A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Increasing the efficiency of individuals - the next priority for the legal industry

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

by Dr Marc K Peter, Chief Operating Officer of LexisNexis Pacific

The rise of the use of technology in the legal profession to achieve greater efficiencies and flexibility has been well documented.

Up until now, the focus has been on making law firms more efficient; streamlining work processes into a single system to provide a secure working environment and transparency of business performance, satisfying the needs of the whole practice.  

While operational processes have been the focus of most companies to-date, future technologies will concentrate on making individuals more productive, efficient and mobile, according to new research we recently completed with leading figures in the Australian legal industry.

Indeed, the results of the 2014 LexisNexis Workflow & Productivity Survey found that the most popular efficiency initiatives adopted by law firms were the use of technology, knowledge management and staff training.  In-house lawyers also relied heavily on technology followed by outsourcing to external lawyers and flexible work practices.  

What’s Working (and what’s not)? 

When asked which initiatives have been the most successful law firms rated the following in order of preference: 
  • Technology 
  • Knowledge management 
  • Skills training 
  • Flexible staff work practices. 

In-house lawyers ranked:
  • Flexible staff work practices
  • Knowledge management
  • Skills training

Least successful efficiency initiatives for law firms were:
  • Graduate intake reduction
  • Outsourcing to overseas law firms.
This finding suggests that initial enthusiasm for legal process outsourcing may not have fulfilled its promise.

Interestingly, corporate lawyers said their least successful initiatives were:
  • Outsourcing of work to both non-law firm providers and external legal counsel 
  • Alternative billing arrangements.
This result that suggests the culture of ‘24/7 availability’ facilitated by mobile technology is adding to workload pressures in a negative way for in-house counsel.  

Delivering efficiency a critical priority

All lawyers, whether in a law firm or in-house, are presently up against enormous cost pressures.  The survey tells us that for law firms, the pressure is coming mainly from clients pushing for a better deal as well as growing competition as legal work becomes more commoditised.  In-house lawyers on the other hand, cite an increased workload and the pressure to justify their value as the main drivers for their efficiency efforts.

At the recent LexisNexis workflow and productivity roundtable, participants made the point that the battle to make law firms more efficient had largely been won and the greater challenge now is to maximise the productivity of individuals.  More and more legal professionals are using mobile devices for legal research, matter and document management and which can make them available 24/7 in the event of a crisis or serious matter irrespective of their location. 

Both law firm managers and in-house lawyers are strongly unanimous that the need to deliver legal services more efficiently is a critical priority.  Both sectors have turned to technology as their number one solution in their efficiency drive making integration of these technologies an absolute priority with talent management a close second. 

Where do you think the best opportunities lie for your company and the legal industry? 

About our Guest Blogger 

Dr Marc K Peter is the Chief Operating Officer of LexisNexis Pacific.  Marc drives the product and commercial portfolio to add value to the legal and business markets and support the business, practice and rule of law. Marc joined LexisNexis in 2008 in the role of CMO Pacific and has worked with a wide range of international businesses including E*TRADE, eBay International and Swiss Post Bank PostFinance.  

LexisNexis is ALPMA's Platinum Summit Partner.  You can watch Dr Peter's opening presentation "Thriving and Prospering in a Changing Legal Landscape" at the 2014 ALPMA Summit for free from ALPMA's On-Demand Learning Centre.

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.

The impact of the changing legal landscape on law firms

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

by Andrew Barnes, Financial Controller, Legal Lantern Group and President, ALPMA

From my perspective, there are five key take-aways from the results of the recent research ALPMA has undertaken with LexisNexis into the impact of the changing legal landscape on Australasian law firms and I wanted to share these with you before the full results are presented at the forthcoming ALPMA Summit.

1. Customer demands for better value is impacting firms...but few are changing their pricing strategy

Customer demand for better value and increasing price pressure is the number one factor impacting on Australasian law firms, according to the research.  Despite this, only 18% of firms report a major focus on changing their pricing strategy (increasing to 25% for larger firms). 

This reflects a fundamental shift in power to clients and a strong buyers’ market for legal services.  

The traditional law firm model has been built around billing clients for time spent on a matter.  But client sophistication is growing and this, combined with the commoditisation of legal services and a plethora of legal providers increasing competition, means that clients no longer have to accept the status quo.

Law firms ought to be working harder at understanding what represents value to their customers. They need to ensure they clearly differentiate their service offering from the next firm and price their services accordingly.

It is a brave step to throw away timesheets and most firms are not yet at the point where they feel they must do so.

