army.”         

  • Slater & Gordon - “A leading consumer law firm in Australia with a growing presence in the UK consumer law market. We employ 1,200 people in 70 locations across Australia and 1,300 people in 18 locations in the UK. ”
There is a temptation, when thinking about concepts like “NewLaw,” to think solely in terms of firms with unique structures, or that use some version of outsourcing or who have, for instance, moved away from time-based billing. We think it’s more a question of the unique ways in which they structure themselves and deliver their services.

Many of these firms have also truly recognised the importance of all their people, including support staff, and treat them accordingly — in some cases, offering them an interest in the firm. It is therefore better to take a much broader view, and to consider just why it is that clients have moved their work from traditional firms to these new shops in the first place. 

The message we should take from the relentless pressures felt by traditional firms is that the market has tired of what they offer and how they deliver their services. The market is looking for something just as capable and competent, but more accessible, efficient, and client-friendly than what Law As Usual offers. Many of these traditional firms (in many cases, the larger firms) still seem to believe that it is all about what they want, what they decide to offer that matters, rather than what clients want

The lessons of NewLaw will be lost on them, to their ultimate detriment. Consider what has happened to the American legal market over the past five years: the 200 largest firms in the U.S. now have only enough legal work to keep 0.6 of a lawyer (per partner, on average) busy. 

Nonetheless, some traditional firms, particularly in Australasia, do hear these messages. And in their own ways, they are responding, even if it is to only replicate what other more dynamic firms have been doing for years. For instance, several “normal” firms do offer a full range of capabilities and charge-out rates for their lawyers, reducing the incentives for clients to outsource to India or explore NewLaw options. This sets them apart from their counterparts in the U.S. 

As NewLaw continues to emerge and blossom, inevitably “OldLaw” will begin to adapt and evolve in NewLaw’s direction. The challenge for the traditional firms will be to ensure that any new concepts or structures they embrace truly become part of their DNA. 

So we believe the real message of NewLaw’s emergence and early success is that practising law differently, with a greater focus on efficiency, productivity, and true alignment with both their staff and client interests, is a formula that any legal service provider can adopt. Some will find this easier than others.   

Is your firm ready to hear these messages? And if so, what will you do to respond?

Editor's Note:

AdventBalance and Hive Legal are finalists in the 2014 ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards, along with Swaab Attorneys and PD Law. The Awards recognise law firms that are 'doing things differently' in response to the changing legal landscape.  The winner will be announced at the 2014 ALPMA Summit Gala Dinner on Thursday 28 August.  

Award finalists recently participated in an ALPMA thought leadership panel discussing innovation in the legal industry. 

About Our Guest Bloggers

Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong is a lawyer, consultant, and legal industry analyst based in Ottawa, Canada, who forecasts the impact of the changing legal market on lawyers, clients, and legal organizations. He has delivered dozens of addresses to law firms, state bars, law societies, law schools, judges, and many others throughout the United States and Canada on the evolution of the legal services marketplace. He is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and serves as Strategic Advisor in Residence at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He is a principal with Edge International and blogs about the new legal market at Law21.

Sean Larkan

Sean Larkan

Sean Larkan is a strategy and growth advisor and consultant to professional service firms internationally with a particular focus on the legal industry. He has a reputation as an innovator, finding ways to help firms get the results they truly want. He follows a simple philosophy which he applies to all his interactions –‘building growth, confidence and well-being’. He is the author of the leading publication on brand strategy for the professions ‘Brand Strategy and Management for Law Firms’ and is an internationally accredited Master Coach and Human Synergistics practitioner. Sean is a principal of Edge International and blogs about issues of relevance to law firm leaders at Legal Leaders Blog.

2013: A Review of the Biggest Year for ALPMA Ever!

