International demand for Australian legal services continues to boom, and the next big growth areas will be India and China, according to the export strategy report released by the International Legal Services Advisory Council (ILSAC) last week.
Despite the global economic downturn, the report cites Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade statistics that show international demand for Australian legal services increased by 23.4 per cent to $343 million in the 2007-08 financial year.
The report identifies the growing markets in India and China as priority countries for increased engagement over the next three to five years, and outlines a co-ordinated approach to achieving greater global integration of Australia's legal and related services.
The report recommended the "strategic alliance" model of internationalising legal practice - as adopted by firms such as DLA Phillips Fox and, most recently, Deacons - in preference to the "hub and spokes" model of regional offices commonly used by Australian firms.
"This type of approach [strategic alliances] is significantly different to the approach many of Australia's major law firms have chosen to take ... experience shows that this approach works, it's profitable, and is sustainable over the long-term."
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, Anthony Byrne, said the ILSAC report would provide a strategic blueprint for lifting the global competitiveness of Australian legal services. However, he admitted that the efforts of individual firms would remain key to the success of the Australian legal industry abroad.
"The difficult task of securing legal business overseas will always fall to the efforts of individual firms," Byrne said.
"The Australian Government is, however, supporting them in their efforts through Austrade, which provides access to specialist services teams and a strong global network.
"This new strategy will see Austrade and ILSAC working together with a range of government and industry bodies to support our law firms and educators [to] take up the opportunities and confront the challenges necessary to successfully compete on the world stage."
ILSAC's Australian Legal Services - Strategic Global Engagement report is available at www.ilsac.gov.au or by contacting the ILSAC Secretariat on 02 6218 7005.