The lack of training in business skills is a major shortcoming in the education of most lawyers.  And without the capacity to run the business of law, the profession in Australia will suffer.

This is the key finding the Legal Business Leaders Roundtable, organised by the College of Law (The College) and held in Sydney on October 22, 2018.

According to the participants there are yawning gaps between the demand and supply of lawyers and specialists trained in management and leadership within the legal profession.   It is time for the business of law – whether it is private, inhouse, courts or legal aid –to be added to the practice of law.

The roundtable identified the challenges facing the legal services industry:

  • The shortcomings of the traditional legal services model are now exposed and the lack of real management expertise is a threat to the industry;
  • The legal services industry needs outside help. Either people with specialist skills must be brought in, or the specialist skills must be brought to people in the profession;
  • Legal skills are not necessarily evidence of good leadership. Many firms have many partners who are technically excellent, but who are less able to lead or set a direction and strategy for their firm;
  • Many lawyers do not appreciate multi-disciplinary input into the delivery of legal services. Lawyers need to learn to collaborate with professions such as technologists, management consultants, project managers, financial experts, human resources and marketing experts;
  • Employees from disciplines other than the law need to be accepted as professionals in their own right.  If the legal services industry does not respond to the career needs of these professionals they will be lost, either to a competitor firm or other industries; and
  • Talented, digitally-savvy and engaged young graduates are a potential goldmine for firms. Yet their talents are not being properly or fully used. Firms do a bad job of listening and implementing the ideas of this new generation.

Mr Neville Carter, Chief Executive Officer of the College said the next five to 10 years are crucial for the legal services industry.

“We are seeing the relentless demand for change and adaptation of the commercial world colliding with an industry characterised by its inertia and steeped in tradition and conservatism.  As our roundtable confirmed, the industry has begun to move, but just not fast enough.”

“Law firms and legal departments are under increasing pressure to deliver faster, better, cheaper service while becoming more efficient, predictable and agile.  Legal advisors are now expected to think like business people and to be business partners who understand the drivers of the commercial world. They must have emotional intelligence, negotiate, collaborate, manage relationships and solve problems.” 

“The business of law is no longer just about being profitable or sticking to a budget. The managers of law firms and legal departments need to run fiscally responsible operations that make full use of technology while staying orientated towards the needs of the people in the team.  It sounds like a lot to do, but the firms that fail will not have a much of a practice left.”

For a copy of the Legal Business Leaders Roundtable Report please visit:

https://info.collaw.edu.au/mlb/legal-business-leaders-roundtable

ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS

The Legal Business Leaders Roundtable took place on October 22, 2018 in the Boardroom of Hall & Willcox in Sydney.

Host:                     Sumith Perara – Chief Operating Officer, Hall & Wilcox and Centre for Legal Innovation Advisory Board Member
Chair:                    Neville Carter – Chief Executive Officer, The College of Law
Facilitator:          Dr George Beaton – Chair of the Program Board – Master of Legal Business

Participants:

  • Desiree Baldacchino – ACC NSW Executive Committee Secretary
  • Peter Dombkins – Head, Legal Project Management, Gilbert & Tobin
  • Matthew Garey – Snr Executive Lawyer, Australian Government Solicitor
  • Patrick Ibbotson – Chairman, Maddocks
  • Kate Jordan – Deputy Chief Executive Partner, Clayton Utz
  • Warrick McLean – Chief Executive Officer, Coleman Greig Lawyers
  • Jonathan Smithers – Chief Executive Officer, The Law Council of Australia
  • Tim Stewart – Partner (Banking & Finance), Allens
  • Steven Walker –MD Law Department and Contracts Consulting APAC, Elevate Services; Program Board Member & Teaching Fellow, Master of Legal Business
  • Amber Warren – Partner (Banking & Finance), Dentons
  • Rebecca Whittle – Partner (Litigation), Norton Rose Fulbright
  • Rhea Wood – Vice Chair, Australasian Legal Practice Management Association; Legal Practice Manager, Polczynski Robinson
  • Janet Young – Chief Operating Officer, MinterEllison
  • Emma Zadow – Chief Executive Officer, The Fold Legal