Monday, December 23, 2013

By Tony Bleasdale, ALPMA National President 

2013 has been a fantastic year for ALPMA and I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for your support and contribution to the vibrant and close-knit ALPMA community.  It has been yet another big year for ALPMA, with highlights including:

  • Successfully setting up our WA presence and running five very-well attended events in Perth, thanks to the efforts of our fabulous WA Committee, with the support of our SA Branch,  SA/WA secretariat and our WA partners.
  • The biggest ALPMA Summit ever where 250 delegates and 47 trade exhibitors came together at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre to discuss the challenge of leading law firms in the "new normal" legal landscape.  
  • The intriguing results from our research on the "Impact of the Changing Legal Landscape on Australasian Law Firms", conducted in conjunction with LexisNexis.
  • The success of the inaugural ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards - won by Anderssens Laywers for their project to develop a unique, secure, online operating environment that supports a 100% paperless and highly automated legal process and is accessible 24/7 for both staff and clients from anywhere on any device.  
  • The development of the ALPMA Legal Practice Management Learning & Development Framework and a new L&D strategy for ALPMA.
  • The retirement of Warrick McLean, GM at Coleman Greig, from the ALPMA National President role after three years of outstanding service, and the election of a new team to lead ALPMA.  
  • The smooth introduction of Associate membership, a new membership structure and multi-member discounts for firms supporting more than one ALPMA member.
  • Conducting 44 seminars, 8 webinars and a range of local events across the country free for our members to help them lead their firms and network with their peers and our fantastic National Corporate partners -  Fuji Xerox, Grace Records Management, Law In Order, LitSupport, legalsuper, Ricoh and Toll Priority - and our all of our State Corporate partners
  • Kriss Will facilitating the ALPMA National HR Workshops for the last time. The workshops were held in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane and proudly supported by SkillsScorecard, 

As we farewell 2013, I hope that you and your staff will also take the time to reflect and celebrate your own highlights and achievements in what has been a challenging environment for many law firms.

On behalf of the ALPMA National Board, State Committees and staff, I wish you a safe and happy Christmas. 

Have a great break and come back refreshed and ready to help us take ALPMA to a whole new level in 2014!

About our Guest Blogger

Tony BleasdaleTony Bleasdale is the newly-appointed ALPMA National President.  The ALPMA presidency caps of a busy few months for Tony, 35, who was also recently appointed as CEO at Makinson d’Apice Lawyers, making him one of the youngest law firm CEO’s in Australia.  

Prior to this, he was General Manager of Knowledge at Maurice Blackburn.  Tony has been a member of the ALPMA NSW Committee for the past 3 years and joined the National Board in 2011.

Australian law firms need to rethink their content strategy

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

by Craig Badings, Director, Cannings Corporate Communications

The way Australian law firms present their content and insights haven’t changed much over the past 10 years.  While there are some that have produced some impressive thought leadership reports, many are stuck in a content production time warp that is boring clients and prospects.  

There is still place for some of the ‘old’ content but one look at other professional services firms and it’s clear that those who choose to stick with their current content model will quickly become content dinosaurs. We live in a content-rich, insights driven world and those not playing this game run the risk of being seen as stuffy and lacking in innovation and original thought.

Are you a content dinosaur or are you building eminence?

Thought leadership has been used very successfully for over 15 years by professional services firms, such as management consultancies, to build eminence. It is the sharp edge of their marketing efforts.  It is all about nurturing clients and opening new doors. And it is about enabling client facing employees -- partners, senior associates and BDMs -- to engage with prospects and clients in a way that showcases a deeper understanding than their competitors of particular client/sector issues or challenges. 

Good thought leadership content breaks the mental myopia on a subject, issue or business challenge.  It stimulates the curiosity gap, forcing people to adjust the way they process or filter information on that topic and challenging them to see the issue differently. Get your content to do this and you will position the firm/practice area as ‘go to’ experts in that area.

