find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Out with the old

Out with the old

A 30-year-old partner at a boutique firm he co-founded with a national law firm practice leader has said the large law firm model is turning young lawyers off.

James Ryan (pictured right) started the boutique property practice Speirs Ryan with Robert Speirs (pictured below) in March.

Ryan told Lawyers Weekly that the inflexible nature of many large law firms has meant increasing numbers of young lawyers are looking at their options.

“I don’t think the traditional approach, where you are sweating it out on the promise of partnership 10 years down the track, this does not satisfy our generation,” said Ryan.

Ryan was a senior associate at Piper Alderman in Sydney before establishing Speirs Ryan with Speirs, who was a partner for over a decade at Pipers, leading the firm’s Sydney and Melbourne property practice.

Ryan said the desire to move away from the large law structure was the primary reason he and Speirs launched their own firm.

“By removing that structure, we can tailor billing arrangements and think outside the box and really innovate,” he said.


Robert-Speirs.jpgBye-bye billable benchmarks

The unprecedented number of boutique law firms that have been established this year have led to the pillars of the large law firm model in Australia being openly called into question and in many quarters, castigated.

Speirs Ryan, like the recent market entrants Keypoint Law, does not set daily billable-hour targets for its lawyers.

“Our view is that workflow is often lumpy and beyond control,” said Ryan, adding that his small team are all expected to “pitch in and get the work done” as it comes through the door, rather than being focused on individual targets.

Within three months of opening its doors, Speirs Ryan has acted on matters to the value of half a billion dollars in transacted property.

“Like many within our industry, I was particularly disengaged with the way large law firms were operated – seemingly void of quality management, commercial responsiveness and innovation,” said Ryan.

Ryan’s thoughts are echoed by many recent market entrants that are headed by some of the most well-known names in the private practice space.

Tony O’Malley, the former head of King & Wood Mallesons in Australia, said that he felt “liberated” after starting the boutique practice LCR Advisory with KWM veteran Tim Blue.

The former senior Minter Ellison partner Mitzi Gilligan also told Lawyers Weekly that she was motivated to set up Hive Legal in order to start a firm with “a clean slate… for the contemporary legal market”.

Accordingly, Hive has done away with the billable hour and offers lawyers the chance to work flexibly.

Senior DLA Piper partners Simon Davidson and Peter Monk, the latter of whom was the firm’s Melbourne head, have also joined Hive.

Young lawyers such as Speirs and Oliver Talbot, who was made a partner at McCullough Robertson at 30 and co-founded his own firm in Brisbane in March, also believe new firms are already competing with the large firms for the best young talent.

Talbot previously told Lawyers Weekly that his start-up has attracted expressions of interest from university medallists.

“You would think being small would be a hurdle to that [attracting staff], but we have had the opposite experience,” said Ryan. “We have had people knock on the door from a number of different firms… there is an overwhelming feeling of discontent at the large firms.” 

Like this story? Read more:

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

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Out with the old
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice
‘Ego status’ compelled ex-lawyer to defraud $2.97M, court told
Debarred lawyer John Gordon Bradfield told a NSW District Court that he was driven by “ego status...
Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legislation,
ALA welcomes ‘tough’ Qld manslaughter laws
The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has welcomed Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legisl...
Legal podcasts, tune in, microphone
Legal podcasts you have to tune in to right now
The rise of the internet has hailed in a new dawn for storytelling. Here’s our top pick of podcast...
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 & ...