A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Legal Industry Innovation under the Microscope

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

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By Marc Totaro, National Manager Professional Services, Business and Private Banking, Commonwealth Bank of Australia

For some, the word innovation has become synonymous with some of the most cutting-edge changes within the legal industry, and a disruptive force in legal circles. For others, the prolific references to innovation have firmed its place as another corporate buzzword.

In today’s rapidly changing legal services market, we think that innovation is an important part of adapting to ongoing change. But to understand its place within business, we first sought to offer a definition that would unearth the common traits of successful innovation in the legal sector and quantify its value to individual firms.

So what does innovation mean for your business, how innovative is the professional services sector, and how can you put it into practice within your organisation?

In our latest research into the state of innovation within the industry, CommBank spoke to firms in the legal sector to understand the state of innovation and how well legal firms were performing.

To first define innovation, we looked to the Oslo Manual – an international set of guidelines used by the OECD and local government bodies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics to collect and interpret innovation data.

Therein, innovation is defined “as a new or significant improvement in one of the following four key areas – organisation, product, process and marketing”.

This definition is important when compared to what innovation means to professional services businesses, with almost half telling us they equate innovation with improvement or new processes, ideas or products.

While this indicates that many firms have a high level understanding of the tenants of innovation, we also found that many are yet to enter the realm of genuine innovation when assessed against the international standard.

Innovation ‘Active’

Our research shows healthy levels of innovation amongst professional services firms, with 44% of businesses in the sector qualifying as ‘innovation active.’ This proportion was in line with the national average for businesses across all industries. The top performing industry was manufacturing, with 61% qualifying as ‘innovation active’.

While 44% of professional services firms were genuinely innovative, a further 33% of firms claimed to be innovating but were found to be simply putting in place improvements – a strong foundation to move into the realm of innovation, but nevertheless falling short.

The remaining 23% of firms were either not innovating or had abandoned their innovation plans.

When looking more closely at the four key areas of innovation - organisation, product, process and marketing – we found that firms were more likely to have implemented organisation-based innovation, and less likely to be innovating within their marketing activities.

Business size also appears to factor into firm’s innovation activities with small and medium sized businesses with turnover up to $20 million more likely to innovate than those with greater annual earnings.

3 Key Characteristics of Successful Innovators

Our investigation of the attitudes, behaviours and characteristics of successful innovators shows that there are three breakthrough factors that typically distinguish innovation active businesses from their peers that are only improving:

1. Encouraging employees to ask questions that challenge the conventional approach

2. Adapting products and services to make the most of opportunities, and

3. Running experiments and piloting new ideas to test new ways of doing things

These three factors work to kickstart innovation and generate the initial successes that drive businesses to pursue the benefits that moving up the innovation curve can provide.

One of the largest behavioural gaps between businesses who are innovating and those simply making improvements is their drive to adapt their products and services for a changing market. They also seek to build a culture of innovation and encouraging them to ask challenging questions.

Editor’s Note:

Though Leadership Award NominationIf your firm has successfully implemented an innovative new initiative or is doing something different in response to the changing legal landscape, then enter this project in the 2017 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards. Nominations are open until 21 July, and winners will be announced at the 2017 ALPMA Summit gala dinner on Thursday 14 September at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. 



About our Guest Blogger

Marc TotaroMarc Totaro is the National Manager Professional Services, Business and Private Banking Commonwealth Bank of Australia 
Marc has over 25 years of experience in professional and financial services in Australia and the UK. He has overall responsibility for Commonwealth Bank’s professional services industry strategy and client experience. Marc has extensive relationship management experience across a broad range of industries.

If you would like to discuss the latest trends impacting the legal industry and your business, feel free to contact me on 0477 739 315 or email marc.totaro@cba.com.au, alternatively you can read our Legal Market Pulse for the latest developments in the legal industry.

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Managing Brand Integration

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

By Tineke Mann, eBusiness Manager, TIMG 


Mergers and acquisitions are common in the legal sector – but as many who have embarked down this path know, getting the post-acquisition integration right is not always easy! In this post, we share some of the key learnings from our acquisition of LitSupport in the hope that this will help you on your journey.

The Information Management Group (TIMG) embarked upon the challenge of successfully acquiring a complementary brand to enhance their service offering in early 2014. TIMG solve information management problems daily for thousands of businesses, large and small, in every major industry, across Australia and New Zealand. Our offering is simple; help clients store, manage, integrate and access important information securely, compliantly and effortlessly.

By December 2014, TIMG successfully acquired LitSupport; a leading organisation that specialises in providing secure and confidential information management services to law firms and corporate legal departments. The brainchild of Val Pitt some 20 years ago, LitSupport grew from a home-based business to a national organisation with over 130 employees and a service network spanning Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Why integrate?


Why would LitSupport embrace being absorbed into TIMG you may ask? 

“Times were changing. The legal industry was and is facing increasing pressure to improve performance and manage costs across all areas of operations” Val Pitt, Communications Manager, LitSupport said. “A union with TIMG enables us to deliver greater efficiencies and innovative solutions for our clients.”

TIMG similarly identified the need for innovation in the managed services and information management space. 

Chris Cotterrell, General Manager TIMG Australia recognised the need to provide a complete service offering to clients, ensuring they continued to grow and revolutionise the space.

“Investigations were completed by Ernst & Young, our parent company Freightways and TIMG management and it was decided that LitSupport offered the services we needed to compete in our industry, as well as offering an excellent cultural fit for both teams”.

The combined expertise in both companies has seen a positive outcome with TIMG now offering a full suite of services with greater capabilities to their clients. 

The integration challenges


The transition, however, has not been easy and has had opposing challenges for both parties in different ways.

Val acknowledges the positives and negatives that have accompanied the journey and acquisition of LitSupport within TIMG. 

