Considerable savings around billable hours and a flexible working environment might sound foreign in a traditional legal practice, but they are opportunities that Optim Legal claims it can deliver by starting out life as an incorporated legal practice.
Optim Legal co-founder Nick James told Lawyers Weekly that his firm can offer top-tier experience lawyers at billable rates about 40 per cent lower than top-tier firms because they have grown around the design of an efficient services model.
"That model, theoretically, would have been possible under a partnership," said James. "But a partnership that was able to run much more efficiently may have simply absorbed the savings into partner profits."
Optim Legal has gained considerable attention over the last 12 months for delivering some new ideas to the practice of law in Australia, such as satisfaction-based billing arrangements allowing clients to lower - or increase - their fees by as much as 20 per cent.
Such an innovation, James said, would simply not have been possible within the confines of a partnership arrangement.
"Those are things that, in pioneering our services, appeared out of left field and it would have been very difficult to have reached agreement or achieved agreement with a large group of partners in order to construct those kind of conditions in that offering," he said.
"It's difficult to see how our model and that vision could have emerged and achieved the sort of support that you would need within a partnership structure in order to be effective."
For Optim Legal employees, James said, breaking free of the partnership model also means lawyers can avoid billable target hours and seek to build a practice on their own terms.
"We're designed to be an alternative platform for top-tier lawyers to deliver their services in a way that offers greater flexibility, greater autonomy and removes the inherent politics and hierarchy of the partnership model."
- Angela Priestley
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