A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Personal Reflections on 2016 by ALPMA President, Andrew Barnes

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

By Andrew Barnes, CFO, Lantern Legal Group and ALPMA President


When I think back on our year with ALPMA it is difficult not to dwell on the success of our Summit, held in September at Etihad Stadium Melbourne. The event is growing from year to year and this year to have record levels of attendees and trade exhibitors being added to an exceptional program was something we are very proud of as an Association.

On day one there was something for everyone, but many people still think back to the power of the speech given by Catherine McGregor about her life, her challenges, her opportunities. How she interwove so many relatable snippets into one incredibly moving story was a highlight. We were also fortunate to have:


  • The inimitable Ron Baker as MC
  • Dr George Beaton again reminding us that to stand still will probably mean we go backwards
  • Matthew Burgess taking us down the ‘Lean Startup’ path and challenging us to change and ‘fail fast'
  • Dr Bob Murray reminding us that ‘praise is the biggest weapon in a leader’s arsenal for change’
  • Steve Wingert and Andrew Price talking about change management in law firms in real, relatable language


In 2016 we have maintained our commitment to undertaking research projects aligned with our six pillars of Learning and Development and also the Thought Leadership Award presented annually at Summit. There is often so much that falls from these projects that it can all be quite overwhelming, but our position at ALPMA is that these are not one-size-fits-all and that there is something for every firm to take away and work with. Firms have different cultures and different life cycles and therefore do not fit neatly into the outcome synopsis in research projects. I suggest you have another read and choose something to work with … small steps are better than no steps!

Our research for 2016 is summarised here:


  • Finding quality staff remains the top HR challenge for law firms, more work to be done on diversity and inclusion at firms etc 


Any thoughts at this time of year always extend to thanking our fantastic team of volunteers on our Board and various committees across Australia and New Zealand. Thanks also to our support staff across the Association who do so much behind the scenes to bring our programs to life. We remain absolutely committed to ALPMA’s core promise to members. We are continually pleased with the way our membership engages with the association and enables us to remain aligned with their expectations. As our Board tries to navigate a way through an ever-increasing competitive landscape for professional development providers, we strive to balance immediate member needs with those of an Association who is more frequently competing to hold its’ profile and standing on a national and regional (international) basis. Thanks to everyone who have contributed in some way to us having a great 2016!

As we look forward to 2017 we can expect more than just business as usual. We have provided branches with extra budget funds to develop local initiatives and enhance the offering. This should ensure the core promise to members remains a focus and that there is a greater value proposition through the branch networks. Our National Learning & Development group is planning new workshops to complement existing programs. Our Summit committee has already commenced planning for Summit 2017 in September in Brisbane. We continue to work on collaborative relationships with groups such as the Australian Law Management Group (particularly after the success of our joint foray into Singapore in November), College of Law, CPD for Me and others in this space. It is a challenging time for Associations such as ALPMA but with those challenges come opportunities and we look forward to exploring these opportunities with our members.

Thanks for being part of ALPMA in 2016 and I wish you and your friends and families the very best for the festive season.


Editor's Note

This is the last ALPMA blog post for 2016. We look forward to the weekly posts resuming on January 3, 2017.

About our Guest Blogger

Andrew BarnesAndrew Barnes is the President of ALPMA. He is the financial controller for The Lantern Legal Group Pty Ltd, which practices under the firm names of Sladen Legal and Harwood Andrews.  He works closely with the principals to deliver strategic planning, reporting and budgeting initiatives and applies his robust commercial skills to drive continued business improvement.  Andrew worked in public practice, as well as financial services and broad industry roles prior to joining the firm in 2003




Super changes present new opportunities

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

By Andrew Proebstl, Chief Executive, legalsuper


On 23 November 2016, after months of negotiation and amendment, the Federal Government finally succeeded in having a raft of significant changes to superannuation passed by Parliament.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has said that 96 per cent of individuals with superannuation “will either not be affected by these changes or will be better off.”