“The hardest part for me has been letting go of decision making after twenty-one years of being the key decision maker. In contrast, the most rewarding part of the integration has been being part of a much larger organisation where accountability is shared and you are surrounded by many levels of support and expertise”.

The journey for TIMG has been focused on driving the acquisition from a strategic perspective, ensuring goals in the immediate future and in years to come are achieved. 

“There were areas we needed to tackle head on, areas that required a longer strategy to ensure a smooth transition, and areas we had little control over,” Chris said.

Mr Cotterrell explains how an earn-out period is still in place until 1 July 2017 and resulted in TIMG having limited authority for the first two and a half years of the acquisition which came with its own set of challenges.

Consideration factors in brand acquisition extend far beyond the immediate strategic vision. Chris Cotterrell explains: 

“Culturally, it’s difficult to integrate small owned business structures with a larger organisation that operate with a more corporate structure and related governance”.

“TIMG managers and those involved with LitSupport have been very excited about the service offering and the value this service will have for TIMG clients. TIMG has successfully signed an agreement with Ringtail to resell it as LitReview in line with the TIMG branding. This is an exciting development as legal and corporate clients will now have access to the most advanced eDiscovery tools” he continues.

Advice for others


With every acquisition, ensuring clear communication to clients is vital. 

“Branding and synergies will be the main focus in our immediate plans, with a five-year aim to triple the digitisation and processing revenue” Chris states.

As with all business changes, learnings will be had and will be different depending on the side of the table you sit at. 

Val recalls the experience: “I would not have changed a thing. I never look back – the future is way too bright. If I could offer advice to an organisation exploring the same avenue, I would encourage them to choose carefully, be prepared for change and commit to a successful merger”.

For TIMG the acquisition and integration challenges continue as the company continues to grow. 

At the start of the acquisition, integrating finance and payroll was prioritised; swiftly followed by the integration of CRM and job management to ensure client workflow remained unaffected.

“We should have taken a much more active role in cost control at that point of the journey. Costs blew out and bringing these back in line has been a painful process” Chris recalls. 

Internal considerations should also be allowed for, he said.

“More time should have been spent earlier with LitSupport staff to help them adjust to our wider vision. It’s taken almost three years to adjust the view that we are not two separate businesses, but one; TIMG.” 

As Chris highlights, people and their behaviours play an important role in any acquisition, and the management of these behaviours is time-consuming but necessary to provide clear vision and to set realistic expectations.

“If I could advise a business who were about to take on a similar journey, I would advise them to manage expectations, review systems and processes and don’t assume they will be compliant just because of certifications. 

Above all, make sure the cultures of the two businesses will work well together” Chis advises.

About our Guest Blogger


Tineke MannTineke Mann is the eBusiness Manager for TIMG, the information management service provider. Tineke is passionate about helping lawyers simplify their work-life through more efficient management of records and top data security. In addition to working closely with a range of clients tailoring solutions, she manages teams of eDiscovery experts, Online Backup specialists and in-house developers.









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




Prescriptive Conveyancing - The Big Red Button

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

By Chris Collinge, Partner/Director, Bytherules Conveyancing


How do you take a small six person firm located in a beautiful but relatively remote part of Queensland and turn it into a national firm? The budget is limited, the technology in its infancy and the industry still operates like it has done for many years.

That was the challenge we faced in 2011. Our first step was deciding to focus on one discipline, residential conveyancing. With that in mind we then developed a strategy for growing geographically but without having to open offices all over the country. A local presence is important in conveyancing, so we decided to build a business around experienced conveyancers working from home. We decided early on that they did not need to be licensed conveyancers. Indeed in QLD that particular qualification didn't exist anyway.

For some reason, the vast majority of conveyancers in our industry are women. Our decision to offer a work from home opportunity, along with the obvious work/life balance benefits that ensue struck a cord. We have been exceptionally lucky to recruit some highly experienced and knowledgeable conveyancers who may well have left the workforce had they not had this opportunity. With a combined 200 plus years of conveyancing experience in the business, there aren't many situations we haven't encountered. 


So, we had figured out how to grow geographically. We also had to ensure that the client received exactly the same quality of service, no matter where they lived and which conveyancer they used. As all of our conveyancers have many years experience, they all did things slightly differently. We had to make sure they not only followed the correct protocol for the jurisdiction they operated in, but we "wrapped" the service in our own unique and consistent service delivery method, with all the care and attention clients expect. All the time. No matter where they were.

Prescriptive Conveyancing


We needed prescriptive conveyancing.

This meant defining specific workflows, ensuring they were followed, and any exception automatically uplifted by the system. We split roles into administration and paralegal, and let the conveyancers focus on what they do best. This workflow based system is cloud based and everyone in the firm has the same access to the system irrespective of where they are. Compliance management forms a very big part of the system.

We were very proud that our project to develop prescriptive conveyancing was recognised as a finalist in the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards. 

We are now in 18 locations in QLD & NSW and have an aggressive growth plan that with a strategy that will be the first of its kind in Australia.

Our tagline is "impossibly easy conveyancing" and we continuously strive to make it so. In an increasingly competitive market we realise if we do not continue to innovate and invest, then we will not continue to grow.

Editor's Note


Watch the video featuring Chris discussing the objectives and challenges of this project and business, staff and customer benefits achieved from implementing this innovative project, recognised as a finalist in the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards, presented at the Gala Dinner at the 2016 ALPMA Summit in Melbourne. You can also check out videos on the innovative projects undertaken by our winner, Maddocks, and other finalists, Nexus Law Group and Hall & Wilcox.
 

