find the latest legal job
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Adelaide CBD · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
Freelance Project Finance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Australia
· Vario are looking for freelance lawyers with experience in project finance ideally within the renewable energy sector
View details
Vario Freelance Lawyers
Category: Construction Law | Location: All Australia
· We are looking for lawyers who appreciate the endless possibilities that a freelance career can offer.
View details
Freelance Construction Lawyers
Category: Construction Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· We are looking for construction lawyers who appreciate the endless possibilities that a freelance career can offer.
View details
Banking Associate - 1-6PQE - Allen & Overy
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: United Kingdom
· Banking Associate - 1-6 PQE - Allen & Overy
View details
LPO forcing legal education review

LPO forcing legal education review

The Australian Law Students’ Association is questioning the content of law degrees in light of the rise of legal process outsourcing in the Australian market.

The Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA) is questioning the content of law degrees in light of the rise of legal process outsourcing (LPO) in the Australian market.

Legal work that is now frequently outsourced, such as document review, legal research, and advice, pleading and brief preparation, has traditionally been done by law graduates or paralegals.

ALSA president Corinne O'Sullivan said the rise in LPO is at the expense of paralegal and graduate recruitment and means law degrees must prepare students for a faster transition to higher-level legal work.

“They should really be having much more practical aspects while you’re at uni as opposed to just the theory aspect. Some universities are moving in that direction but it’s not common practice in Australia at the moment - as it is becoming in America,” said O'Sullivan.

The competition for graduate positions is fierce already, with major Australian firms routinely receiving 30 to 50 applications for every graduate position offered.

It has been argued that law degrees are marketed as generalist degrees designed to open doors to a multitude of careers, but a recent empirical study at Monash University showed that 97 per cent of students expected to practise in the legal industry following graduation.

“If [firms] aren’t using students and graduates for that [low-level legal] work at the start, it’s very hard for them to move up the ranks later on. They can’t just enter the profession as mid or high-level solicitors,” said ALSA vice-president (education) Molly Snaith, adding that she is sympathetic to the current market conditions, which have seen legal service providers switch to lower-cost LPOs.

“The market is changing quicker than the degree is changing at the moment.”

In late 2011, King & Wood Mallesons announced it could save its clients between 30 and 50 per cent on lower-end legal work due to a new agreement with LPO provider Integreon. A number of US and UK firms that have recently entered the Australian market already have pre-existing LPO agreements in place.

“It’s hard to say that education systems should change every time the market changes because the market’s volatile, but I think there’s a pretty definite situation in play where you can see law students aren’t necessarily prepared for work conditions,” said O’Sullivan, adding that law students should not offer, or have to, work for free.

“[Law firms] should recognise the value of investing in graduates … giving them loyalty to a firm or a company or a position is much better from a HR perspective for retaining employment later down the line,” said O'Sullivan.

Snaith said specific post-graduate degrees, like Juris Doctor programs, should be better structured and utilised.

 “The problem with practical legal training is that you have to pay for it yourself or get a firm to sponsor you, but if you’re not [going to be] hired in the first place it’s harder to justify accessing that,” said Snaith.

More thinking needed

Despite potential “widespread and drastic” ramifications to law student job prospects, an ALSA position paper released on Saturday (6 July) revealed there has been relatively little scrutiny of LPO within the Australian legal market.

Common concerns about LPO, cited in the ALSA paper, included the threat to security and confidentiality, the quality of work, given it is being performed by practitioners who may be unfamiliar with the Australian legal jurisdiction, and law firms being tied to the success or failure of an external company.

Phil Greenwood SC, a barrister at Eleven Wentworth Chambers in Sydney, said more critical thinking is needed about the actual task that is outsourced.

“I’m told the accuracy rates [of LPO providers] are very good, and it saves a lot of money, but the question is, is the task the right task in first place?” he said, adding that he is sometimes sent thousands of pages of material by paralegals who “dump them in a database” and say ‘there’s all the documents in the case’.

“I don’t want that. That’s just very expensive for clients; [for me] to then go through 30,000 documents.”

Greenwood said that more thought and communication among lawyers and clients, earlier in the case, about what material is relevant and really required, would be lead to greater efficiencies.

Like this story? Read more:

Book commemorates diamond milestone for WA law society

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

LPO forcing legal education review
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Debate rises over Victorian judiciary attack
Jan 24 2018
Debate rises over Victorian judiciary attack
The Victorian Bar has become the latest to go on record condemning recent political attacks on the V...
Michelle Quigley QC
Jan 24 2018
Vic Barrister who helped stop major heritage redevelopment joins Supreme Court
Michelle Quigley QC, who assisted a coalition to oppose the redevelopment of St Heliers villa estate...
Building, construction
Jan 24 2018
Building finish for NSW coroner’s complex slated for early 2019
Efforts to relocate the state coroner’s facilities from Glebe to Lidcombe are on track, according ...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...