I conducted some research on the topic of thought leadership a few years ago with a number of leading Australian law firms and the common theme for not undertaking thought leadership was a lack of planning time, resources and the expertise to do it properly. Other reasons included: 
  • partners concerned about cross practice or client versus government competing interests
  • a reluctance for partners or the firm to stick their necks out
  • a perception they were giving away intellectual property
  • a lack of evidence of the benefits.

Examples of great thought leadership content

A recent on-line, desktop analysis of some of the magic circle and other international firms indicated some refreshing thought leadership content trends. 
  • Linklaters – display a range of thought leadership reports on trends and hot topics across their home page including: the outlook for  life insurance in Europe, the most attractive emerging markets for the food and beverage multinationals and developments in the Eurozone and how these will impact corporate risk to mention a few.

  • Freshfields – displays a range of “Insights” - discussion papers on topics such as: Crisis Management; Growth in high risk markets; Reports into the African oil and gas markets; Cyber security; and Key themes in Global Anti-trust in 2013. They also have a ‘Knowledge and Insights’ tab which has a superbly listed range of papers and briefings across a wide range of topics.
  • Clifford Chance  - big, bold scrolling content blocks across the front page covering topics like: the internationalization of the Renminbi and the European M&A market (in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit), etc.  They also have an impressive webinar series covering numerous topics which feature panel discussions and interviews with third parties.

  • Allen & Overy - prominently displayed scrolling content blocks across the home page covering a variety of topics and a ‘Publications’ tab with numerous reports as  well as a tab only clients can access.  They also have an excellent knowledge search area by topic, country or practice area.
  • Skadden – Their Insights 2013 flagship publication is on their home page. It is a collection of commentaries on the critical legal issues facing their clients in 2013 and covers seven topic areas including capital markets, financial regulation, global litigation, global M&A, governance and regulatory issues.
  • Baker & Mckenzie - large, scrolling title blocks on their home page with different reports on things like: Clean Energy in Africa; the links between high growth markets; private equity insights; high growth markets such as the BRICS; and, riding the ASEAN elephant, to mention a few.  
The purpose of this content is to open doors to clients and prospects in order to stimulate conversation and debate. What these firms do with the content behind closed doors with their prospects and clients is where the time and effort of producing truly thought leading content really proves its worth.

About our Guest Blogger

Craig BadingsCraig Badings is a director at Sydney-based, Cannings Corporate Communications

He is also the co-founder of Leading Thought.  

Join him on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @Leadthought

Punching above our weight

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

by Scott Thompson, Director, Anderssen Laywers

Winner of the 2013 ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards

I recently reminded my father, a retired lawyer, that in his day, you only needed two criteria to have a successful practice; firstly, admission as a solicitor and secondly, a heartbeat!  Those were the days!


In 2012/2013 the challenges of a shifting legal landscape, constricting economy and varying generational expectations of lawyers and clients, produced the perfect storm for even the most robust law firms to weather. Our loyal clients were expecting us to 'do more with less'; our lawyers were engaged on more complex legal issues, resenting any administrative burden that distracted them from doing law; our support staff were up to their ears in administrative tasks supporting a dual system of an electronic and paper based legal process. 

These challenges became the catalyst for change and inspiration for our latest project.  During the previous decade, our firm had established the platform through investing in technology, classifying clients, engaging talented staff and risk adverse financial strategies, which all held us in good stead to seize the downturn as an opportunity to review how we 'do law'.  

The Mission

To develop an integrated, secure, paperless, mobile environment which produced 'one point of  truth' to staff, clients and matter related parties from the device of their choice, backed up by a robust disaster recovery plan.

Successful small firm projects use challenges such as limited resource pools, instantaneous project impact and minimum error tolerance, as motivation to get it right the first time.  Strong leadership and 100% Director buy-in were crucial, as well as every individual of the firm committing wholeheartedly to the plan. Mention paperless office and lawyers panic.  

From the outset, rigorous change management was engaged to assist staff, with ZERO attrition the goal; but not at any cost. It was made very clear that if any staff could not get on board they had to leave.  Yes...leave.  