About our Guest Blogger

Chris CollingeAfter moving to Sydney in 1998 Chris setup an Internet Service Provider for Businesses, a few years before broadband became available. Within a few years it had become an award winning business winning top Business ISP of the years for three years in a row, runner up in the best IT company to work for In Australia and #11 in the BTR Top100. Chris then invested in other IT related businesses until moving to Noosa in 2011 to become a partner in a local law firm, Bytherules Conveyancing Lawyers.

After working all his life in IT businesses, Chris recognised a great opportunity for a legal firm to adopt new technologies and work methods that he had applied to IT businesses in the past. Since then Chris and the management team have initiated and developed the work from home model that can only operate successfully once the IT infrastructure, processes and the right people are in place.



Artificial Intelligence trends and their impact on the legal sector

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

By James Parker, Executive Director, Legal Software Solutions,  LexisNexis


While Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not new to the legal space, only now is it starting to gain real momentum, and lawyers can expect to feel the impact as the technology promises to change the way law firms do business.

The legal sector is still in the early stages of discovering the full potential of AI; however innovative firms should take advantage of current and emerging technology if they wish to be market leaders in the industry.

What exactly is AI? 


Often called cognitive computing or machine learning, AI is computers completing tasks traditionally performed by people. One way that AI has affected the legal space is its ability to process data to find patterns, perform tests, analyse and evaluate data to produce a set of results.

The law’s framework of rules makes it ideal for applying AI systems, where computers will process those rules, enabling them to complete tasks usually performed by lawyers. In simple terms, AI technology works by applying an amount of sample data and outcomes, previously examined by a professional, to a cognitive system, which is then able to analyse large amounts of data at high speed to produce a faster and more accurate result.

The goal of AI isn’t to change the nature of legal work or replace human lawyers, but to enable lawyers to concentrate on more cognitive tasks such as developing legal arguments, instead of spending long periods of time on routine duties like drafting and reviewing documents, extensive research of case files and other un-billable tasks.

Not only does the application of artificial intelligence save time in multiple areas, it also reduces human error or fatigue. However, AI presents its own set of risks including technology or algorithm errors, and inaccurate application, which may pave the way for future changes in paralegal and associate roles and responsibilities.

As talk of AI ramps up and an increasing number of firms dabble with introducing the technology into their legal practices, the obvious question to ask is: where are we heading?

3 Key Trends for Legal AI


In 2016, there are key trends developing in the application of AI in case management across the legal space:

1. Document Reviews


Applying cognitive technologies to areas of law that require the heavy perusal of documents such as due diligence, research, investigations and compliance related works will likely increase within law firms as it offers wide-ranging benefits, including cost and time savings and increased accuracy.

AI-based predictive coding techniques allow documents to be reviewed by computers - providing the opportunity for those documents to be reviewed at a much faster rate - and with more accuracy, saving both money and time. It’s a technology that benefits firms of all sizes; allowing smaller companies to take on more sizeable cases without the burden of hiring additional staff.

In a case likely to lead to a boost in using AI for document review, using predictive coding in electronic disclosure was backed by the UK high court earlier this year, in the first contested case relating to the validity of cognitive computing. 

Predictive coding – approved in the US in 2013 - involves a set of sample documents being analysed by a lawyer. The software can then analyse and rank multiple documents at high speed while employing algorithms that learn from the previously processed data. Berwin Leighton Paisner argued that predictive coding would save costs – claiming that engaging a paralegal to complete the equivalent task would cost 2.5 times more and would be more inaccurate. The ruling followed the UK High Court’s landmark decision from February this year to officially allow the use of predictive coding in e-disclosure to automate the review process.

Australian Courts are yet to take an official position, but it’s reasonable to expect they will follow suit in endorsing the use of predictive coding given the increasing amounts of electronically stored information creating considerable challenges in cost, time and accuracy.

2. Case Predictions


More exciting for the legal industry is the potential for AI to predict the outcomes of legal disputes and proceedings. Predictions would be made via the automatic analysis of past case records using data mining and predictive analytic techniques to forecast outcomes, such as the ideal percentage at which a specific offer would lead to a settlement.

This AI application would significantly aid lawyers in the general management of cases, by enabling them to make decisions based on the likelihood of a certain outcome taking place.

AI for case predictions is already being used to some extent. For example, London firm Hodge Jones & Allen implemented a predictive model of case outcomes which assesses the viability of its personal injury caseload.

Developing the model involved the analysis of data (based on the outcomes of 600 cases over 12 months), with particular focus on the factors contributing to case outcomes, the awarded damages and costs to the firm.

Using AI in case predictions is a good example of how the combination of cognitive computing and human expertise provides an enhanced customer experience. Such AI models support better decision making in more accurately forecasting results, increasing chances of winning a case or adding confidence to legal advice.

3. Advisory Services


Another emerging trend in the potential use of AI in the legal space is its application to simple advisory services.

AI technology isn’t able to provide specific advice in relation to a particular client matter. However it can respond to simple (and common) legal questions while also providing ample supporting references, by analysing large amounts of legal documents, cases and legislations - something which would traditionally require a paralegal or trainee lawyer to invest hours, if not days, of their time, reading through text books and case reports. 

An example of AI advising is the use of legal web advisors, which uses AI software to lead the client from one question to the other via a decision tree system. The software analyses user input to classify the problem, analyse it and produce output in in the form of a problem solution.

While clients won’t receive the legal advice expected from personalised consultation, they will receive a valid level of professional direction, which may be enough for those unwilling to pay the fees required to obtain traditional legal advice.

Where do we go from here?


Artificial intelligence will not take the place of a lawyer, due to the complex nature of disputes and negotiation and the expectations of clients. AI will, however, continue to challenge traditional models of legal service delivery, to automate services, decrease costs and improve accuracy using data.

