Partners urged to ‘get real’

By Emma Ryan|29 July 2018

A Canadian lawyer and international conference speaker has criticised the current generation of law firm partners, saying they’re failing to take serious steps to future-proof Australia’s legal profession.

Speaking at the Australian Legal Practice Management Association’s (ALPMA) recent conference, hosted by HBA Legal, Toronto-based Mitch Kowalski said Australian legal professionals in partner positions need to get real about ensuring the needs of their clients and their “millennial talent” is being met, something he noted partners are failing to do despite already having the tools to do both.

“Let me ask you: how many law firm ‘innovation’ announcements are simply good public relations, and how many are real, actionable, and sustainable? The clatter of information about law firm innovation has become overwhelming and confusing,” Mr Kowalski told the crowd.

“Just as generals talk about the ‘fog of war,’ the ‘fog of legal innovation’ has settled thickly over the legal services industry – all with very little change to it.”

Mr Kowalski explained that part of the problem is that “many firms are over-invested in their current business model”.

“This causes them to miss, and even ignore, the needs and desires of their clients. But at some point, there will be a reckoning,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, HBA Legal director Nathan Hepple urged the need for law firms to evolve with the times.

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“Our delivery service model is unique in Australia and clients love it because we work as a team to devise a path to get to an outcome, rather than approach it old style: day by day, racking up fees with no clear direction on the end game for the client," Mr Hepple said.

“It seems crazy to me that I can stand here and say our model is unique – it shouldn’t be unique – more firms need to be adapting and evolving.

“I actually see it as my obligation to the next generation of young lawyers coming through the pipeline to heed these warnings and take this stuff seriously,” Hepple said.

Mr Kowalski added: “Sadly, many partners of traditional law firms who are nearing retirement have taken the short-sighted, and some might say, selfish attitude that the industry reformation will happen after they’re out of the profession”.

“As a consequence, it’s easier and more profitable for them personally to put their heads in the sand,” he said.

Partners urged to ‘get real’
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