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Commercial acumen and technical expertise ‘not mutually exclusive’
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Commercial acumen and technical expertise ‘not mutually exclusive’

technical knowledge of the law, diversity of work

A NewLaw principal has spoken out about the need to bridge the gap between the skills picked up in traditional law firms and in in-house roles.

Speaking exclusively to Lawyers Weekly, principal and head of legal services at lexvoco Nat Parbhu said he commonly sees a divide in the skills legal professionals pick up in-house and in private practice.

Mr Parbhu explained: “Lawyers that have only ever worked in law firms may have great technical knowledge of the law but they have no idea of the realities of working in-house, the diversity of the work you deal with every day, and the pace of decision making.”

“They don’t understand the commercial reality of how the business operates and makes money.”

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For in-house teams, and companies they support “legal advice needs to be pragmatic and communicated simply and efficiently and lawyers that have never worked in-house generally struggle with this,” he stated.

“They don’t understand what makes the business tick, the pace of decision making and the diversity of stakeholder demands.”

Mr Parbhu said at lexvoco they “don’t believe commercial acumen and technical expertise are mutually exclusive.”

Most of his team started their careers in top tier private practice law firms before branching out, he admitted.

“They made the decision to go in-house because they weren’t happy with the culture of traditional law firms, the detachment from their clients’ businesses, advisory work pitched at the risk appetite of the service provider rather than that of the client, the lack of pace in commercial outcomes for their clients, and the business structure of law firms which is not tailored to provide value for their clients.”

lexvoco is a firm which exclusively onboards its lawyers with in-house experience and now has eight offices across Australia and New Zealand.

While Mr Parbhu calls the law firm division of the organisation a ‘law firm’, it’s “really about providing a new service that doesn’t exist,” he said.

Further, he noted the firm is “very unique starting with only employing lawyers with in-house experience.”

“We actually behave more like an extension of the client’s in-house legal team, rather than an external law firm.”

He said they are a business “that clients regard as an extension of their own in-house legal team, and that enables talent to continue to build their in-house experience by mixing up law firm work with secondments.”

The team at lexvoco is top heavy in terms of seniority, Mr Parbhu noted. This means “clients are working day-to-day with a senior team and can be confident that the person they speak to about their matters is the one actually doing the work.”

“About 60 per cent of the advice that our ‘law firm’ division provides is not as external counsel but actually at the clients’ risk,” he said.

“They know us and trust us to get the job done, regardless of where the allocation of risk sits between us and them,” Mr Parbhu said, reflecting it as “a huge vote of confidence in our model.”

Mr Parbhu said most of the organisation’s business “has largely come from word of mouth.”

The growth trajectory of lexvoco’s business “says that what we are doing works”, according to the principal.

“Our work comes from positive word of mouth and organic growth from current clients,” Mr Parbhu said, highlighting the firm’s “close to 100 per cent year-on-year topline growth” and recent headcount growth.

For lawyers wanting to move into the space, Mr Parbhu said the law firm division is an attractive option for the company’s secondment talent pool.

“It means our talent can mix it up – they can work for us doing law firm work and still keep their hand in on secondments as well.”

“About 90 per cent of lexvoco’s law firm lawyers have also been able to complete at least one secondment with a client, further blurring the line between the client’s in house team and lexvoco’s external advice.”

It also allows lawyers to “continue to build their in-house legal experience” with the offer of full-time work in an environment where Mr Parbhu says “people can be themselves.”

“We have no dress code, no set hours, people can work when and where they want,” he said.

“One of our key values is that life comes first, work next and we go out of our way to live this rather than just have these as empty words.

“Our culture and way of working ultimately translates to a happier team and better commercial outcomes for ourselves and for our clients.”

 

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