At the moment, AI’s impact is predominantly on paralegal and junior lawyer roles, whose current duties are likely to become automated over the next several years. AI’s ability to deliver better decision-making through using data for case prediction or matter analysis also adds value to the client.

Firms that are implementing AI strategies, usually through collaborations with specialist AI technology providers, are viewed as innovative and cutting-edge.

Soon, though, firms which refuse to do so will be viewed as out-dated and out-of-touch, as AI becomes the new normal in the legal sector.

About our Guest Blogger


James ParkerJames leads the Legal Software Solutions (LSS) team at LexisNexis Pacific which is responsible for delivering software solutions that improve the legal outcomes to clients, helping them to make better decisions, achieve better results, and be more productive, by combining content and data with workflow, analytics and technology, leveraging the New Lexis platform and cloud technology. James previously led the LexisNexis Practice Management group across the pacific region.

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. His 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.


Forging new ground requires a commitment to technology

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

By Jacqueline Keddie, Business Manager, Nexus Law Group


Developing a business in unchartered territory can be a little daunting – there are no rules to follow, no paths that have already been forged. The success or failure of an innovative business often comes down to a commitment to investing in technology.

When Nexus Law Group was first established we knew we had a great idea. But great ideas don’t translate to success, unless you can put in place the infrastructure required to make them work. Traditional law firms have their pick of practice management software. Nexus did not.

As a dispersed (embedded contractor) law firm, cutting a path in the ‘NewLaw’ space we had to create everything from scratch. Frankly, it hasn’t been easy.

It was out of necessity that the OpenLaw system was born - a unique practice management and remuneration system that connects independent senior specialist lawyers, allowing them to work together seamlessly and operate as a unified firm, fully supported and resourced by a central office hub. This innovative initiative was recently recognised as a finalist in the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards.


To create such a system and address the challenges identified, we invested heavily in the customisation of a new, cloud-based practice management software from New Zealand, the only software available internationally that allowed for extensive practice based customisation.

The software was revised to build a silo structure that allows independent lawyers to work in isolation or together in matter based teams when needed. It also allowed the formation of group based precedents systems, knowledge banks, billing systems and customised report building.

Beauty in simplicity

The power of the OpenLaw system is beautiful in its simplicity, when you seamlessly connect a pool of independent senior skill (as opposed to a pool of leveraged employees) and deliver to the market in this fashion, not only do previously discontented lawyers become highly engaged with far better remuneration benchmarks, you have a strong platform to compete with large national firms on their own turf. At the same time, through the low overhead structure, clients benefit from a direct access model and flexibility of service and pricing options and less relative fees. 

The rapidly growing Nexus team has been working with OpenLaw for several years and in the last 12 months we have been working hard to bring OpenLaw to market. This means that other dispersed law firms don’t have to start from scratch, like we did. As the saying goes – why reinvent the wheel?!

Introducing OpenLaw to the marketplace has significant potential to shift the industry as a whole to the Nexus style of practice, which is arguably better than traditionally structured firms for both lawyers and clients on a number of levels and, for once, represents truly positive industry disruption.

A new category of legal practice


Whilst others have focused on marketing strategies masquerading as ‘NewLaw’, with the OpenLaw system, Nexus has quietly been restructuring the law firm itself, creating an entirely new category of practice for lawyers.

The fixed remuneration model of OpenLaw emulates the incentive of a partnership without the need to be in an actual (outdated) partnership structure. This unique and innovative, solution enables independent practitioners to truly operate together as a unified law firm without the competitive tension that would otherwise exist.

The structure allows otherwise disconnected expertise to come together under one service platform, allowing effective competition with traditional ‘BigLaw’ firms, and providing a real practice alternative in a market sitting between the large firm model and sole practice, combining the best aspects of both worlds without the deficiencies of either (practice freedom with large firm resources and collegiate support).

With the low overhead OpenLaw model, we connect clients directly with some of the best lawyers in the industry - at up to half the cost of engaging the same lawyers in their former traditionally structured large firms. It is, in essence, an extremely efficient specialist lawyer delivery system for corporate clientele and we believe, the best option for the practice of modern law.

We believe that unless something produces a positive evolution for all participants in the legal process, then it does not represent true innovation. With this in mind, I know that Nexus is a true innovator and an industry disrupter with a difference.

Using OpenLaw, I am proud to say that we are now operating successfully in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, with its growth increasing exponentially across Australia.


About our Guest Blogger


Jacqueline KeddieJacqui is a Nexus Law Group’s Business Manager. Having practiced as a lawyer for many years before entering the world of legal recruitment, Jacqui is uniquely placed to understand why it is so important to help lawyers structure their career and realise their professional and personal aspirations and, hence, why alternate practice models are so critical to the profession. It was this understanding which led her to join Nexus where she now works with a wonderful team striving to make a difference within the legal industry.

Nexus Law Group has inverted the traditional law firm structure to reflect modern practice needs. It offers lawyers are more rewarding practice environment and clients a more efficient and cost effective service delivery.

Its unique OpenLaw practice model, based on cloud based software, is specifically designed to join together a collective of senior legal experts under a single, unified practice platform, enabling it to deliver high-end, specialist expertise under a ‘direct access model’. The system incentivises effective collaboration between experts, which results in better outcomes for clients.

The 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards were presented at the recent ALPMA Summit Gala dinner at the Medallion Club, Etihad Stadium.


Developing an app for the insurance sector

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

By Vanessa Porter, Senior Associate, Hall & Wilcox


Early in 2016 the Hall & Wilcox NSW statutory insurance team recognised that, due to changes in privacy rules, the way insurance providers had traditionally approached the identification of recovery potential on workers’ compensation claims needed to change.

Essentially, opportunities for us and other law firms to undertake screening projects in-house for insurance providers were no longer a viable option, as any third party presence on the office floor of an insurer would be a breach of the privacy rules.