In between the extremes of time billing and pure value pricing are numerous approaches which can assist firms with adapting to the changing market and I look forward to discussing this at the panel session I am facilitating with Tim Williams, Colin Jasper and John Chisholm at the ALPMA Summit on August 29.

2. Law firms are investing in technology

Most firms are enthusiastically embracing technology, with this ranking as the number one response to the changing legal landscape for the second year in a row.  

50% of respondent firms are making major investments in technology this year, an 11% increase on last year.  Only 3% of firms (all small firms with less than 25 employees) are making no technology-related investments.  Workflow, mobility and customer relationship management (CRM) are the top three technologies that law firms are investing in over the next 12 months.

It is no surprise that law firms across the board are turning to technology to help deliver the productivity and efficiency gains that they need.   The challenge for firms is to deploy technology in creative and innovative way to improve their business.

The majority of respondents are also continuing to invest in growth strategies (59%) and cost-cutting programs (58%) in response to the current environment.

3. Change is ‘work-in-progress’ at law firms – but slow change is better than no change

Where change is being made at firms, it is very much a work-in-progress, with most initiatives either currently being implemented or in the planning stage.  Of those making changes, very few have completed projects.  Only 9% of respondent firms have completed technology projects, 6% have completed cost-cutting programs and only 2% have completed growth-related initiatives. 

Despite this, the majority of respondents (58%) are satisfied with the rate of progress their firm has made in responding to the changing legal landscape over the past 12 months.  Staff at larger firms are least satisfied with their progress to date, while mid-sized firm respondents are the happiest (71%).

Law firms are risk averse places and they have not grown to what they are today by taking risks at every turn. While change is slow, responding slowly is better than not responding at all.

Firms need to take a medium term view and acknowledge that they should not be practicing law in five years’ time in the same way they are today.

Resistance to change, a lack of partner buy-in and no sense of urgency remain the key barriers to change at law firms. 

As one respondent put it: 

“Our partners are good at buy in but not initially - they take a while to investigate and approve which is not a negative thing. The lack of urgency is a cause of frustration at times. Support staff are slow to uptake some changes and we try to fully engage them to embrace the new initiatives.”

4. Non-Lawyers are playing a significant role in driving change

Non-lawyer managers are playing a significant role in driving change at law firms, most often working in partnership with the managing partner or the partner group to drive change and with support staff to implement change initiatives, according to the research.

A non-legal perspective is an incredibly valuable component in medium term strategic planning, as it is in day-to-day operational management. Progressive firms identify and respect the skills of the non-lawyers amongst them and ensure they apply the right people to the right situation.

5. Positive outlook with improving confidence in law firm leadership

Overall, most firms were upbeat about the future, forecasting a positive outlook for their firm over the next 3-5 years, with expectations for continued growth in firm size, profitability and improvements in firm culture.

I was also pleased to see that respondents are also increasingly confident in the ability of their firm’s leaders to respond to this challenging environment.   72% of respondents were confident or very confident in their firm’s leadership ability compared to 63% last year. 

Don't be complacent!

While the results show an industry that is in the process of transformation (albeit slowly), it is clear that there is no room for complacency.  

Is your firm doing everything that it can to thrive and prosper in this changing legal landscape?

Editor's Note:

The results of the ALPMA/LexisNexis Impact of the Changing Legal Landscape on Australasian Law Firms research will be presented by LexisNexis at the ALPMA Summit ‘Thrive and Prosper’, held from 27-29 August at the Melbourne Crown Convention Centre.  Register to attend Summit in person or online from your computer via our livestream broadcast.

The annual ALPMA/LexisNexis research investigates the impact of change on the Australasian legal profession, including how firms have responded to the changing legal landscape to date, what firms plan to do in the next 12 months, and how prepared the legal industry is to survive and thrive under in the ‘new normal’ environment.

122 respondents from law firms across Australia and New Zealand participated in the 2014 research, conducted via on-line survey in June, 2014. This is the second year the survey has been conducted. The full report will be available from the LexisNexis stand at the ALPMA Summit.

About our Guest Blogger

Andrew BarnesAndrew Barnes is President of the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association, (ALPMA), the peak body representing law firm managers and leaders. ALPMA provides an authoritative voice on issues relevant to legal practice management.  

He is also the Financial Controller for the Legal Lantern Group, which incorporates the practices of Harwood Andrews and Sladen Legal.

5 Key Steps to Streamlining Your Processes

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

by David Atherton-Cooper, Lexis Affinity Product Manager, LexisNexis

Law firms are turning to technology as a means to not only keep pace with changing client demands, but also as a means of gaining an edge over the competition.