The Journey

At this stage we knew where we needed to go, but were yet to obtain the right tools and guides to get there.  Rigorous business analysis, hardware and system audit and market research began, making it clear that we would need to either improve or completely replace most of our technology, offices, utilities and branding.  

We implemented virtual networking, new practice software, client web access, digital ID and signatures, smart phones and tablets (enabled with PM & DM access, SharePoint library access, digital dictation via wireless/FTP, SIP phones and CPD podcasts), all backed up with an industry standard disaster recovery plan using both RDX cartridges and cloud services.  

No shortcuts were taken in areas of training or supporting documentation, with staff drafting all new paperless processes and procedures and disseminating with appropriate training and feedback.  This was possible for us using predominantly in house resources; however it would be possible for other small firms without in house IT and management staff to rely on trusted suppliers to accomplish same.

Why bother? 

Because I believe that the legal industry as we know it will cease to exist and the signs are already there.  It's not about becoming paperless, it's about re-inventing the legal process digitally.  This allows you to leverage the firm's IP and data in ways that we enjoy right now.  It also allows your firm to expand past the confines of small firm real estate and boundaries. 

Promoting a culture that encourages working remotely and providing a seamless transition between the office, remote office and mobile with no loss of functionality or access to what is needed, allows recruitment and operations in diverse geographical areas.  Offering clients the ability to access their files online and work collaboratively with you, heightens their understanding of the issues being addressed, strengthens your working relationship with them, helps identify areas where you can add value and motivates loyalty.


We have quantified cost savings as high as 73% in some areas, improved client satisfaction, improved support staff to lawyer ratios, increased productivity, reduced turn-around time, consistently reduced and in some cases eradicated high cost overheads associated with traditional legal production, improved staff moral as we enjoy a unified, proud firm culture. 

6 Key Lessons Learnt

  1. This cannot be done half heartedly or 'on the cheap'.  The implementation cost including procurement, downtime, investment in programming and development and re-allocation of resources on this project is a significant commitment.

  2. Planning = Success – The paperless concept for your firm will mean different changes to your firm than it did to ours. You must prepare for every aspect of the change.  

  3. Set realistic time frames.  Our firm implemented this system within 12 months, however the planning began 3 years ago.  Using 3rd party suppliers will add another dimension to consider in your time frames.

  4. FIRM ALL IN – every individual from Directors through to the mail room, needs to be motivated to get on board.  We used everything from humour, threats, incentives, begging and even a naughty corner to help everyone see the vision.

  5. Unlearn and relearn attitude and culture – you must be able to do this yourself and assist others to do so.  We had a naughty corner for anyone that said 'but that is the way we have always done it'.

  6. The gains will astound you!  We are enjoying benefits that we could never even have envisioned.

Editor's Note:

Scott will be presenting more detail about this project (including details on costings and savings) at the ALPMA webinar "Innovation & Inspiration - Insights from the 2013 ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards" on Thursday 7 November at 1pm AEDST. Register here.

About our Guest Blogger

Scott ThompsonAs Managing Director of Anderssen Lawyers, a boutique law firm with 16 employees based in Brisbane, Australia, Scott manages the firm and works 'on' the business of Law.  

He provides a platform for the firm's lawyers and staff to reach their potential and to ensure the firm sustains a level of legal service unsurpassed in this very competitive market.

It’s not the (firm) size that matters, but how you use it!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

By Warrick McLean, ALPMA National President & General Manager, Coleman Greig

The recent ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards and ALPMA/LexisNexis research show that most firms, regardless of size, are enthusiastically investing in technology as a key strategy to adapt to the changing legal landscape.

But it is not enough to roll-out an off-the-shelf package.

Think Outside of the Square

Law firms have to think outside the square in terms of technology implementation and how they partner with technology vendors and collaborate with customers in order to gain sustainable competitive advantage from their technology investment in the challenging and highly competitive Australasian legal market.