The effect of these changes impacted the insurers as they were now required to allocate resources and time to screening claims, and then further resources and time to refer identified claims out to legal providers to pursue. The allocation of resources was not as simple as allocating staff to screen the claims, it also involved extensive training of personnel around the very complex area of law. The effect was also felt by us as a legal provider as the opportunity to partner closely with our clients was taken away, not to mention the opportunity to obtain instructions as a result of an ability to screen claim files to identify recovery potential.

So, Hall & Wilcox partnered with Neota Logic to develop a web based application for the insurance sector to overcome these privacy issues and other 'disruptions' insurers were facing. The app delivers a simple solution to challenge that was complex and overwhelming for many insurance providers. This innovative project was recognised as a finalist in the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards, presented at the 2016 ALPMA Summit Gala Dinner in Melbourne recently.  

The app is user friendly and has the ability to facilitate the identification of recovery potential on workers’ compensation claims. The application requires the user to answer a short series of questions, taking less than a couple of minutes to complete, and is provided with a report containing the relevant information to the recovery aspect of the claim. The application enables insurance professionals to identify claims early in the life of a claim, with little to no cost to them in terms of time or monetary expenditure.

In circumstances where a recovery has been identified, the user can then manage the recovery aspect of the claim internally through their own processes or outsource to Hall & Wilcox or an alternate provider to pursue.

In the past, the identification process may have taken up to half an hour or more per claim, through the use of the application, is done in less than two minutes, and often less than one.

The application can be used to increase the identification of claims with recovery potential across an insurer’s entire portfolio. For example, the application can be introduced as a KPI for staff reviewing claims at the six month mark (or before a claim is closed, where early closure is achieved), ensuring that every claim has been reviewed for recovery potential. 

The result of the review using the application is that recovery potential is identified early, ensuring that any evidence required to pursue such a claim is not lost due to delayed identification, legal advice can be sought in a timely manner and recovery can be achieved early in the life of a claim ensuring that money is going back into the pocket of the insurer/regulator, policy holders see an early and positive effect on their premiums and a permanent record, by way of the report produced by the application, is attached to the file should the information be required for audit or other purposes in the future.

The application can be used by workers’ compensation insurers, insurance brokers/intermediaries and employers. As the technology is simple to use, it can be easily operated by an employee at any level, even someone who has no expertise in identifying the recovery potential on a claim. It can also double as a training tool as its built-in hints and tips assist the user to familiarise themselves with the many and varied scenarios that are involved in a recovery claim.

The recovery application is one of a number of initiatives Hall & Wilcox are implementing as part of its 'Smarter law' strategy, where we are looking at new and better ways of working with our clients, embracing technology, forming new ways of approaching legal issues and improving processes that deliver real value for our clients.

Editor's Note

Readers interested in learning more about this innovative project can watch the video below where Vanessa explains the project and its benefits for the firm, clients and the industry in more detail.

WATCH VIDEO


About our Guest Blogger

Vanessa Porter
Vanessa Porter is a Senior Associate at Hall & Wilcox. Vanessa has worked in the insurance industry for 19 years and has gained extensive experience acting for and advising both worker and insurer clients. She has in-house and private practice experience managing workers compensation, work injury damages, common law, double insurance and section 151Z recoveries claims. She has a particular interest in defending work injury damages claims and pursuing section 151Z recoveries. Additionally, Vanessa regularly advises insurer clients with respect to compensation to relatives and nervous shock claims. Her clients include government sector clients, Workcover scheme agents, self-insured parties and specialised insurers.



 


Dodgy dealings are big business

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

By Moses Samaha, General Manager, Commercial & Property Solutions, Veda


Suspicious business practices have been a hot topic in the media recently. The infamous Panama Papers – a leak of more than 11.5 million files from offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca – recently revealed how businesses and individuals can hide their dealings, avoid tax and even get around their obligations under legislation such as the Anti-Money Laundering / Counter Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) Act.

In the case of the Panama Papers, Mossack Fonseca dealt with intermediaries for companies and organisations, which helped obscure the real owners of the money and assets being administered by Mossack Fonseca. While many of the accounts detailed in the Panama Papers are legitimate and legal, keeping ultimate beneficial owners obscured helps individuals and organisations indulging in illegal behaviour to go unnoticed.

Because of this, all the companies named in the Panama Papers leak – even those that have done nothing wrong – are now facing a hit to their reputations. The same is true for many of the businesses these companies are linked to, which are dealing with reputational damage by association.

On a local level, this event is a timely reminder for businesses of the importance of maintaining ongoing customer due diligence and understanding the beneficial ownership structure of any company they have a relationship with.

Who are you really dealing with?


Clearly, knowing who you are doing business with, managing the risk of fraud and ensuring you are meeting all AML/CTF obligations is of paramount importance. Ongoing customer due diligence is a necessity for businesses wanting to keep themselves safe – but, unfortunately, it’s one that some companies’ risk and compliance teams neglect.

The importance of regular checks can be lost as businesses focus on onboarding new customers faster, improving the customer experience and managing internal workloads.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that AML/CTF legislation is not strictly prescriptive on how frequently to undertake ongoing due diligence. The lack of guidelines on when to perform checks may contribute to the practice falling by the wayside.

What’s the worst that could happen?


For businesses that allow their ongoing due diligence to slip, the threat is two-fold.

Without a thorough understanding of a company’s structure and the individuals involved in the business, bad behaviour can go unnoticed until a scandal, like the Panama Papers, makes it public. By that time, it’s too late – businesses involved with companies named and shamed for dubious practices will inevitably come off looking worse for wear.

