You’ve probably been
hearing more and more about “NewLaw” lately. What exactly is it supposed to
mean, and what does it have to do with your law firm?
George Beaton, who
coined the “NewLaw” phrase and has written more than anyone else on this subject,
describes the NewLaw business model as the antithesis of the BigLaw model. We
recommend reading George’s extensive writings on the subject in order to
further acquaint yourself with this concept and its examples.
For our part, and for
the purposes of identifying the firms and companies that qualified under this
name, we defined NewLaw as:
allowed us to encompass not just law firms, but also new legal talent
combinations, legal service managers, and legal technology that both changes
how lawyers practice and places the power of legal service
provision in clients’ hands.
We used that
definition in a post earlier this year at Jordan Furlong’s Law21 blog, “An incomplete inventory of NewLaw,” which
listed more than 80 entities that qualified under this definition. But most of
these examples hailed from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. At the
invitation of ALPMA, and drawing upon the knowledge base of Edge
International’s Australian partner Sean Larkan, we’ve produced a similar
inventory for the local legal market.
First, a few
exceptions and disclaimers.
legal companies and technologies whose primary focus is the marketing or
management of law practices, rather than the creation and delivery of legal
services, are not on the list.
We also decided not
to include e-discovery providers, partly because we’d spend several pages
cataloguing all the players in this market, but also because e-discovery
is increasingly accepted as part of litigation and isn’t all that “New”
With PriceWaterhouseCooper’s recent foray into the Australian legal market, through the acquisition of Sydney’s LCR Advisory, the
legal profession must again get ready to say hello to accountants practicing law. For now, however, we are leaving
accounting firms off this list.
document and consumer law portals LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer provide
a sort of hybrid combination of legal documents available online and networks
of affiliated law firms that supplement the documents with higher-value
services. More like them will emerge.
A Brief Inventory of NewLaw in Australia
With those points out
of the way, here is our brief inventory of NewLaw entities in Australia and
environs. As you will see, they are invariably small or mid-tier operations.
- AdventBalance - “A firm that
combines the expertise of outside counsel with the best qualities of a
sophisticated in-house team.”
- Bespoke Law - “A network of
experienced lawyers who are available to provide clients with tailored support
without watching the clock.”
- Curwoods - “Our team of experienced
professionals, combined with our Artist-in-Residence program, means that we
balance thoughtful creativity with innovative commercial solutions.”
- Hive Legal - “We embrace the opportunity
to value our work based on the outcomes we achieve for our clients and have a
strong preference for value pricing.”
- Integrated Legal Holdings Ltd - “A growing network
of member firms, affiliates and strategic relationships, targeting growth
markets and segments in Australia and the Asia Pacific region.”
- M+K - “A growing firm of commercial lawyers
and industry advocates, devoted to the needs of businesses and asset owners in
- Marque Lawyers – “We started our firm with the
desire to practise law in a new and better manner, and in particular to
do away with the business of charging for legal services on the basis of
the time spent doing it.”
- Nest Legal: “Online after-hours lawyers for
busy Victorians ... We offer fixed-fee services in estates, conveyancing and
unbundled coaching for self-represented litigants. ... Our prices are all
listed on our website.”
- Plexus - “We have unshackled talented lawyers
from grey suits, high overheads, billable hours and the costly partnership
structure – along with many other anachronisms. ... We are transforming the
value of legal.”
- Pod Legal - “An innovative law firm offering
expertise in intellectual property, technology law and social media law. We
provide fixed fee quotes and we stick to them ... no matter what.”
- Salvos Legal - “We provide quality
commercial and property law advice on a paid basis. However, all of our fees
fund our ‘legal aid’ sister firm. Both are wholly owned by The Salvation Army.”
- Slater & Gordon - “A leading consumer
law firm in Australia with a growing presence in the UK consumer law market. We
employ 1,200 people in 70 locations across Australia and 1,300 people in 18
locations in the UK. ”
There is a temptation,
when thinking about concepts like “NewLaw,” to think solely in terms of firms
with unique structures, or that use some version of outsourcing or who have,
for instance, moved away from time-based billing. We think it’s more a question of the unique ways in which they structure themselves and deliver their services.
Many of these firms
have also truly recognised the importance of all their people, including support
staff, and treat them accordingly — in some cases, offering them an interest in
the firm. It is therefore better to take a much broader view, and to consider
just why it is that clients have moved their work from traditional firms to
these new shops in the first place.
The message we should
take from the relentless pressures felt by traditional firms is that the market
has tired of what they offer and how they deliver their services. The market is
looking for something just as capable and competent, but more accessible,
efficient, and client-friendly than what Law As Usual offers.
Many of these
traditional firms (in many cases, the larger firms) still seem to believe that
it is all about what
they decide to offer that matters, rather than what clients want
The lessons of
NewLaw will be lost on them, to their ultimate detriment. Consider what has happened to the American legal market over the past five years: the 200 largest
firms in the U.S. now have only enough legal work to keep 0.6 of a lawyer (per
partner, on average) busy.
traditional firms, particularly in Australasia, do hear these messages. And in
their own ways, they are responding, even if it is to only replicate what other
more dynamic firms have been doing for years. For instance, several “normal”
firms do offer a full range of capabilities and charge-out rates for their
lawyers, reducing the incentives for clients to outsource to India or explore
NewLaw options. This sets them apart from their counterparts in the U.S.
As NewLaw continues to
emerge and blossom, inevitably “OldLaw” will begin to adapt and evolve in
NewLaw’s direction. The challenge for the traditional firms will be to ensure
that any new concepts or structures they embrace truly become part of their
So we believe the real
message of NewLaw’s emergence and early success is that practising law
differently, with a greater focus on efficiency, productivity, and true
alignment with both their staff and client interests, is a formula that any legal
service provider can adopt. Some will find this easier than others.
firm ready to hear these messages? And if so, what will you do to respond?
Award finalists recently participated in an ALPMA thought leadership panel discussing innovation in the legal industry.
About Our Guest Bloggers
Jordan Furlong is
a lawyer, consultant, and legal industry analyst based in Ottawa, Canada, who
forecasts the impact of the changing legal market on lawyers, clients, and
legal organizations. He has delivered dozens of addresses to law firms, state
bars, law societies, law schools, judges, and many others throughout the United
States and Canada on the evolution of the legal services marketplace. He is a
Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and serves as Strategic
Advisor in Residence at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He is a
principal with Edge International
and blogs about the new
legal market at Law21
Sean Larkan is a strategy and growth advisor and consultant to professional service firms internationally with a particular focus on the legal industry. He has a reputation as an innovator, finding ways to help firms get the results they truly want. He follows a simple philosophy which he applies to all his interactions –‘building growth, confidence and well-being’. He is the author of the leading publication on brand strategy for the professions ‘Brand Strategy and Management for Law Firms
’ and is an internationally accredited Master Coach and Human Synergistics practitioner. Sean is a principal of Edge International
and blogs about issues of relevance to law firm leaders at Legal Leaders Blog