Index reveals Australia’s most innovative firms

A 2014 innovation index has unveiled a number of Australasian firms that are tackling and overcoming the traditional law firm “sacred cows”

The 2014 Legal Innovation Index has been released and recognises a group of firms as the leading industry innovators across Australia and New Zealand.
In response to the rapidly changing nature of the legal industry, LexisNexis Pacific and Janders Dean launched the Legal Innovation Index in 2013 to be able to track what they call the industry’s “game-changers”.
Rachel Travers, the executive director of LexisNexis NZ, Ltd told Australasian Lawyer that the firms recognised in the index are challenging traditional operating models to deliver more engaged staff, more efficient systems and more value for clients.
For many, flexible working environments were part of the key to the solution, she says.
“The 2014 Legal Innovation Index revealed a positive trend toward the uptake of flexible working models in the legal industry,” she says. “Fifty percent of the firms recognised in the index included flexible working environments as part of their key innovations.”  “
In Australia, the firms that received a highly commended award for their innovative approach to the business of law were Coote Family Lawyers, JRT Partnership, KWS Legal and Turnbull Hill lawyers, while in New Zealand Simmonds Stewart and Chen Palmer were recognised.

The six firms that appeared on this year’s index have been awarded for a wide range of initiatives, and tackle the traditional law firm ‘sacred cows’ of the billable hour, time recording, office- bound staff and remuneration.

The panel judges included Michael Roch (Kerma), Steven Hallam (Deloitte), Karan White (Pod Legal), Melissa Davis (MD Communications), Denise Farmer (LexisNexis) and Justin North (Janders Dean).
This firms listed on this year’s index are:
  • Clearpoint Counsel: Delivery of legal services through a genuine alternative model
  • Hive Legal: Employee engagement, flexible work environment and fixed-fee pricing
  • Keypoint Law: Improved working and remuneration environment for staff and value for service
  • LegalVision: Uber-specialisation, flexible working models and internal and external collaboration
  • Nest Legal: Innovative approach to client service that perfectly services its target market
  • Nexus Law Group: ‘open law’ model and bespoke digital practice management system
Jodie Baker, the managing director of Hive Legal, told Australasian Lawyer the firm is “thrilled” to be recognised alongside a group of such interesting and innovative firms, and indicates that the Australian legal industry is ready to embrace real innovation.

“We find ourselves constantly engaging with clients in discussions about legal technology solutions, fixed pricing and new collaborative working models that better utilise both in-house and private practice resources – all to deliver a more efficient and cost effective solution. That clients are so motivated to look for new innovative solutions is evidence that the future will be a very interesting landscape indeed,” she says.

Marcus McCarthy, the principal of Nexus Law Group says the placing is a recognition of the considerable time and effort that has gone into building a totally unique new system for the practice of law in Australia.
Nexus Law has inverted the traditional firm structure in order to create a better practice platform for modern lawyers and as a result give clients better access to specialist advice, he says. The structure allows members the freedom of sole practice and up to 70% of their fees, with all the infrastructure they would expect from a large firm.
“We hope that this award drives awareness of this exciting new practice model, so that we can drive the expansion of our membership nationally and deliver real improvement in the method of legal service delivery in Australia,” McCarthy says.

Keypoint Law was another Australian firm to appear on the list, and CEO Warren Kalinko says it was recognised for its remuneration structure, which provides for lawyers to earn 70% of what they bill; for abolishing billable hour targets and for decentralising pricing decisions so each lawyer is free to set their own structure.

“Innovation is in our DNA.  We continuously strive to find new ways to offer value to our clients and, as importantly, to our talented senior lawyers.  The Innovation Index allows us to showcase our offering to the market, and we very much appreciate that opportunity,” he told Australasian Lawyer.

Innovation Index judge and Deloitte’s digital partner, Steven Hallam, was impressed with the calibre of this year’s entries.

“It was really pleasing to see all the different ways that entrants are innovating their business models to respond to digital disruption. Entrants are taking advantage of trends such as cloud, mobile, analytics, social, micro-tasking and crowd sourcing which is having a tangible impact on both the client and employee experience,” he says.

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