Firms turning the traditional law firm model on its head reap significant reward

Firms turning the traditional law firm model on its head reap significant reward

Firms turning the traditional law firm model on its head are reaping significant reward for their efforts, according to the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA).

“A new breed of legal services providers and a number of established firms willing to shake up the way they do business are achieving fantastic results in terms of client satisfaction, employee engagement and productivity,” said ALPMA’s President and Financial Controller of the Legal Lantern Group, Andrew Barnes.

As evidence, Mr Barnes points to the four finalists of the 2014 ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards.  The Awards recognise law firms who are doing things differently in response to client demands for better value and the changing legal landscape. The winner will be announced at the Gala Dinner at the 2014 ALPMA Summit in Melbourne on Thursday 28 August.

  • Hive Legal -  a start-up, virtual law firm leveraging a sophisticated IT platform which brings together a growing team from multiple locations for effective delivery of complex corporate client projects.

  • AdventBalance - an alternative legal services provider, where the firm’s  lawyers all work on-site with clients rather than in the office -  leveraging Yammer to improve staff engagement and communication.

  • Swaab Attorneys – developed a Separation Survival Kit on a USB that helps its family law customers better understand, prepare for and manage legal documentation associated with the separation process.  

  • Property and Development Law, a boutique law firm in the Whitsundays delivering improved client service via a mobile app and client portal.
“These firms are changing the conventional way legal services are delivered in big and little ways – and their clients and staff love it,” Mr Barnes said. 

According to Jodie Baker, Managing Director of virtual law firm, Hive Legal, the equation is simple:

“Clients are demanding greater efficiency and turnaround times, and allowing employees to determine the best way to provide this, with an open mind to how that might be achieved, ensures that we can accommodate client needs more effectively.” 

“Improved productivity due to workplace innovations and improved employee empowerment sees enormous output from a small team = very happy clients = great revenue for the firm,” Ms Baker said.

At AdventBalance, the entire lawyer team works from clients’ offices on secondments, transactions or large projects. With 100+ lawyers working across Australia and Asia, the company claims the title of Australasia’s largest and fastest growing alternative legal services business. 

“AdventBalance is bringing new life to law,” Anita Bennett Director, People Development & Communications at AdventBalance said.

“We are challenging the traditional law firm model and realise there is a more flexible way to practice law and to buy legal services.”

The on-going challenge of communicating with, and keeping such a dispersed workforce engaged has been largely overcome by implementing Yammer (an enterprise social networking tool) which enables AdventBalance to successfully manage its remote legal team and continue to pioneer a new age of legal services. 

In response to feedback from clients who were feeling overwhelmed by the legal requirements of the separation process at a time of great emotional distress, Swaab Attorneys created a “Separation Survival Kit” on a USB.   

The kit helps its family law customers better understand, prepare for and manage legal documentation associated with the separation process.

“Rather than engaging with our clients in the first meeting and loading them up with a paper trail, by using the USB our clients are able to prepare themselves for their first meeting in advance, as well as being able to gather information beforehand so the first meeting they have with us is useful and engaging,” Swaab Attorney CEO Bronwyn Pott said.

“So often firms look for major innovation, when it is often the small ideas that end up making the most impact. The Separation Survival Kit shows great initiative to the issues that matter to our clients - cost consciousness, collaboration and client care, as well as something that is easily accessible to our people internally,” she said.

Property and Development Law is leading the way for regional law firms in embracing technology to deliver improved and streamlined client services via a mobile app and client portal providing access to online documents and other important information, developed by Red Rain.

“The PD Law staff are now enjoying a fresh approach and more collaborative relationship with the client,” Melinda Cox, CEO at Property and Development Law said. 

“Clients are engaged from the moment the business starts work on the matter and are therefore gaining the benefit of a more informed process. Improved client engagement has had a positive impact on firm costs by reducing time spent on matters and therefore increasing capacity”, she said. 

About the ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards

The ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Awards shine a light on innovative projects and initiatives conducted by firms across the legal sector over the last 12 months in response to the changing legal landscape. This is the second year the Awards have been held and sponsored by Telstra.  

Last year’s winner was Anderssens Lawyers, a Brisbane-based commercial and property law firm with just 16 staff, who secured the overall win for an 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. 

About ALPMA

The Australasian Legal Practice Management Association, (ALPMA), is the peak body representing law firm managers and leaders. ALPMA provides an authoritative voice on issues relevant to legal practice management.  ALPMA delivers a comprehensive professional development program for members, which includes the annual ALPMA Summit, regular practice management seminars across Australia and New Zealand, the Leading Your Firm program, for smaller and regional law firms, online resources and a legal industry research program.

About Telstra

Telstra recognises that small and medium businesses are the growth engine of the Australian economy. Telstra Business specialises in meeting their unique communication needs and enabling them to get the most from today’s amazing technology. To do this Telstra has tailored a range of technology products and services which keep businesses connected to their customers. These include compelling fixed line, broadband and mobile services as well as the latest cloud computing solutions.

To be there to support small and medium business when they need assistance, Telstra has dedicated business consultants available on the phone or online via a live internet chat team available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Across Australia there is a network of Telstra Business Centres, who are small businesses themselves, to provide communication and technology advice for small businesses in their local area. For medium to large businesses, Telstra has dedicated account teams to look after their unique technology needs.