Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

Culture, ESG and ChatGPT: Sparke Helmore’s priorities for 2023

Following a year of continued growth, Lawyers Weekly spoke to Sparke Helmore’s managing partner, who outlined the firm’s priorities moving forward as well as challenges within the profession right now.

user iconLauren Croft 14 March 2023 Big Law
expand image

Over the course of the last year, Sparke Helmore has promoted five partners and seven special counsels.

This is in addition to two managing partners in January this year and a state and territory government leader — a newly appointed role created to develop coordinated state and territory government practices in all the firm’s jurisdictions — in May last year.

In a conversation with Lawyers Weekly, managing partner Andrew White said there were a number of things the firm would be focusing on throughout 2023.


Unsurprisingly, ChatGPT was front of mind for the firm leader after the AI chatbot made global headlines in the first month of the year alone.

A noisy debate has recently emerged over such artificial intelligence. On the one hand, platforms like ChatGPT are a “useful resource” for boutique firms and BigLaw firms alike and will require a focus on key skills and a rethink on legal education, even if the new tech can’t replace lawyers entirely (at least not yet).

However, there are certainly fears that the rise of AI could mean the beginning of the end of lawyers, even if it should be used cautiously in courts and demands new workplace policies, and in spite of the fact that ChatGPT can be used to cheat on law school exams and is, in the eyes of some, “no different to Wikipedia”. Billable hours have also been revealed to be at further risk with the development of AI technology.

To read Lawyers Weekly’s full series of ChatGPT stories, click here.

“A challenge that is capturing the attention of many is the extensive media coverage around ChatGPT and what it can and cannot do, and the increasing influence on and involvement in our professional lives. I can see enormous potential opportunities for us in artificial intelligence of this type,” Mr White confirmed.  

“With the release of this particular technology, it seems that the pace of sophistication of artificial intelligence and machine learning will quicken and we will be seeking to identify further opportunities for this to improve our efficiencies and quality of service.”

Additionally, the firm is continuing to adapt their “agile working model” and embed flexible practice whilst also recognising the need to “make it attractive to come into the office at least for some part of the working week,” according to Mr White.

“Getting the balance right is what I would like to make sure we achieve for everyone in the firm in 2023, recognising that everyone’s balance will be different. Maintaining our strong culture is always on the agenda and 2023 will be no different. Culture is critical to the happiness of people at work and the effectiveness of teams, and therefore to our success.

“We’ve always had a great culture and a reputation for authenticity, collegiality, friendliness and openness, and while it’s formed from the way our partners and employees interact with each other, it also shapes the way we interact with our clients and others with whom we engage. Part of that culture is our outstanding wellness program, which will remain at the heart of continuing to support our people in 2023 and is a cornerstone of our Employee Value Proposition.”

Sparke Helmore also unveiled its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in October, with an aim to enable the firm to deepen its understanding of its sphere of influence and the contribution it can make to lead progress across the five dimensions of reconciliation: race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, unity, and historical acceptance.

This type of work, Mr White said, will continue through this year.

“We continue to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (including reconciliation) as well as on ESG. So many of our people are passionate about these issues. So, we’re investing in these areas that are important to who we are as a firm and that complement our client relationships.

“In 2023, we will continue with our localised approach, which has helped us expand and tailor our service offerings. To maintain this, we are driving an agenda of growth in certain strategic and targeted areas, both from a work type and a geographic perspective,” he added.

“We are obviously watching closely the ongoing economic uncertainty, with high inflation and the potential threat of economic downturn. Nobody can pick it at this stage, so we are watching closely and maintaining our ability to be nimble.”