2009 IN REVIEW Across the board: John Kain, Kain Corporate + Commercial
The year has thrown up some unique challenges and opportunities for law firms and lawyers, as will the year to come. Lawyers Weekly speaks with industry leaders across the legal spectrum about…
The year has thrown up some unique challenges and opportunities for law firms and lawyers, as will the year to come. Lawyers Weekly speaks with industry leaders across the legal spectrum about how the events of 2009 have affected firms and what's in store for 2010. We get the boutique view from John Kain, Director of Kain Corporate + Commercial.
What has been the key issue affecting small/boutique firms in 2009?
The key challenge for many boutiques during 2009 has been to both maintain focus and to hold their nerve. I shudder when I hear of firms panicking when faced with a short-term drop-off in work and responding by accepting work which is outside their core skill set, or taking on clients who do not fit their preferred client profile, or worse, letting go of quality team members.
These responses might appear to answer a short-term problem, but ultimately, the business will pay for this lack of discipline long after the economic cycle turns. This is a huge trap for many boutique firms in uncertain economic times.
I am particularly pleased that in this economic climate, when other businesses have scaled back their community commitment, Kain C+C has maintained its philanthropic focus. Not only did we continue our existing philanthropic initiatives but we significantly increased them with the successful completion of Stage 1 of the Kain C+C Charitable Foundation's Uganda Project.
What do you think will be a key opportunity/challenge for small/boutique firms in 2010?
The GFC has prompted many clients to critically review their legal services - and prompted many lawyers to critically review their work environment.
For boutiques which are both nimble and responsive to changing client and team demands, 2010 will deliver enormous opportunities to attract great people, great clients and great work.
As always, the challenge for boutique firms throughout 2010 and beyond is to maintain focus - on what they are doing, for whom they are doing it and with whom they are doing it.
At Kain C+C, we have used the GFC as an opportunity to recruit outstanding experienced lawyers across each of our three specialisations (corporate, commercial and M&A). With increased depth in those three areas, we are already seeing great new opportunities with clients and work. For some new clients who have only ever dealt with bigger brands, we represent their first dealing with a boutique firm.
And for some of the "bet the farm" work we are winning, our clients would never have considered using a boutique five years ago. I expect those opportunities will increase throughout 2010 for us and other boutique firms.
ACROSS THE BOARD: See how our panel of experts viewed 2009:
>> Top-tier view: Robert Milliner, Mallesons Stephen Jaques
>> Mid-tier view: Andrew Willder, Lander & Rogers
>> In-house view: Peter Turner, Australian Corporate Lawyers Association