What I find very exciting is that there are a number of both small and large Australian firms who have embraced this concept wholeheartedly and are achieving some uniquely compelling and innovative outcomes that are strengthening their firm’s market position. 

Creatively Deploy Technology

Just have a look at the winners of the ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards.  These firms are creatively deploying technology to improve customer loyalty, transform their firm operations, streamline cumbersome legal processes and drive significant productivity and profitability gains. 

Anderssen Lawyers, a Brisbane-based commercial and property law firm with just 16 staff was the overall winner for their impressive project creating a unique, secure, online operating environment that supports a 100% paperless and highly automated legal process and is accessible 24/7 for both staff and clients from anywhere on any device.  

The winning project allows Anderssen’s to deliver the personal service and reduced fees expected of a small firm, using a level of technology support  typically associated only with top tier practices.  This gives them a real strategic and competitive advantage.  To further instil strong loyalty from their client base, Anderssen’s quantified the economic savings from this project and passed these directly onto clients. Would this happen at your firm?

ALPMA/Telstra 2013 Thought Leadership Award Winners

Pictured (left to right) 
Warrick McLean, ALPMA National President; 
Will Irving, Group Managing Director, Telstra Business; 
Garry Pritchard, Managing Director, Emil Ford Lawyers; 
Jenny Warn, Project Lead, Hall & Wilcox: Graeme Gemmell, National Sales Manager, LitSupport (representing Bennett + Co) and 
Scott Thompson, Director, Anderssen Laywers.

Award Finalist, Bennett + Co’s (WA) worked closely with vendor, LitSupport, to develop a novel application of evidence management analytical methodology and technology to identify omissions and inconsistencies in evidence. This unique approach delivered a substantially more complete, sophisticated view of the evidence than would have been possible if conventional techniques had been applied, even if the budget had been unlimited, for a fraction of the cost.

Ultimately, the client was provided with a fully informed, substantially stronger foundation for negotiation of a settlement. Adoption of the methodology and technology applied in these proceedings to litigation generally would facilitate more fully informed resolution of disputes ‐ better outcomes at lower cost.

Hall & Wilcox (VIC) were recognised as Award Finalists for collaborating with a leading franchising customer and workflow vendor Caseflow to manage a large volume of documentation and deliver an online working environment that gives the client real-time oversight of their work, interactive involvement from the very start of their matters, faster turnaround times for instructions and less risk in the whole process.

Emil Ford Lawyers (NSW) were selected as Award Finalists for streamlining a common, repetitive and time consuming legal process, enabling Contract of Sale preparation to be done online, and delivering a contract licensed by the Law Society and REINSW to agents and lawyers within minutes of obtaining instructions, and then commercialising the Paradocs software.

Innovative Programs

There were also some excellent nominations from firms adopting innovative programs in non-technology areas, including a “Marketing Apprentice” program that saw partners and staff at Brown Wright & Stein compete in challenges to improve their marketing and business development skills overseen by Managing Partner “Geoff “Trump” Stein and a Thought Leadership program run for customers and staff by Swaab Attorney’s.

We can all take inspiration from these kinds of projects and use their examples to help us drive innovation at our firms.

Editor's Note

If you are interesting in finding out more about the Award winning projects, then register to attend ALPMA's webinar "Innovation & Inspiration: Insights from ALPMA's Thought Leadership Award Winners on November 7.  We will also be publishing blog posts from each of the Award recipients over the coming weeks.

The ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards were presented to an overall winner and three finalists at the ALPMA National Summit Gala dinner at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre on Friday 18 October. There were 20 projects nominated for the inaugural Awards, which showcase the innovative projects being undertaken by ALPMA members to address the changing legal landscape. Nominations were received a mix of small, medium and large firms, located across Australia.

About our Guest Blogger

Warrick McLean is the ALPMA National President, a role he has occupied for the past three years. His "day job" is General Manager, Coleman Greig.  