There are many drivers of change, across the legal profession, but three principal ones: Client Expectations, the emergence of new competitors and business models, and the changing expectations of the firm’s own staff

Change, Yes - But Where to Begin? 

Good technology improves access to information; smoothing the flow of communication and enabling better informed decision-making at all levels:
  • It enables lawyers to draft detailed advice and complex documents with the confidence of knowing their advice is underpinned by the latest decisions, correctly cited precedent and current facts.
  • It provides Practice Managers with integrated processes and tools to streamline business operations.It offers partners interactive views of the firm's key performance indicators and the ability to drill-down into that data to understand underlying causes.It provides centralised filing and storage for every document, putting all the facts of a matter at the lawyer's fingertips.
  • It offers automation to streamline the production of routine documents and correspondence, allowing firms to delegate more work to juniors and Admins.
  • It offers closer collaboration with clients, through the use of Portals.
So, if technology can be such a fantastic tool to support the business and practice of law, why aren’t more firms already out there forging ahead and leaving the pack behind? More often than not, in our experience, it is a question of paying attention to pre-requisites and in particular reviewing the firm’s approach to process.

5 Key Steps to Streamlining Your Processes 

Every legal matter begins with an inception process, to ensure the relevant checks and balances are in place; proceeds to a phase of investigation and information gathering, through analysis and advice, to resolution of some kind (and billing).

1.    Start with the low hanging fruit

Pick the area of your practice which is under greatest pressure to maintain profitability. In our experience, this is likely to be a transactional work type, but there can be exceptions to every rule.

2.    Start small, then expand as the team sees the benefit

Design workflow to support and guide the work of Admins and Paralegals, with intervention from your Professional Staff where and when it’s needed.  Keep it simple; plan your processes for the 80% of matters which follow a common path, then consider adding in more of the 20% later.

3.    Look at where your lawyers (especially) spend most of their time

A brief review of the timesheet records for any given quarter will give you a good overview of how your teams are spending their time and where you can make the biggest improvements. 

4.    Bring the lawyers on the journey, but lead from the top

People in general and busy Lawyers, in particular, are rarely motivated to embrace change unless that change is actively embraced, promoted and supported by the partners. Effective sponsorship of projects, with a "lead from the front" mentality has time and again, proved to be the key to effective change and superior results within firms.

5.    Integrate supporting processes and systems

The time and effort involved in low-value, administrative task, for example scanning and filing documents, can easily be overlooked.  But, by integrating the scanning machinery with the firm's Practice and Document Management systems, firms are starting to realise significant efficiency gains and cost savings.  Similarly, with PEXA looming large on the legal horizon, there is renewed interest in the streamlining of property transactions. 

6.    Work with a trusted technology partner

Few firms have dedicated process specialists on staff, with the experience to analyse legal and business processes – and turn them into actionable workflows. Your Technology Partner will be able to share many years of expertise and experience in this area; simplifying the challenge of implementing technology to support process improvements throughout the firm. So, draw on technology partners’ experience and add to your own.

The legal profession is undergoing a period of unprecedented change and a range of commentators are speculating over the future of legal practice across our region. Whatever the strategic goals of your firm, it is clear that technology can be a key enabler for success and an important part of achieving your goals. 

So, what role does technology play in your vision for your firm’s future?

Editor's Note:

ALPMA and LexisNexis are currently conducting research into the impact of the changing legal landscape on Australasian law firms.  Participate in this important research for your chance to win a free delegate pass to the 2014 ALPMA Summit 'Thrive and Prosper' at the Melbourne Crown Convention Centre from 27 - 29 August.  Find out more.

About Our Guest Blogger

David Atherton-CooperDavid Atherton-Cooper is the Product Manager for Lexis Affinity , LexisNexis’ flagship Practice Management Solution for the Asia-Pacific Region.  He has 20 years’ experience in delivering technology solutions across the legal and insurance sectors, using IT to enhance business process and productivity.  He moved to Australia in 2006 and has spent the last seven years launching and managing productivity and workflow tools for the Pacific legal profession, working closely with teams in Australia, UK, Canada and US. As Affinity product manager, David’s role involves understanding the changing technology landscape, as well as the needs and expectations of the legal profession. 

LexisNexis is the Principal Partner for the 2014 ALPMA Summit 'Thrive and Prosper' at the Melbourne Crown Convention Centre from 27 - 29 August, 2014.

Top 7 marketing tips to grow your legal firm

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

by Chris Screen, Head of SME at St.George

Marketing and advertising have not traditionally been high priorities for law firms. However, as the industry continues to grow more firms are investing their dollars in marketing to gain a winning edge, as confirmed by recent ALPMA research on the impact of the changing legal landscape on law firms. 