On an even more serious note, allowing ongoing customer due diligence to lapse creates loopholes for companies and individuals with criminal intent to slip through, hiding among institutions that are taking part in legitimate offshore activity.

The key to saving your business from reputational risk


It’s tricky to know if a business you’re working with is putting you at risk until after an incident occurs. But there are things you can do to protect yourself from getting involved with high-risk entities.

Thorough customer due diligence is the best thing you can do to ensure you’re not fooled by untrustworthy businesses. Upfront checks are a vital step in ensuring customers and business owners are and do what they seem.

But don’t think you can ‘set and forget’. Due diligence shouldn’t be a one-time exercise. Make sure you have regular ongoing customer due diligence processes in place to keep your information up to date.

Editor's Note

Want to learn more about how to protect your firm from reputational damage? Moses will be presenting "Tips to Avoid being the next 'Panama Papers' Event” at 5.45 pm on Wednesday 7 September, at the opening of the 2016 ALPMA Summit Trade Exhibition at Etihad Stadium , Melbourne. You can also attend other complimentary Partner Connection sessions to hear the compelling insights from our Principal & Gold Summit Partners. This is a great opportunity to also meet more than 50 market-leading legal industry vendors, conveniently gathered under one roof at the largest legal management trade show in the Southern Hemisphere. The public opening commences at 3.00pm – and you do not have to be registered to attend Summit to come along. If you would like to attend the public opening get a free pass.

About our Guest Blogger



Moses SamahaMoses Samaha has almost 20 years’ industry experience working across consumer and business market segments holding executive positions in product development/marketing, strategy and sales.
Moses has worked closely with the commercial credit industry for the past five years as head of Commercial Risk. During this time he revamped many of Veda’s services that are used today by customers and extended Veda’s capabilities into supplier risk with the successful acquisitions of Kingsway and Corporate Scorecard. More recently Moses took on the role to head the Commercial and Property Solutions business at Veda. This division is responsible for managing Veda’s cross company property storage and the relationship with key government relationships such as ASIC and AFSA.
Prior to joining Veda, Moses was part of the Executive Management Team heading up a number of functions in Telstra’s Innovation, Product and Marketing group.







Digital transformation and the provision of legal services: what legal practice managers need to know and do

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

By Benjamin Balk, General Manager of Product and Marketing, SAI Global 


Digital transformation is changing the way that businesses can operate across a range of industries, and the legal industry is no exception. We would all agree that digital transformation is a current hot topic, both locally and globally, but do you know that digital transformation as a concept is still misunderstood by many?

What exactly is “digital transformation”?


Let us start with a simple question, a definition. What is “digital transformation”? At its most basic level, or at its very core, digital transformation is the use of technology to radically improve the performance of an organisation, and this includes its people.

Businesses, including us in the practice and business of law, often think of digital transformation as a formal effort to revamp our vision, models and investments in order to achieve our organisational goals and objectives, and importantly, stay competitive in the modern digital economy and evolving legal landscape.

Digital transformation in the professional services industry


In the professional services space, digital transformation is very much about realigning technology and business models to more effectively engage with our clients and more efficiently deliver our services to them. As legal practitioners, we would look at every touch point in the client experience lifecycle as well as the matter/transaction lifecycle to identify how we could inject technology to, basically, do things faster and better. Faster means more time efficient, which often translates to more cost effective, and better means (in addition to faster) more accurate by taking less risks and making less mistakes.

The real challenge


But that is easier said than done. The challenge with digital transformation is not about digital. Digital is typically the more logical, technical and easier part of the equation. The challenge is the part that involves transformation. Investment in technology is not a difficult concept to grasp, and many law firms now have one or more resident legal technology experts and a dedicated legal technology budget; but the real test is how exactly can law firms of all shapes and sizes realign business models in practice. You see, this is where digital transformation as a concept is misunderstood; a mere shift in investment in technology is not the same as digital transformation. Don’t fall into the common trap of thinking you are changing, when in reality, you are only investing in technology. The investment, whether in time or money or both, does not equate to digital transformation.

Here is a real life example. After surveying the fee earners to find out what they like, and after much research into the different solutions provided by different vendors, Big Firm Alpha (not its real name!) introduced a state-of-the-art, complete digital document management system. Everyone received training to use this new DMS. Disappointedly, while some fee earners seemed to have adapted well to the new DMS, many continued to complain “why fix something that wasn’t broken”, referring to the old system that had been in use without much incident for years.

This isn’t unfamiliar, is it? We have all heard of or even experienced the less than satisfactory or the rather unsuccessful implementation of practice management software or knowledge management systems. Why did they fall short of expectations?

The answer is this – the implementer of the new technology only advocated changing the process, and did not invest in transitioning the mindsets of people and building a culture that fosters transformation (or more precisely, digital transformation). Change management to take advantage of any technological or business process change is paramount to getting a strong return on investment. Projects should not be about the technical investment only, they should take into account the change management investment required to achieve the returns sought.


The relationship between digital transformation and business processes


We all know that digital transformation has opened up new opportunities for law firms to innovate and streamline business process. Let us break this down a little and work out how exactly this could be done.

A business process essentially is a collection of linked tasks that delivers a service or a product to a user or customer. For example, to deliver our legal services to our clients, the tasks that we have to undertake in the process may include legal research, document production, tracking billable time and record management. A more specific example is the document production process in conveyancing. Imagine this – a technological tool that could, among other things, automatically and accurately generate contracts, transfer forms, mortgage discharge documents, revenue office forms and the letters involved in the settlement process. Wouldn’t that be a dream for a busy conveyancing practice?

If there is nothing to compare to, traditional, manual business processes while it may not be great, they may just be fine (in terms of sufficiency) for a short while. However, when compared to automated processes, it becomes crystal clear that a reliance on manual processes could be costly, in terms of time, human resources and risk.