Prior to joining Coleman Greig in 2006, Warrick had extensive general management experience in professional service firms, in both the legal and accounting sectors. In 2007,  he became a Principal of the firm. Warrick works extensively with the other Principals and staff of Coleman Greig to identify, facilitate and implement the firm's strategic direction. 

Getting your money's worth from attending conferences

Sunday, October 13, 2013

By Sharon Ferrier, Professional Speaker & Trainer, Persuasive Presentations

Heading off to the ALPMA National Summit (or indeed any conference)?  Here’s how to get your money’s worth from this experience! 

Charles Jones said “You will be the same person in five years as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read.” 

Earlier this year when I MC’d the AITD/ARTDO International Conference I put a slightly different twist on this quote. I said
“You will be the same person you are at the end of this conference except for the speakers you hear, the exhibitors you visit and the contacts you make.”

I attend and speak at conferences around Australia. They are great for professional development but even more importantly, they are great for reconnecting and building your network. 

Here are five ways for you to get the most out of this year’s Summit:

1. Go prepared

Think about what you would like to get out of this conference, what you’d like to see and who you’d like to meet. You can see who is attending Summit on the Summit Smartphone App, so make sure you download this and complete your profile before the event. Who knows, maybe someone would like to meet you.

Research the speakers a little and think up some questions you’d like to ask them. There’s always an opportunity and if you have a question ready ahead of time you can be the first one in. You could even contact them via LinkedIn or Twitter and let them know you are looking forward to seeing them at Summit.

Now is also the time to perfect your grab. Your grab is your response to the question “So… what do you do?” Rather than say “Oh, I’m just a practice manager”, say “I am the practice manager for Fantastic Lawyers in SA.  I help our team do what they do best and this year we won the Adelaide Law Firm of the year award for the fourth year in a row.” 

2. Be brave


Now is the time to don your ‘confidence cloak’. For many of us networking does not come easily, and we often feel self-conscious meeting people for the first time. My recommendation is to wear something professional that you feel good in and practice a few icebreakers. My favourite conversation starters at events are:
  • The venue – “Have you been to the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre before?”
  • The food – “Did you try the lemon tarts? Soooo worth the calories!”
  • The speaker – “So, are you a fan of General Gosgrove?”
  • The event – “Are you a member of ALPMA?”
  • Significant news of the day – “Did you hear who won the ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards last night?”
  • A compliment – “I love your jacket; red is my favourite colour to wear.” 

3. Get there early

It’s always easier to walk into a room before the masses arrive and rescue a wall flower. There is always a person standing there looking lost because their friend has not arrived as yet. Go up to them and say “I don’t know anyone here so I thought I’d come up and introduce myself.” Congratulations - You’ve just made a friend for life.

If you are at Summit for the first time, or don't know anyone else attending, you could also head straight for the ALPMA stand in the Trade Exhibition area and introduce yourself to Connie, Nicki & Sally from ALPMA who are running this booth.  They will happily introduce you to other members, delegates and exhibitors.

4. Make the most of the breaks 

As tempting as it is to check your emails and make some calls, remember to be present and make the most of the experience.  Grab your lunch and walk over to meet someone new – you never know what may come out of that meeting. Take the time to introduce yourself to the exhibitors and visit each booth. I find this is the quickest and easiest way to find new developments that are occurring in your industry.  And while you’re at it make sure you get a stamp from every booth at the Trade Exhibition in your Summit passport.

5. Follow up

Write on the back of their business card a brief description and what you chatted to them about. Make a note if you promised to send them something and follow up within the week. I find one of the easiest ways to stay in touch is to connect on LinkedIn. Make sure you download the free LinkedIn Contacts app before you go, as it enables you to save a new contact as well as make notes on where you met them and who introduced you. 

At the end of Summit you will be a different person. It could be due to the speakers you heard or the exhibitors you visited, but most likely it is because of the people you met. Rarely do we have an opportunity to share ideas and information with like-minded individuals. Conferences provide an opportunity to do this. Follow these five suggestions and you’ll make the most out of your next conference.

