My comments on today’s Lawyers Weekly article: ‘Observations on NewLaw in Australia in 2018’

Today (28 December 2018), Lawyers Weekly in Australia published an article by Lachlan McKnight, CEO of LegalVision in which Lachlan comments on his ‘Observations on NewLaw in Australia in 2018‘.  At the outset I should state that I don’t know Lachlan, and this post is no way directed at him, but is just a numbered-point muse on the interesting observations he makes in his article.

  1. ‘NewLaw’ (which is as meaningless a term as ‘Mid-tier’) is now an ‘industry’ – now that’s interesting.
  2. Agree with Lachlan’s comment in #1.
  3. While I agree with Lachlan’s comments in #2, I also believe the attitude here is changing within the more ProgressiveLaw firms. ProgressiveLaw firms realise that with greater risk (which fixed fees actually are), there should be a premium (much as there is with any insurance premium). EvolutionaryLaw firms go one step further and start to have a conversation about ‘value’ pricing.
  4. Three is an interesting comment: aren’t LegalVision in part owned by G&T  – as an aside (re #3 above), didn’t Danny Gilbert recently state that he thinks that clients don’t want move away from the #BillableHour?. Nevertheless, I agree with a lot of what Lachlan says in #3 but would probably set the bar at $75 million (we still only have a population of 25 million and IBISWorld still only puts the WHOLE legal industry revenue in Australia at $20bn [NB: the top 30 law firms in Australia make over $50m a year – in an industry this small!]).
  5. I would totally disagree with Lachlan’s comments in 4 and in my opinion you only need to look at the stuff MinterEllison and KWM are doing (with whom I have no association) to see this point – to me – is misplaced. In fact I would go 180 and say many BigLaw firms are going through their Arthur Andersen/Accenture moment (the original ‘child eat parent’?).
  6. The biggest challenge NewLaw (and Mid-tier law if such a thing exists) has to #5 isn’t OldLaw, it’s the #Big4.
  7. Number 6 is a point I have tried raising several times this year – scale. Law (Old and New) see ‘scale’ as being bodies (in part because of time-based billing). If it ever was it not longer is and any law firm, new or old, that get’s the right answer to scale will have a point of difference and in such a competitive market this is crucial. The reality is that potentially the biggest winners here should be the so-called Mid-tier (who have a lot of the grey haired industry knowledge without, currently, the scale – but I fear they have missed the boat because of lack of investment).
  8. For #7, see my comment in #3 re G&T.

As always, would be interested in your views.


Podcast: In conversation with Ian Mountford – some thoughts on how well law firms use Social Media

I was fortunate enough to have recently been invited by Ian Mountford, of Fit for Social, to join him in a  general discussion on our mutual thoughts around how well #Auslaw firms are doing with their use of social media as a business development tool.

Chat lasts about half and hour and can be heard here.

For those of you who listen, hope you enjoy it.

As usual, feel free to let me know whether you agree or disagree with my views.


How well are we doing at exporting #Auslaw?

Business Development image

Finally, some years after the Australian Government first announced and then consigned to the dustbin  its ‘Australia in the Asian Centurywhitepaper, a fair amount is being written around the issue of exporting Australian professional – read, ‘legal‘ – services, including:

While it is undoubtable that the export of Australian legal and professional services is a trending issue on an upward trajectory, it is still probably a little early to say (as the College of Law post does) that “Australia is now trending on a global scale” (vis-à-vis the export of our professional services) – although, to be fair, the export of Australian lawyers (to which the College of Law would have a particular interest), particularly to the UK and New York, has been ongoing since the early 1980s and continues to this day.

Moreover, given that the Australian International Disputes Centre (AIDC) was established way back in 2010 (with the assistance of the Australian Government and the Government of the State of New South Wales) and still lags behind both the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, the export of #Auslaw has undoubtedly been a slow burn.

So while I for one applaud the latest chatter around an impetus to export #Auslaw, I hope that this time we are serious and take the time to have a robust conversation about whether or not we wish to seriously promote (and lobby) the export of #Auslaw overseas. And, assuming we decide we do wish to progress with the export of #Auslaw overseas, we put in place concrete national plans to move this initiative forward rather than taking the lacklustre state-based approach we have to date.

A word on the inter-generational issues going on at law firms

Business Development image

When I was growing up, my Grandmother used to tell me that my generation (‘X‘) had never had it so good. Not that we were lazy mind, but that we didn’t have the work ethic of her generation. When I complained one day to my Mother about this treatment she told me that I misunderstood: my Grandmother wasn’t complaining about my slack arse nature, conversely she was pleased that my life was easier than hers had been – she now felt she had succeed in life. I said that I still didn’t understand and my mother told me that she doubted I would until the day I had children of my own. And while I still don’t have children, I do understand this deep need to try and make sure the life of generations to come will be easier than mine and that of my Mother’s (‘Baby Boomers‘).

So it was with interest that I read the recent post on the Australian Lawyer website by NSW Young Lawyers president Thomas Spohr – ‘A dangerous game: How older lawyers diminish their Gen Y colleagues‘ –  and the subsequent response by Ken Shepherd, the principal of Shepherd Legal – ‘A dangerous game: A matter of perspective‘.

Both posts are entertaining and raise serious issues and are well worth the reading time. Underlying them both though is a feeling that I’ve had this discussion somewhere before.

Now if you want to read an excellent post on how disenfranchised Millennials (or Gen Y) lawyers must be feeling as they enter the workforce, then you don’t need to go past a post written by Michelle Silverthorn on 17 July 2014 entitled – “My Generation” – which I now consider to be the final word on this issue.

In her post, under the paragraph titled ‘Reframe The Discussion’, Michelle writes:

“I’m often told that Millennial lawyers lack commitment to their employer, that we start looking for another job five minutes after starting a new one. That’s a fair criticism, but look at it from a different angle. Assume that, on average, the youngest Millennial lawyer completed law school at 26. That means that, on average, the youngest Millennial lawyer started practicing in 2007. The majority will be starting their practice in 2014 and later. This entire generation of attorneys will therefore have started working in an utter paradigm shift in the legal market [post 2007]…”

Wow! – given that Australia has a 5 year undergraduate Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) program, that equates to an entire generation (Millennials/Y) of new lawyers in #Auslaw for whom the #NewNormal has been nothing but ‘normal’.

Further, in Australia that’s an entire generation of lawyers who have never experienced a recession but who have operated – in a professional capacity – under circumstances never experienced in living memory.

Quite simply – that’s powerful. And to my shame, I had never even looked at it like this before.

So when Michelle then goes to say:

This entire generation of attorneys will therefore have started working in an utter paradigm shift in the legal market, where traditions have been upended, expectations have proven false, debt seems overwhelming, and jobs simply aren’t there. Not to mention the whirlwind of layoffs, stalled promotions and hiring freezes that started in 2009 and continue today. In other words, when you ask why Millennial lawyers won’t stay committed to an organization, ask yourself what in the past seven years has demonstrated that an organization will stay committed to them?

it makes me realise two things:

First, Michelle is wise beyond her years.

Second, my generation has failed in our duty to the next generation. We haven’t made life any easier for them – desite our bitching and moaning to the contrary – and the only question that now remains is whether or not there is enough time left to fix the problem and restore the equilibrium?