At St. George, we’re seeing more examples of high-quality, agile boutique firms expanding and growing on the back of effective communication with clients to better promote their service. 

To help more small businesses in the legal profession get ahead, here are our top tips that will help you fine-tune your marketing pitch.

1. Write a business plan

It may seem old school, but a business plan is a great way to provide focus for the firm and its lawyers and paralegals – no matter how small the business. More than ever, firms need to know what they want to do and what they don’t want to do. The best law firms understand their service strengths and communicate that to clients. You don’t have to write a book, but you do need a succinct document covering the key elements of your vision and a strategy to achieve it.

2. Put it in the budget

Marketing should not be an afterthought – it needs to be part of the culture of your firm. Factor into your annual budget a specific amount for marketing and new business development. Smaller firms, in particular, need to create a point of difference for clients. You don’t have to go for expensive television advertising. We often hear from our customers that targeted campaigns in local newspapers or smart social media campaigns can be more effective.

3. Measure, measure, measure

Invest in measurable strategies so you can track outcomes and see which activity is giving you the best bang for your buck. This focus on measurement should extend to practice marketing - set up a record to monitor which parts of your business are delivering the highest-value work and implement a program to obtain client feedback, too, so you can identify possible problems or opportunities.

4. Target existing clients

The most effective way to generate more business is usually to focus on clients who already know and trust your firm. Communicate with them regularly to see how else you can support them, which will mean more work for your firm.  Establishing and maintaining contact with the key decision-makers in their business is the best way to do this. 

5. Upgrade your website

Many smaller law firms still don’t have a website with ABS research showing only 44% of Australian small and medium businesses have a web presence. Yet, more people are now looking online for their service providers. Many more have poor sites that are hard to navigate, look unprofessional and fail to identify key practice areas. A website won’t solve all your marketing woes, but at its best it’s an important way to field enquiries and create a sense of trust with potential clients. When designing your website, invest in a professional to optimise the site for search engines.

6. Devise a social media strategy

Even if you’re sceptical, many of the young lawyers and paralegals you’ll want to get on board are on social media. Ignore platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and you may reduce your recruitment efforts. You don’t have to be on every platform – choose the best one for your firm and give it a try. Make sure the voice you use on Twitter and Facebook, in particular, matches your firm’s culture and values.

7. Get out there

Your people are often your best marketing tools. Let them blog, encourage them to attend industry conferences, let them leave the building and visit a client’s office regularly (even if it’s just for a friendly catch-up). Building stronger networks and closer connections with clients is a proven strategy to grow a business. 

As with any business growth, it does take careful planning and investment of time and money. With current low interest rates, now presents a good opportunity for businesses considering an investment to make a move, whether it be getting started on your business plan or meeting with a banker to discuss your funding options to help grow your business. 

About Our Guest Blogger

Chris Screen is the Head of SME at St. George.  Throughout his 20-year career, Chris has been focused on giving his full support to small business owners across the country to help grow their venture or make their dream business idea a reality. His knowledge, insights and true passion have seen Chris become one of the leading small business bankers in Australia.   

St.George has a long history of supporting small businesses to expand and grow, and has helped many businesses in the legal industry to achieve their growth goals.  St. George has developed very close relationships with its business customers that own or run legal firms across Australia.  St. George is an ALPMA NSW Corporate Partner and exhibitor at the 2014 ALPMA Summit.

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.

The Impact of Change on the Australasian Legal Profession

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

By James Parker, Executive Manager Practice Management Pacific, LexisNexis

While the majority of law firm managers (63 per cent) who responded to our ALPMA/LexisNexis survey investigating the impact of change on the Australasian legal profession are confident that they are prepared and have the leadership needed to take advantage of the ‘new normal’, there is still a lot of work to do across the industry to re-position and re-shape firms. 
ALPMA/LexisNexis Research Infographic
Globally, the profession is undergoing unprecedented structural change and Australian firms need to follow suit. Managing Partners and legal practice managers are being asked step-up and respond to what is significant and permanent structural change. 

Law firm leaders must develop strategies that will allow them to re-shape and re-position themselves for success – and bring their team along with them on this challenging journey. 

The traditional partner role has now evolved to one of leader and innovator in firms that will thrive in this ‘new normal’.

Almost all respondents have invested in growth and technology but cost cutting is currently negatively affecting 66 per cent of respondents. 

When respondents were asked to comment about what steps they would take to address change, they listed partner shake ups and change in senior management as critical in moving forward followed by the need for more emphasis on niche services and client focus. 

Conversely, a lack of partner buy-in and management’s slow response to change were identified as the two most significant barriers to embedding confidence and securing a commitment to change. 

