International trade of Australian legal and related services is now a billion-dollar industry

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Last Monday (15 December 2014) saw the publication of the Law Council of Australia‘s ‘Fourth Legal and Related Services Export Survey‘.

Key findings from the Report – which relate to the FY2010-11 period – are fascinating, not least of which is that total income from exports and international activity of Australian legal services was $932.8 million.

Other stand-out findings include:

  • ‘Asia’ remains Australia’s largest “regional” export market.
  • ‘Asia’, as a region, contributed $320.5 million in total exports.
  • ‘Asia’, as a region, is the only global region to have experienced continuous growth since FY2004-05.
  • Interestingly, the export of legal services to China and Hong Kong grew slower than the average growth rate (at 31.6%) – which is probably reflective of how mature this market is.
  • Export of legal services to China/HK amounted to $124.1 million – dropping from second largest export market to fourth. It is worth noting, however, that the China and Hong Kong market – in dollar ($) terms – still represented the largest by country in the Asia region.
  • Indonesia saw the biggest per cent increase in exports, up a whopping 115.2% (although the dollar sum is still fairly low at $8.1 million – and it remains to be seen in future reports if this was a transactional glitch or part of a growing trend).
  • Singapore saw 80% grow from $32.5 million to $73.1 million.
  • South East Asia (excluding Indonesia and Singapore – termed “Other South East Asia” in the Report) contributed $35.5 million to exports. Given what I blogged on Friday, SE Asia would now have to be considered one of the real growth prospects for Australian legal services going forward and this is indeed reflected in the Report which states that “South-East Asia has grown much more strongly than North Asia since FY2008-09 as a destination for exports of Australian legal and related services“.
  • Somewhat surprisingly to me; at $272.9 million, North America and Canada are the largest “single” export market for Australian legal and related services.

Another interesting number in the Report, given that FY2010-11 still represented a fairly youthful period for international firms in Australia (and its worth noting that K&L Gates didn’t open its doors in Australia till 2013) is that $150.3 million of the overall $932.8 million is represented by “billings from overseas offices of Australian practices“. Moreover, the value of fly-in/fly-out legal services actually fell during this period (from $52.9 million to $39 million).

One surprise in the Report was the relatively low dollar value of “Arbitration” related work (at $3.6 million); but this could be accounted for by the fact that this period (FY2010-11) pre-dates  [2011] the Australian Government confirming the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) as the sole default appointing authority competent to perform the arbitrator appointment functions under the amended International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth) and concerted efforts by both the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments to make Sydney a leading arbitration centre globally.

And for those of you who have ever wondered why so many international law firms have entered the Australian market in recent years I will end this post with a crunching number to mull over:

“The 10 largest national  law firms exported $609m (65.3% of total market) of legal and related services in FY2010-11”

 

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