That said, it is definitely worthwhile keeping up-to-date with the changes, most of which come into effect on 1 July 2017.

The immediate decision facing many superannuation fund members will be whether or not to take advantage of the current contributions caps by topping up their super before the end of the 2016/17 financial year.

Members considering doing so, but who are unsure of how to do so without exceeding the caps, should contact their super fund(s).

To help ALPMA members make the best decisions regarding their superannuation, here are the main changes to super, and the implications of those changes.

Changes that impact the amount of concessional contributions you can pay



Concessional contributions (or before tax contributions) include employer superannuation guarantee contributions, contributions made under a salary sacrifice arrangement and personal contributions for which a tax deduction has been claimed.

A reduction in the annual cap on concessional contributions you can make


From 1 July 2017, the annual cap on concessional contributions will be lowered to $25,000 per annum, down from its current rate of $30,000 for those aged less than 50 years and $35,000 for those aged 50 and over.

Catch-up concessional superannuation contributions


From 1 July 2018 (not 2017 as previously indicated by government) those with total superannuation balances of $500,000 or less will be able to make catch-up concessional superannuation contributions, subject to unused concessional contribution caps being carried forward on a rolling basis for up to five years.

This change is intended to boost the super savings of those with a lower superannuation balance due to lower contributions in the past, interrupted work patterns or an irregular capacity to make contributions.

For those earning over $250,000, a doubling of the tax on concessional contributions


From 1 July 2017, those with more than $250,000 of income and superannuation contributions (adjusted for other benefits) will pay an additional 15 per cent tax on their concessional contributions on those super contributions that exceed the $250,000 threshold.


The proposed new 30 per cent rate of tax continues to be less than the marginal rate of tax if earning greater than $250,000.

This change extends the existing approach whereby those with more than $300,000 of income and superannuation contributions pay 30 per cent tax on their concessional superannuation contributions.

This change will impact higher income earners, who constitute around 1 per cent of superannuation fund members.

Expanded eligibility to claim tax deductions for superannuation contributions


From 1 July 2017, the Government will improve the flexibility of the superannuation system so that more Australians can utilise their concessional contributions cap, by allowing people under 75 to claim an income tax deduction for personal superannuation contributions to an eligible fund. Personal contributions for which a tax deduction is claimed will count towards the concessional contributions cap.

However, to take advantage of this change, people aged between 65 and 74 will need to first satisfy a work test. (The work test was originally slated for removal but will now be retained)

Changes that impact the amount of non-concessional contributions you can pay


Non-concessional contributions (or after tax contributions) include amounts you pay to your superannuation fund, or your spouse’s superannuation fund, from your after-tax income (that is, from your take home pay or accrued savings outside of super).

$100,000 annual non-concessional contributions cap


From 1 July 2017, the current annual non-concessional contributions cap of $180,000 will be reduced to $100,000 per annum. However, superannuation fund members still have until the end of the current financial year to take advantage of the current $180,000 non-concessional contribution cap. Members under age 65 also have until the end of this financial year (i.e. 2016/17) to consider taking advantage of the ‘bring-forward rule’ which allows up to three years’ of non-concessional contributions to be made in the one year. This means that members who are in the position to do so can potentially make up to $540,000 worth of non-concessional contributions (the $540,000 figure being 3 x $180,000) by 30 June 2017. From 1 July 2017 the ‘bring-forward rule’ effectively reduces to $300,000 the amount of non-concessional contributions that can be ‘brought-forward’ across a three year period. However, the amount that can be brought forward, and the period to do so, will be reduced for those with total superannuation balances of $1.4 million to $1.6 million. From 1 July, 2017, those with total superannuation balances of $1.6 million or more will be ineligible to make non-concessional contributions at all. If the bring-forward provisions were triggered in the 2015/16 or 2016/17 financial years and the full bring forward amount was not utilised, transitional bring forward caps will apply.


