WITH A RECENT award under its belt for achieving double the number of staff and double the fee turnover it had three years ago, a Western Australian medium sized firm attributes its sudden success to a complete overhaul of its practice management strategy.
Perth firm Bowan Buchbinder Vilensky was five years ago a “good firm, but [it] was not a great firm”, managing partner David Vilensky said last week. However, the firm recently announced it has been awarded the 2005 Law Australasia Pursuit of Excellence Award, judged by a panel of peers as having pursued overall excellence in all facets of its practice.
Vilensky attributes the accolade to the restructures the firm has undertaken since its membership of Law Australasia, formerly Law Australia, a best practice law association. The firm now understands, he said, “you can be the best lawyer in the world and have the best lawyers working for you, but it doesn’t mean you can retain them or that you have a plan for moving forward”.
The association includes a group of small to medium sized firms attempting to achieve better practice management. Meetings twice a year and conferences enable member firms to understand new strategies for planning and profitability, “and a range of issues that you would not get unless you paid a lot of money”. Bowan Buchbinder Vilensky would put into practice aspects that were relevant and start implementing strategies, Vilensky said.
Currently, the firm focuses on productivity and profitability, he said. “We now have a very good reputation in Perth as a firm people want to work for. We make our time available to younger lawyers, else they’ll leave and go to Mallesons, where they will be paid more,” he said.
“People’s expectations are so much higher than they used to be. You used to do what you were told or else you’d get screamed at. It’s like school. People get rewarded now. You have to be able to adapt and be able to change and move with the times.”
Membership of Law Australasia forced the firm to worry about cost and productivity, said Vilensky. “These high paid lawyers, what are they doing? Are they generating money? We put systems in place with software so this is monitored, and they get feedback about their performance. Everyone is now aware of what they need to do, and other things.”
Chairperson of Law Australasia, Paul Matthews, said that when Bowan Buchbinder Vilensky joined the association it became clear to other members that its partners were intent upon the rapid improvement of its management processes.
“[Law Australasia] reviews each member firm annually in great detail ... It is notable that Bowan Buchbinder Vilensky have steadily improved each year to being where they are now, based in the top handful of [member] firms,” said Matthews.