Risk in business processes


Let us turn our minds to risk for a moment. The relationship between business processes and risks is a tight one. Risk is an unavoidable business phenomenon. Some risks are inherent in business processes, for example, the risk of fraud, and the risk of source data errors. Other examples of risk in business processes include operational risks, technology risk, financial risk, compliance risk, legal risk, information security risk, and health and safety risk. Indeed, business processes of a law firm could be the place where risk materialises.

Let us look at one task in the business process of delivering a legal service we just referred to – legal research. In particular, let us look at conducting searches. From conducting due diligence on transactions of any size, to providing a legal opinion just prior to settlement of a multimillion dollar financing, lawyers need to regularly access commercial information available on the PPS Register, the ASIC registers, AFSA’s records and the various land titles offices’ records. Searches are then carefully reviewed so as to confirm any disclosures made, uncover connections, and expose weaknesses. Proper and swift analysis of the search results informs proper and timely legal, commercial and strategic advice. Don’t forget the contrary is also true – incomplete information gathering leads to deficient analysis, which then leads to poor professional advice. This spells risk in all possible ways. A smaller risk would be the loss of time and money so as to re-do the searches and re-draft the documents. Of bigger consequence is that the firm could be sued, and the firm’s brand and reputation could be on the line. Further, the client would be dissatisfied, and any competitor would be handed an advantage – completely for free!

Digital transformation has offered firms the opportunity to finding new ways to reduce business process risk. By way of example, there is now legal technology that accurately analyses multiple sets of commercial information from public sources and automatically creates one single easy to understand report. Technology such as this, especially if it is one that enables visual mapping of the often complex web of interactions and interconnections, and that can be accessed anywhere due to being cloud-based, are revolutionary – but only if people use it!

Top tip – people is the key


Whether you have long recognised or only just realised that the real challenge in digital transformation is the part that involves transformation, my top tip for the successful use of technology to fundamentally improve the performance of our legal practices is nevertheless relevant – focus on people. This includes everyone, from the managing partner to the graduate lawyer, and do not forget those who are not in the traditional “fee earner” roles, such as knowledge managers, precedents specialists and professional support lawyers.

This is what history has shown – businesses, including law firms, that had focused primarily on technologies without investing in transforming their people’s mindset and actions to ensure their impact do not enjoy the benefits to their fullest extent. This is indeed in line with the observations I have over the years, and no doubt, yours too.

Easy steps that legal practice manages can take


The essence of digital transformation comes down to people. It is how people’s behaviours differ from that of those before them that genuinely matters. To change people’s behaviours for digital transformation success, legal practice managers can focus on communicating these two messages:

  • We are all humans. Humans make mistakes, this is so, even if we are very skilled and experienced in what we are trained to do. Human error is a very real risk. It is a threat with the potential to lead to serious consequences.
  • Process digitisation, such as in the form of automation, enables law firms to deploy people to more strategic and high-value tasks. This means, for example, lawyers are happier as they are doing less repetitive tasks and less paper pushing; they are less likely to be in a position to make mistakes; instead, they can use and develop their talent on “real legal work”. This also means management is happier as the workforce is happier, the firm is more competitive and profitable, and importantly, they are well placed to provide exceptional legal services to clients.

You may not realise it, but just by taking steps to deliver and reinforce these two messages is part of a digital strategy, regardless of whether or not you have one clearly articulated and documented. (If no, you could start now!) As we design or redesign our business processes – this can be from manual to part-automated to fully automated, or from no integration to part-integration to full integration – these messages help create a positive culture that fosters change and to drive digital transformation.

Now that we have a sound understanding of the true meaning of digital transformation, let us work on transforming people’s mindsets and actions, leverage the advanced technological solutions that are now very accessible, and thereby transform our legal practices for the better.


Editor's Note

Interested in learning more facilitating digital transformation at your firm? Benjamin will be presenting on “Balancing the Opportunity and Risks Posed by Digital Transformation to Help Your Firm Better Manage Risk” at 5.20pm on Wednesday 7 September, at the opening of the 2016 ALPMA Summit Trade Exhibition at Etihad Stadium , Melbourne. You can also attend other complimentary Partner Connection sessions to hear the compelling insights from our Principal & Gold Summit Partners. This is a great opportunity to also meet more than 50 market-leading legal industry vendors, conveniently gathered under one roof at the largest legal management trade show in the Southern Hemisphere. The public opening commences at 3.00pm – and you do not have to be registered to attend Summit to come along. If you would like to attend the public opening get a free pass

ALPMA also offers great early bird savings on attending the 2016 ALPMA Summit – but hurry, as these savings end at midnight on Tuesday 2 August. Register now!


About our Guest Blogger


Benjamin Balk

As General Manager, Product and Marketing, Benjamin Balk oversees the product and information solutions strategy for SAI Global Property Solutions, which includes the information product offerings currently being rolled out to conveyancers and solicitors in preparation for electronic settlements. A seasoned executive, Benjamin has held strategy, marketing, sales and product management roles in a number of information services companies including Experian, the Veda Group and CITEC Confirm. These roles have stood him in good stead in his current position, enabling him to contribute his global product management and data experience to the development and improvement of the SAI Global Property Solutions product range. Constantly looking for innovative solutions to solve problems, Benjamin’s mission is to help conveyancers and solicitors and the banking and finance sector to improve industry engagement and efficiency for the benefit of all those involved in Property Transactions.




The prioritisation crisis in BigLaw business model firms

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

By Dr George Beaton, Partner, beaton 


In some ways I wish I had read Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption, Geoffrey Moore’s most recent book (2015) while researching the content for my new book Remaking Law Firms: Why & How, co-authored with Dr Imme Kaschner.