The above rules replace the original announcement of a lifetime cap of $500,000 per person for non-concessional contributions which will no longer be proceeding.


Changes that impact retirement products (including superannuation pensions)



Removal of tax exemption for transition to retirement (TTR) pensions


Currently, individuals can commence a TTR pension at their preservation age (between 56 and 65 years of age, depending on their date of birth) even though they have not yet retired. No tax is paid by the super fund on the investment earnings from assets supporting these TTR pensions. Although some income tax may be paid by the individual on receipt of the pension payments up to age 60, once an individual is aged 60 and over, withdrawals are tax-free.

From 1 July 2017, the government will remove the tax exemption on investment earnings of TTR pensions and they will be taxed at 15 per cent (as is the case for investment earnings on superannuation assets). This change will apply regardless of when the TTR commenced. There are no changes to the tax arrangements for individuals upon receipt of these pension payments.

$1.6 million superannuation transfer balance to retirement products cap


From 1 July 2017, the government will introduce a $1.6 million cap on the total amount of superannuation an individual can transfer into retirement products, which includes superannuation pensions.

The cap will be applied to current retirees and those who have yet to enter retirement.

Current retirees with more than $1.6 million in retirement products (including superannuation pensions) have until 1 July 2017 to either remove the excess or return it to an accumulation superannuation account, where 15 per cent earnings tax applies or 10 per cent if capital gains.

The Government expects this change to impact less than one per cent of superannuation fund members. It also believes a $1.6 million retirement product balance could support a retirement income stream of around four times the single Age Pension.

Changes that benefit those with lower incomes



Low income superannuation tax offset


From 1 July 2017, the Government will introduce the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset to replace the Low Income Superannuation Contribution when it expires on 30 June 2017.

Individuals with adjusted taxable income of $37,000 or less will receive an effective refund of the 15 per cent contributions tax paid on their concessional contributions, up to a cap of $500.

Superannuation balances of lower income spouses


To help lower income spouses increase the superannuation they accumulate, from 1 July 2017 the income threshold for the receiving spouse (whether married or de-facto) will be increased from $10,800 to $37,000, thereby helping more families to support each other in accumulating superannuation.

A contributing spouse will be eligible for an 18 per cent tax offset worth up to $540 for contributions made to an eligible spouse’s superannuation account.

If you have any questions about these changes to superannuation and how they may affect your retirement savings with legalsuper, please contact us on:

Phone: 1800 060 312 Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm (AEST)

Fax: 1800 614 431 Email: mail@legalsuper.com.au

About our Guest Blogger



Andrew ProebstlAndrew Proebstl is chief executive of legalsuper, Australia’s super fund for the legal community. Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant while working with Arthur Andersen, Andrew has broad experience across the superannuation industry with fund administrators, investment managers, custodians and other superannuation funds.

Andrew is a member of the Policy Committee and former Director of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees. He is also a former member of the Victorian Executive of the Associations of Superannuation Funds of Australia. He regularly presents at superannuation industry conferences and writes regular superannuation columns for law societies across Australia.

legalsuper is an FY16 ALPMA Australian Corporate Partner


7 strategies for building a high performance culture

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

By Fiona Crawford, GM Human Resources, InfoTrack



‘High performance’ gets thrown around a lot these days as a new buzz word, but few businesses know what it is or how to define it. Everyone seems to be striving for it but many find it hard to articulate what exactly it means for their business. It is not as complicated as it seems – here are some simple steps to cultivate a high performance culture in your firm.

Define what high performance means for your business


High performance is something that should have a unique definition for every firm. What are your firm’s values and how do you expect your employees to fulfil them? What do you want to drive and motivate your employees? How will you define their success? Take the time to map this out – what are the characteristics you would expect from a high performance employee at your firm?