Keeping respondents up at night include a lack of career opportunities for young lawyers, cashflow issues, introducing people to new technologies, providing customer value, securing partner buy-in, a lack of flexibility and responding to the economic crisis and corresponding downward pressure on price. 

There are a number of steps respondents plan to undertake to address this, including education, SLAs, retaining staff, becoming more strategic and employing external business partners, creating a better working environment for happier staff and diversifying their services. 

Editor's Note:

121 respondents from law firms across Australia and New Zealand participated in the ALPMA/LexisNexis research, conducted via on-line survey in August, 2013. 

You can download the full results of the research here.

About our Guest Blogger

James ParkerJames Parker leads the Practice Management team at LexisNexis Pacific which is responsible for delivering solutions that enable our clients to more effectively manage their business, increase their productivity and profitability, and stimulate growth. James’ responsibilities include managing the Development, Post-Sales and Professional Services teams. 

James has a wealth of experience in the technology field and prior to joining LexisNexis Pacific, held senior management roles developing and managing UK and international Customer Services. James’ employment history includes Head of Operations and Customer Services with LexisNexis UK, Director of IT and Support at JacobsRimell and Senior Manager of Customer Services EMEA for Vitria Technology.  Follow LexisNexis Twitter @LexisNexisAUS

The Future of Law Practice

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

By James Parker, Executive Manager, Practice Management, LexisNexis Pacific

In a recent study by ALPMA & LexisNexis Pacific, we investigated the impact of change on the Australasian legal profession. While ‘emerging technology’ proved to be the number one factor driving positive change in legal firms, there is some common concern about the changing legal landscape with almost half (47%) of our respondents feeling that their firms were not prepared to meet these changes head on. 

Here are four things you can start doing right now to adapt to our changing legal landscape:

1. Embrace Technology

Information technology is becoming more interwoven into our lives and business operations every day. Technology purchases and training are, and will remain, a critical part of law firm operations as out-of-date technology slows down business. Practice management software is one of the most sensible investments a firm can make. It can be hugely beneficial in improving the productivity of the firm as well as the efficiency of core practice management functions such as billing and office management by putting a powerhouse of legal knowledge and expertise to work for you. The bottom line is that better software will help you make more money by increasing the percentage of fees that actually get paid and reducing the frequency of unreasonably aged debts. 

2. Build Your Brand

Your future success is based on the number of people who believe your advice and services are valuable, and worth the price tag. While referrals are still the very best way to obtain new business, many prospective clients now learn about their lawyers from online information. 

Ensure your firm’s website includes professional photos and bios of each employee and showcases the company’s mission, vision and culture appropriately. Include awards and customer testimonials to add credibility to your website.  Update your LinkedIn profile and start contributing to relevant groups with thought-leading articles and blogs. Invest in the services of a marketing consultant to assess your firm and develop some key initiatives that will give you the competitive advantage.

3. Streamline Efficiencies

In the last few years we’ve seen a rush of technological innovation in the legal sphere. Those who embrace these technologies will survive and thrive in the ‘new normal.’  The automation of time capture, document generation, and workflow, for example, enables law firms to better manage revenue, time, and client matters for optimum efficiency.  While technology can’t actually replace the services provided by lawyers, it can supplement their practices and allow them to operate more efficiently and better serve their client’s needs.  Embrace technology and you’ll see greater client satisfaction, increased retention rates and improved firm profitability.  

4. Pay Attention

We live in a world of rapid-fire change. Now business practices and tools are evolving just as rapidly as legal or regulatory change. Read trade publications, come to industry events designed to help you keep up to date, subscribe to industry newsletters, and stay on top of our changing environment by joining ALPMA and LexisNexis Connect on LinkedIn.  

Editor's Note:

The full results of the ALPMA/LexisNexis research will be available from LexisNexis at the ALPMA National Summit “Law Firm 3.0 – Leading the New Normal” from 18-19 October at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre. Read the media release.

About our Guest Blogger

James Parker, LexisNexisJames Parker leads the Practice Management team at LexisNexis Pacific which is responsible for delivering solutions that enable our clients to more effectively manage their business, increase their productivity and profitability, and stimulate growth. James’ responsibilities include managing the Development, Post-Sales and Professional Services teams. 

James has a wealth of experience in the technology field and prior to joining LexisNexis Pacific, held senior management roles developing and managing UK and international Customer Services. James’ employment history includes Head of Operations and Customer Services with LexisNexis UK, Director of IT and Support at Jacobs Rimell and Senior Manager of Customer Services EMEA for Vitria Technology. 

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