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Law firms increasingly looking beyond lawyers

Law firms increasingly looking beyond lawyers

Law firms are increasingly looking to outsource work and using non-lawyers to pitch to clients.Baker & McKenzie Australia managing partner Chris Freeland told Lawyers Weekly that law firms…

Law firms are increasingly looking to outsource work and using non-lawyers to pitch to clients.

Baker & McKenzie Australia managing partner Chris Freeland told Lawyers Weekly that law firms and their clients are increasingly looking to outsource "simple" legal work.

"Clients are interested in outsourcing because of the benefits of timeframes," he said. "Internally, at Bakers, we have the Global Services Manilla (GSM) facility which provides a shared services function to support the Bakers offices globally."

Freeland said the Manilla arm of the Bakers empire assists Australia with issues including IT, knowledge management and marketing.

"Where outsourcing makes sense is with regard to commoditised types of work," he said, "including due diligence work and e-discovery matters pertaining to litigation."

Freeland was one of the key speakers at the Janders Dean Law Firm Knowledge & Innovation Conference in Sydney last Thursday (22 September).

In addition to speaking about outsourcing, Freeland addressed the "ongoing profitability imperative" driving senior management at Australian law firms and the current "war for talent" at the partner level and below in Australia.

"One of the things that a global law firm can provide is access to some of those broader development experiences that domestic law firm's can't," he said.

Non-lawyers in the tender process

After Freeland spoke, Nicole Bamforth, the chief information officer (CIO) at Freehills and Tom Baldwin, the CIO at American firm Reed Smith LLP spoke about the growing importance of knowledge management within law firms.

Bamforth said that in Australia, "knowledge management is going in two directions" and it has been a rapid journey.

"There is the traditional knowledge management that we all know and need, but there is this other line of about how knowledge management adds value in the non-traditional way," she said.

Bamforth nominated fee arrangements between a law firm and its clients as an area where the input of support staff was becoming increasingly important.

"Alternative fee arrangements, and the need to get crisper and clearer about pricing and what they mean and what the levers are at a very simple level," said Bamforth. "Just using that information and knowledge to be able to manage client expectations, these are part of the common themes that are going on in the knowledge management space about the differing roles knowledge managers can play in an organisation."

Baldwin agreed with Bamforth about the increasingly important role of knowledge managers. He said he was now being used with lawyers to pitch the wares of his firm to prospective clients.

"The head of litigation will call me on Monday to say, 'Tom, I need you to fly out to New York with me on Friday to do a pitch' and it will be her, the number one rainmaker at the firm and the number three rainmaker at the firm to do the pitch," he said. "I am not there to talk about precedents, research and checklists.

"My shtick is how we are managing price, and that is where the market is headed."

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