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2009 IN REVIEW Key trends in the legal profession

2009 IN REVIEW Key trends in the legal profession

The past year has seen some significant changes to the legal profession, blighted by the ominous storm clouds of the global financial crisis, changes in technology, and legislative moves. We…

The past year has seen some significant changes to the legal profession, blighted by the ominous storm clouds of the global financial crisis, changes in technology, and legislative moves. We take a look at the key trends of the 2009:

Summer clerkships remain a priority

In contrast to the UK, Australian firms are standing strong when it comes to summer clerk recruitment programs. While UK firms significantly cut back on them, Australia seems to have fared better with large law firms including Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Middletons and Minter Ellison confirming that summer clerkships would remain a top priority.

Flexible work gets serious

The move towards a more flexible working environment received a boost in November with the Australian Legal Practice Management Association and the Women Lawyers Association of NSW releasing a draft model proposal to assist lawyers in small and mid-tier law firms negotiate flexible working arrangements.

Plaintiff law firms expand

The GFC showed few signs of impacting on traditional plaintiff law firms such as Slater & Gordon and Shine Lawyers, with both firms announcing new offices and acquisitions throughout the year - particularly in regional areas.

Pro bono on the increase

Signatories to the National Pro Bono Resource Centre target revealed an uptick in the number of hours their lawyers are dedicating to pro bono activities - according to a report released by the Centre. Lawyers in Victoria also mobilised to offer legal assistance to victims of the February Victorian bushfires via the Bushfire Legal Help service.

Lawyer line up in by-elections

Lawyers in politics made further progress in 2009, as lawyers lined up for by-elections in the prominent Federal seats of Higgins and Bradfield. Former Mallesons lawyer Paul Fletcher took out Dr Brendan Nelson's former seat for the Liberals, while former Freehills lawyer Kelly O'Dwyer took out Peter Costello's seat of Higgins.

Law firms enter the carbon neutral age

Law firms have long been known to talk up their CSR and pro bono stances, but in 2009 a number of firms stepped things up a little by going carbon neutral. Armstrong Legal was the first firm to be accredited as carbon neutral, followed by NSW firms William Roberts Lawyers and Streeterlaw Lawyers, and Victorian firm Doogue O'Brien.

Firms get tweeting

In 2009, Twitter emerged from the domain of the social networking obsessed to a legitimate and mainstream means of communication for organisations. Firms such as Deacons, DLA Phillips Fox and Blake Dawson all got in the game, with former High Court judge Michael Kirby encouraging older Australians to start using Twitter so their thoughts and concerns can be voiced.

Other significant trends have included (click on link for a full examination of each trend):

>> Mid-tiers make their mark

>> Climate change on the horizon

>> The rise and rise of in-house

>> Speaking out about outsourcing

>> Too many city lawyers highlights rural shortage

>> Alternatives for billings methods gain momentum

>> The trend to business-minded lawyers

>> Mental health issues come to the fore

>> Workplace relations tug of war

>> Big firms place freeze on salaries

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