Innovation can help law firm managers respond to the arrival of global competitors, writes Angela Priestley.
The Australian legal services market is facing considerable change due to the arrival of global players like Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and DLA Piper.
But according to Freehills managing partner Mark Rigotti, jumping to replicate what an international law firm offers may not be the best way for established Australian law firms to answer to new competitive forces.
Rather, he believes innovation, operational efficiency, continuous improvement and offering better client value is the better way to respond.
"Instead of instantly wanting to hook up with the next international law firm in town, it's actually better to run a leaner and tighter operation," says Rigotti.
He believes managers must respond to changes in the legal services market, including the enhanced buying power general counsel now muster alongside the globalisation of legal services, by taking a long-term view of their law firms.
"I do believe law firm managers need to be looking ahead one, three and even fives years in order to position themselves for where they'll be in the future," he says.
According to Rigotti, such forward thinking means following the example of other industries that focus on innovation alongside research and development to uncover operational efficiencies and better products and services.
Such innovation may also assist law firms in delivering an enhanced experience to clients, says Rigotti.
"You've got to have great legal advice, it needs to be commercially relevant but clients are also looking for a good experience," he says.
Innovation also requires lawyers to accept continuous change, a factor that managers must drive from the top down. Rigotti says there's nothing like the fear of loss to promote the need for change. "There's nothing like a little threat to sharpen the focus," he says. "You can get complacent when things are easy and have a sameness year after year. There's no doubt about it that the entry of the global law firms have forced a rethink and focus on everything."
Mark Rigotti is speaking at the LexisNexis Practice Management Conference from May 24-25 in Sydney.