Editor's Note:

The ALPMA National Summit "Law Firm 3.0 - Leading the New Normal" will be held on the 18-19 October at the Sydney Exhibition & Convention Centre.  240+ delegates from law firms and legal departments across the regionare attending to find out how to survive and thrive in the changing legal landscape.  

Due to popular demand, last minute registrations are now available until 5pm Tuesday! Register here. If you can't attend in person, you can attend online, with Summit Live! sessions streamed direct to your computer. 

About our Guest Blogger

Sharon FerrierSharon Ferrier, is the director of Persuasive Presentations. Her goal is to help you and your team be persuasive and influential communicators. 

You can link up with her on LinkedIn and find  more networking and presentation tips and tricks on her blog.

For snappy insights you can follow her on twitter @MsPersuasive.

Innovation - The Key to Competitive Advantage

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

by Shelley Dunstone, Principal, Legal Circles

The legal profession is becoming more and more competitive. Clients shop around more and are increasingly demanding. Law firms need to constantly find new ways to meet client needs, and also to identify emerging client needs. 

Innovation is essential to achieving competitive advantage. 

Innovation enables businesses to increase market share, enter new markets and introduce new or improved products and services. It leads to improved operations and processes,increased efficiency and lower costs.Innovation differentiates your services from those of your competitors. This lessens the need to compete on price.

But a single innovation does not produce a sustainable competitive advantage.

Eventually, most innovations can be copied by competitors. And if your innovation is something you purchased “off-the-shelf” (such as software), your competitors can buy it too, and will be able to match the service you are offering to clients.

How does competitive advantage develop?

Competitive advantage results from a combination of:
  1. your “strategic assets” and
  2. how you use those assets to create value for your clients.
Strategic assets are not usually things that you can buy. They are strengths that are unique to your firm, that have been developed over time, through the firm’s collective experience. Strategic assets are unique to your firm and cannot be bought or copied by competitors. They are often intangible things, such as relationships, reputation, systems,proprietary knowledge and firm culture.

What enables innovation?

A “culture of innovation” is a strategic asset. It is unique to your organization, developed over time, and cannot be bought or copied.Your capacity to innovate (rather than any specific innovation) provides the ultimate basis of sustainable competitive advantage. It enables your firm to keep coming up with new ways to compete and to serve your clients. Innovation keeps your firm vibrant, adaptive and thriving. It’s a survival skill for business. Having a culture of innovation means having a constant flow of ideas and possibilities, and that you act on or experiment with those new ideas.

Many organizations say they are innovative - it’s almost become compulsory to make this claim on the web site and in marketing materials. Innovation is easy to say, but hard to do. In fact, it is much easier to keep on doing the same things in the same way. In a corporate setting, human nature works against human ingenuity. Humans have a powerful sense of self-preservation which can inhibit them from making suggestions that challenge the status quo. And lawyers are trained to argue and to identify potential problems. Often, ideas get shot down before they can be tested.

How can you influence the innovation process?

Leadership is the driver of an innovation culture. One of the most important things you can do is to exert your influence to establish a climate in which ideas can flow freely, and in which it is safe to experiment with something new.

Your firm’s innovation effort starts with you.ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards

Editor's Note:

Shelley is a judge for the ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards, which aim to shine a spotlight on Australasian law firms that have successfully implemented innovative programs in response to the changing legal landscape.  Anyone can nominate a firm by completing the online nomination form. Nominations close on 27 September.  The Awards will be presented at the Gala Dinner at the ALPMA National Summit on Friday 18 October.

About Our Guest Blogger

Shelley DunstoneShelley Dunstone is the Principal of Legal Circles, which helps lawyers to have better businesses and more satisfying careers. 

She is an escaped lawyer and a life member of ALPMA.  Shelley has presented at conferences throughout Australia and in Buenos Aires, Madrid and Dubai. 