At InfoTrack, we have developed an employee value proposition defined by ‘effort over obligation’ – we expect our employees to come into work with a motivation and effort that overshadows any feeling of obligation. If employees are thinking about obligation, they’re missing out on opportunity - we are always thinking about opportunity and where it can next come from. We don’t dwell on what we are obliged to do and that’s why our workforce is brimming with ideas and innovation, and opportunities never pass us by.

Recruit the right people

Once you’ve defined what high performance means to you, you need to recruit the right people. A robust recruitment process should include clearly defined roles and expectations and be run by someone who understands your firm and its values. It should include multiple interviews with different people within your firm, and interviews should be designed to screen for high performance indicators that you are looking for. At InfoTrack, myself and our CEO take time to interview as many potential candidates as we can because we understand how important it is to our business to hire the right people.

Be transparent about your strategy

Being transparent about your firm’s strategy and goals helps foster a sense of trust and mutual understanding. The more employees understand what you’re working towards, the more enthusiastic and involved they will be. When employees can clearly see how their work is adding to the end goals of the firm as a whole they have a greater sense of purpose. At InfoTrack we have companywide update each 4 months to detail our new strategy to our employees across Australia so everyone knows what part they’re playing to reach our goals.

Don’t underestimate the importance of succession planning

Succession planning is key - be open and honest about opportunities for growth and ensure that you speak to employees about their careers and where they see themselves in the future. The clearer vision an employee has about the future of your firm and their place in it, the more dedicated and motivated they will be. It’s important to ensure there are no single points of failure to keep a business running at top performance.

Track employee engagement

Engagement occurs when employees feel an emotional connection to your firm and its goals. Employees essentially want three things; a meaningful vision of the future, a sense of purpose and great relationships. The more engaged employees feel, the more productive they are, the better service they provide and the longer they stay in their jobs. Engagement fosters a collaborative, empowered, innovative, productive and overall positive environment.

There are a number of ways to track engagement – ensuring open communication with employees along with regular reviews and opportunities for feedback is key. Having a formal system in place such as employee engagement surveys helps to hold you accountable and creates a measuring stick. Employees will appreciate the opportunity to give feedback and will feel that they are being listened to.

Seek out diversity

Diversity should be seen as a necessity in any modern firm. Employing people with a wide range of backgrounds brings a unique mix of talents, perspectives and experiences to your workforce. Having a variety of different viewpoints challenges people to think outside the box and encourages creativity and innovation. Diversity helps to ensure your firm will continue to evolve and can be a significant differentiator in today’s competitive market. It can not only help attract and retain the right employees, but also the right clients.

Recognise achievements

The power of reward and recognition should never be underestimated. Achievements of all kinds should be celebrated, from individual milestones to team and firm-wide efforts. Whether it’s a work anniversary or winning a big case, make sure employees feel acknowledged and appreciated. This doesn’t mean you have to break out the cake for every achievement, sometimes a thoughtful email will do and other times a real celebration will be in order –just make sure you take the time give kudos when they’re due.

Always remember that your employees are your most important asset; they are the face of your firm, they are the ones interacting with your clients every day and they will define your firm’s future. A high performing firm requires a high performance workforce.


About our Guest Blogger


Fiona Crawford
Fiona Crawford is GM of Human Resources at InfoTrack, proud principal partner of the 2016 ALPMA Legal Management Summit.

Fiona has been driving the strategic people agenda to keep pace with the growth at InfoTrack since September 2015. InfoTrack recently won an Australian Business Award for Employer of Choice 2016, and has also been among the Best Places to Work in Australia for 3 years running.

Fiona has a wide range of experience with over 15 years’ human resources, training and coaching across a range of industries including sport, fitness, finance, hospitality and automotive. She has operated her own HR consulting business and worked on start-up HR functions, transformational cultural change programs, mergers and acquisitions, and strategic and operational HR initiatives. Her uncompromising commitment to high performance and continual improvement stems from her sporting background - a two-time medal winning Olympian in softball (Silver 2004 and Bronze 2000).



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