The downturn in the economy has presented the perfect opportunity for all sides of the legal profession to address the value of legal services, Peter Turner, CEO of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) told Lawyers Weekly.
Turner made the comments off the back of the ACLA conference, which finished up on Friday and hosted a general theme of "Performance in the face of change".
"It was all about change and what opportunities can arise from change," said Turner. "So we had a number of presentations and panel discussions to deal with that and we tried to do that across the board for the public and private sectors."
With in-house lawyers garnering up better negotiation abilities with their law firms off an increased competitive market for legal services, Turner said that rather than talking about a power shift in the profession, it was more productive to discuss the emerging opportunities.
"The downturn has presented the opportunity for both sides of the profession to readdress, perhaps, the structure of how legal billing and how services in the legal sector can be optimised," he said.
Turner said almost all organisations were currently "struggling with the same problem of how to squeeze the lemon to get more out of their legal dollar".
He added that while large organisations such as banks and large government departments have been able to successfully address the issue of gaining more value from their external law firms, it's still a difficult proposition for smaller organisations - particularly one-person legal departments - to negotiate on the value of their legal spend.
"If you're going to see change, it's going to come from the big end of town where the expenditure is major ... " said Turner. "But it will take a long time before it flows through to the rest of the in-house profession and, ultimately, to the rest of the law firms"