The role that lawyers with entrepreneurial skills have to play in legal practice has been debated by leaders in the industry who spoke to Lawyers Weekly last week.
Tony O'Malley, a managing partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques, said that for lawyers working in the top tier, entrepreneurial skills can be applied in certain circumstances.
"I think it's good to have people with entrepreneurial abilities, because we have to continually change our business model to adapt to the market so the visionaries amongst us can help plan and set the strategy for that," he said.
"In terms of pure entrepreneurial skills [and] risk-taking - I think that is not the role of the lawyer with the clients. I think we can assess risk and advise on levels of risk for clients but, ultimately, they have to form the view as to where their comfort levels are and what they want to do with that advice. So with law firms you will get some entrepreneurial types, but I would say [they are] probably in the minority."
Co-founder of Optim Legal Nick James said that for boutique firms there was more scope for lawyers to act as entrepreneurs.
"Entrepreneurs have a drive to make things happen and they have a drive towards thinking creatively to solve solutions - and that's pretty much the genesis of our organisation," he said.
"We see ourselves as an organisation that's solving a lot of issues and problems that we found with legal service providers and so ... like attracts like ... our lawyers are really encouraged and rewarded for thinking creatively and entrepreneurially."
But for managing director of recently launched firm Financial Redress, James Middleweek, overcoming the conservative nature of lawyers has been a challenge to expansion of his firm. Financial Redress is the first law firm in Australia to specialise in recovering compensation for consumers and businesses over unfair charging by institutions.
"That [conservatism] has been the only frustration - we would like, in terms of our expansion ... to recruit more lawyers. We think the whole area of financial consumer business compensation for mis-selling and unfair charging is an unexploited [and] unlooked at area. I think it all depends on the type of lawyer you want to be, if you want to work at a sausage factory firm [where] the work is handed to you on a plate and you earn a good salary and maybe a bonus, then great," he said.
"But, at the end of the day, the law is a business. What I look for is people who want to go out and actually find new areas, have a bit of sympathy for the underdog and give it a good go - and sometimes those aren't always characteristics you find in the current generation. But a lawyer who is an entrepreneur is a very powerful weapon."
- Sarah Sharples
Check out this week's issue 447 of Lawyers Weekly for an in-depth look at lawyers reinventing their skills and the role of entrepreneurs in the industry.