Readers interested in learning more about  innovation and competitive advantage can download her white paper "Be The Fire! 12 ways to get more innovation happening in your law firm".

Innovative ideas abound but how well is your firm capturing them?

Monday, September 02, 2013

By Shirley Hamel, Principal, Hamel Consulting Services

There is no question that significant change is occurring within the legal industry and now more than ever firms need to innovate to build a sustainable practice.  

Ideas are free so firms can innovate using strategies to gather them from their employees, clients, suppliers or other industries – but are they actually doing this?  

In my experience, trying to be innovative in a law firm is often met with objections like “What other firms are doing that?” or, when the innovation has its genesis in another industry, “But a law firm’s different!”.  Both are frustrating responses as the whole point of innovation is to be the first to implement so that you gain a market advantage. 

Reducing costs can be achieved by slashing spending (the traditional response) or by looking for innovative ways to deliver more for less.  A couple of examples of the latter are:
  • M+K Lawyers, whose client base includes manufacturing companies, has started to use lean concepts to transform their processes. The concept of lean transformation is to create more value for clients with fewer resources.  Their pilot project worked on the client intake process to achieve standardisation, improved data quality and the reduction of rework. They achieved dramatic improvement and now plan to move onto their billing process.  Their analysis on billing indicates partners and secretaries spend two days a month on the billing process and they aim to reduce this to one - if achieved this would be a significant saving of time.   The other benefits they've gained from this exercise are an improved understanding of their client’s businesses and a common language they can share.

  • In response to client’s wanting accountability, predictability and certainty King & Wood Mallesons announced in early 2012 that  it was pioneering the first formal legal project management training program in the Australian market.  The program’s aim is to deliver improved client satisfaction via implementation of a systematic and standardised approach to scoping, planning and managing legal work within an agreed timeline and budget. These concepts have been used successfully in many industries and new entrants providing business process outsourcing and legal process outsourcing are way ahead of law firms in this respect. 
Improving employee engagement is another way to deliver more for less as engaged employees are motivated and focussed on achieving the firm’s goals and put in discretionary effort.  Below are a few thoughts on how your firm can innovate to achieve higher levels of employee engagement:
  • Incorporating the firm and enabling employees to own shares has the potential to increase their engagement as they have a vested interest in the firm’s success.  Contacts in ASX listed companies confirm this to be the case when they own shares in their employer’s company.

  • Creating an innovative workplace can increase employee engagement, teamwork and innovation. Google has created a very specific culture by celebrating difference and creating a workplace that promotes innovation.  If you think this isn’t relevant to law, have a look at Axiom Law’s “The Big Idea”
Both these ideas come with significant costs but innovation does not always have to be expensive. One easy idea that has been implemented by Maddocks is conducting stay interviews to identify why people stay at the firm. This is an improvement on just conducting exit interviews as the insights gained are often too late to save valuable employees. The stay interview process has enabled Maddocks to highlight and improve the key elements of their employment offering that people value and the interview itself results in people feeling valued.    

Ideas abound; the challenge is capturing them from employees and clients and being open to exploring how these may benefit your firm. 

Editor's Note:

Shirley is a judge for the ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards, which aim to shine a spotlight on Australasian law firms that have successfully implemented innovative programs in response to the changing legal landscape.  Anyone can nominate a firm by completing the online nomination form. Nominations close on 27 September.  The Awards will be presented at the Gala Dinner at the ALPMA National Summit on Friday 18 October.

About our Guest Blogger

Shirley HamelShirley Hamel is Principal of Hamel Consulting Services. 

Shirley has a strong reputation for her ability and discipline in assisting businesses to embrace and successfully implement change programs. Shirley is well known within the legal fraternity, having worked in a variety of senior management roles with Wisewoulds, Freehills and Maddocks. 

Shirley is a Past National President and Life Member of ALPMA and a member of the judging panel for the ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards.

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