Don Leembruggen (pictured) has been at the helm of the mid-tier firm for close to 30 years. The legal profession looked very different when he graduated from Monash University with a bachelor of laws in 1980.
“In the 1980s, job prospects for new law graduates were strong. Everyone I graduated with attained jobs,” Mr Leembruggen told Lawyers Weekly.
The sentiment today could not be more different, with widespread debate over the perceived flood of law graduates entering the job market every year.
Not only did he land a job relatively quickly, Mr Leembruggen was made a partner of the firm just four years after gaining his legal qualification. He then became managing partner in 1990, a position he has held ever since.
Mr Leembruggen has seen some dramatic changes since his admission. He said that while lawyers today must be fluent in the plethora of technologies changing the way they and their clients work, they also need to be great personal communicators.
“Clearly, the modern lawyer needs to be technology-savvy, conversant in all modern forms of communication, compared to the 1980s when typewriters and fax machines were standard,” he said.
“As well as technical skills, modern lawyers should have excellent communication and empathy to deal with clients from all walks of life.
“Having excellent legal skills alone is no longer sufficient in the modern environment – lawyers must show dedication, excellence, loyalty and trustworthiness … It is also important to have the ability to mentor others, to ensure knowledge is retained and enhanced with each generation.”
This advice is particularly relevant to partners, he said, who will steer their firms through unprecedented and sometimes unforeseeable shifts.
“The changes we have seen reflect both our changing society as well as changes in law firms,” he said.
“With the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, lawyers will be even more valued for their ability to resolve problems pragmatically and strategically for clients. Those that can become trusted advisers and partners will be in high demand.
“It’s important to offer steady leadership, inspire young and upcoming lawyers and encourage staff to uphold our values and culture, all while remaining progressive and innovative with the ever-changing landscape of the legal industry.”
Pictured: Don Leembruggen, managing partner, Barry.Nilsson.