A Game Changer for Victorian Country and Regional Firms
Australian regional and country firms have long had a problem obtaining sufficient numbers of high quality lawyers.
Persuasion of lawyers to move to the country and regions has not been with much success. Moving to the country means finding a new home, new school, new friends for yourself and all your family. It is also a lifestyle change. It is a very big move when seen in that context. No wonder country and regional firms have found it so hard to attract lawyers.
However, the solution is available and can save time and money. Plus there are other major benefits.
Our changing world
Legal firms have traditionally operated from offices.
It all made sense then. If you dictated a letter, it was either to a secretary sitting in front of you or by dictaphone tape that needed to be handed in for transcribing. It is easy to forget that email and the internet are only relatively recent inventions. The facsimile machine, heralded when it arrived in the 1980’s for the great efficiencies it then facilitated, is now becoming obsolete. Cassette tapes? Try buying one! It is now digital with files being conveyed electronically.
The typewriter was replaced with the desktop computer and now we have laptops, ipads, smartphones, powerful computing at our fingertips wherever we go.
Telecommmunication costs have plummetted and the mobile phone has made people accessible, no matter where they are. Cloud computing is now readily and cheaply available, without the need to acquire expensive complex proprietary equipment.
With all those changes, what does that mean to our way we structure our business and practise our profession?
The common element isa that we are no longer chained to our offices. What is more, most of us already own the equipment that enables us to free us from our shackles or the cost of purchasing what we do not yet own but need is affordable. Why not take advantage of it?
Some things never change
Practising law has always been about interacting with other people and servicing clients’ needs. Having personal contact and rapport with others is an essential part of that and there is nothing better than a face to face meeting for that purpose.
As lawyers we need to interact with others and a support structure is necessary if we are to perform at our best and enjoy our work. It helps having others with whom we can ask questions of, brainstorm, seek additional assistance from or even share our problems.
In that sense the traditional office has much going for it.
Challenges modern firms face
However, there are also challenges all firms face.
- How do we plan or cope with workflow cycles, the peaks and the troughs? Changes in the mix of work types?
- How do we deal with potential new work beyond our practice areas? Do we send it away? Is there a better alternative, without risking a professional indemnity claim?
- How can we ramp up or down staffing levels so that we are able to service our clients properly and at the same time ensure we are not overstaffed?
- How do we keep our overheads as low as possible so our profit is as great as possible?
- Does a world rapidly shrinking mean that we face greater competition in the future or do new opportunities open up for us as a result?
Challenges = Opportunities
So how can we structure our practices to meet those challenges?
Simply maintain a traditional office and take advantage of the benefits of technology as a means to supplement it! With increased mobility, we now have the ability to modify how we conduct business in order to operate smarter, better and more profitably.
The solution is to look outside the boundaries of the four walls of your office and enlist the skills and expertise of outside lawyers on an as needs basis. These lawyers are able to operate remotely and without requiring office space, infrastructure or the like. Since they are not permanent staff, they can be used as much or as little as possible and depending upon the work flow type, you can select the right person for each job, without any of the long term commitments that employing someone dictates.
The advantages are that it is highly adaptable, flexible, low cost based and geared to operate closely with clients, particularly commercial clients. Firms are able to expand and contract without infrastructure and other headaches and can grow or alter their expertise as required, without major cost implications.
It means being able to grow the top line, while at the same time reducing the cost per unit of doing business.
Solving the specific needs of regional and country firms
The reality of legal practise is that some things can be done remotely, while other things cannot. While simple instructions can be conveyed over the phone or by correspondence, there is nothing like conferring in person when it comes to understanding what has happened in litigious matters, what is required in a commercial deal, discussing documents around a table, explaining what the legal situation is, what outcomes are possible and what is the best way to achieve those outcomes.
In other words, best legal practise requires a combination of both new and old ways.
That gets us back to the question of how to get city people to work for country and regional firms.
The answer lies in the fact that most of the work we do does not require the client to be present. Therefore why not have that lawyer attend your office (or court, etc) where personal attendance is required and let him or her work remotely where location makes no difference. For country and regional firms it means they can obtain experienced, highly skilled professional staff without those people being required to permanently relocate.
Another advantage is that it also potentially creates fresh opportunities previously not contemplated. You can grow your business outside your current location because you give yourself the ability to fully service clients in Melbourne.
Not only is there no threat to existing staff, but it is a win-win situation for everybody in your firm.
The Next Step
Since not all firms are the same, how you proceed will depend upon your needs and how you currently operate.
If you are interested in discussing these issues further please contact Alan Kornhauser by email or on 0412 256 457.