On the other hand, it’s pleasing to have come to much the same conclusions as Moore about the urgency in resolving the prioritisation crisis, in our case the crisis faced by BigLaw business model firms. Chapter One of Moore’s book is titled 'A Crisis in Prioritization'. His first paragraph is masterful in succinctly capturing the essence the crisis, which applies as much to BigLaw firms, as it does to all businesses.

“What makes a modern business different? Simply put, speed plus disruption. Wave after wave of next generation technology is continually transforming the landscape of business, both inside the tech sector, where new offers are germinated, and everywhere else outside it (emphasis added), where they are largely consumed.

“This results in two imperatives for any established enterprise (in other words 99.9% of law firms built on the BigLaw business model – click here for an explanation of the BigLaw business model and its implications). In markets where you want to be the disruptor, where you want to play offense, you must catch the next wave. At the same time, in those markets where your current franchise is the incumbent and myself under disruptive attack, you have to play defense in order to prevent the next wave from catching you.”


Which way should BigLaw firms be looking to resolve the prioritisation crisis?


In the first instance, for the vast majority of firms, the answer is to play defence, that is avoid being swamped in the tsunami of change. I say this because incumbent law firms are risk-averse partnerships with no balance sheets, at least to speak of. This means the first priority is to survive in ways that assure their continued capacity to serve clients profitably.

My colleagues and I, as well as a growing number of others, Bruce MacEwen for example, have documented the reasons the environment of BigLaw is now an irreversible buyers’ market – see this post for an explanation. As little as a decade ago, all forces affecting the ability of law firms to extract superior profits for their work were benign, i.e. it was a sellers’ market. Now the there is hyper-competition, substitutes are growing in number, types and influence, clients’ have the power in setting prices, and lawyers willing to work in the tournament for partnership are becoming fewer and fewer.

Job #1: Remake your firm


We interviewed 40 people around the world in researching our forthcoming book. One of these is Stuart Fuller, Global Managing Partner of King & Wood Mallesons. Stuart used a memorable metaphor in explaining the challenge of preventing the next wave from catching you. Here’s an extract of what he said: “We are rebuilding it (the business model of King & Wood Mallesons) as we speak. I like to use an aero plane analogy; it’s like rebuilding a 787 mid-flight as we continue to fly the plane and that creates challenges”.

So it’s not just the media, advertising, travel, hospitality, retail, automotive and transport industries that are being disrupted by Netflix, Google, Airbnb, Amazon, Uber and Tesla. It’s law too with Axiom, IBM’s Watson, Riverview Law, and Neota Logic – to name just a few of the 100s of substitutes for law firms and lawyers.

Substitutes are not always competitors. Many are also complements for those firms that see the opportunity and grasp it. For example, read this article ‘An industrial revolution is coming to law‘ by Michael Mills. And this analysis I wrote last year ‘10 reasons BigLaw managing partners are not sleeping very well‘ setting out the opportunities and threats.

How much time do BigLaw firms have?


For globalising firms, Stuart Fuller suggested it was no more than five years in our interview, positing that there were only 15-20 firms likely to achieve leading global status and scale. 

For BigLaw firms taken as an industry, I think the answer is ‘It depends on what your expect to achieve before your firm is severely affected’. By ‘severely affected‘ I mean a halving or more of the profit per point of equity that the firm currently enjoys. The reasons for this assertion that profits are likely to halve in the majority of firms are set out in my September 2012 post ‘PPEP levels are doomed without re-invention‘ (note the year this was written!).

The realpolitik prioritisation crisis for BigLaw


This is how I see the realpolitik prioritisation crisis for BigLaw. Changing a firm’s business (aka operating) model is not hard in theory. Yes, it’s a massive task, but the real challenge is managing the investment required. As Moore puts it on page 25 “Not only is this going to be expensive to undertake, but also the ROI will come entitle out years, making a highly unattractive dent in the current years’ performance“.

There’s the rub for firms whose partners expect every feasible dollar of profit (and sometimes more) to be distributed every year. That means virtually every firm, with a handful of notable exceptions.

Some BigLaw firms are showing the way


It’s not that all BigLaw firms are sitting on their hands and waiting for the tsunami. Thankfully there are publicly acknowledged pathfinders such as Seyfarth Shaw, Allen & Overy and Gowlings WLG.  And there are perhaps less well-publicised examples of smaller firms, ranging from Inksters (Scotland) to Valorem (Chicago) to Hive Legal, McInnes Wilson and more in Australia.

The prioritisation crisis in BigLaw firms can be avoided. It takes an acute understanding of the environment, clarity of vision, leadership, and change management competence.

Editor's Note

Interested in learning more? Dr George Beaton is a keynote speaker at the 2016 ALPMA Summit, 'A Blueprint for Change' which will be held at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne from 7 - 9 September. His presentation, 'Why it's time to remake your firm's business model' will elaborate on this theme and provide compelling insight on how to tackle this challenge.

Register now for fantastic early bird savings!


About our Guest Blogger


George BeatonDr George Beaton is a partner in beaton.  George is a Senior Fellow, Melbourne Law School in the University of Melbourne. His book, “Remaking Law Firms:Why and How" was published by the American Bar Association in March 2016.

Dr George Beaton has guided clients through a wide variety of strategic decisions in his 25 years as an advisor and consultant. Today his practice is focused on corporate advisory, performance improvement and problem-solving assignments for Boards and CEOs of professional services firms.

He is widely regarded as a leading independent authority on professional services industries and their firms. His work covers Australia, Asia, USA, Canada, and UK. He has a particular interest in the imperative for professional services firms to remake their business models. His thought leadership is published regularly and he is a regular keynote speaker in Australia, UK, Canada, and USA. George tweets at @grbeaton_law and @NewLawNewRules.

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