“Several” Australian firms are already moving in the direction that Corrs took last week when it announced the launch of legal resourcing company Orbit.
George Beaton, executive chairman of Beaton Research + Consulting, told Australasian Lawyer
he is aware of other firms “moving in this direction”.
“Corrs Chambers Westgarth
has achieved first mover advantage and the attendant publicity this brings. Others are following – watch this space!”
Corrs broke ranks with other large local competitors last week by becoming the first to launch a legal resourcing business – Orbit - that will provide temporary project-based legal resourcing for in-house teams from early 2015.
Beaton, a leading global authority on the future of traditional ‘BigLaw’ and ‘NewLaw’ firm business models, said it was significant that the “ambitious” announced plan appears to be more than just “putting a toe in the water”.
“Furthermore, Corrs Chambers Westgarth does not have any overseas resources upon which to draw, making Orbit all the more impressive.”
While Beaton said only time will tell if the launch will meet client needs in Australia, he said judging by the UK experience, the outlook was promising.
“The success, for example, of Vario from Pinsent Masons
, the captive of Allen & Overy in Belfast, and of Riverview Law all point to this being a great move by Corrs Chambers Westgarth,” he says.
However, Beaton said the growth of NewLaw firms such as AdventBalance, Plexus and Bespoke Law point toward client needs going beyond just short-term resourcing of legal projects, as in the Orbit model.
“Rather, I see the uptake by major clients of the various and different offers from these Australian NewLaw firms as showing the way for permanent business model changes in the BigLaw firms.”
The future may be one of ‘co-opetition’, with the findings of the Commonwealth Bank’s quarterly Legal Market Pulse (conducted by Beaton Research + Consulting) indicating NewLaw competition is on the radar of BigLaw managing partners.
“There will be – and already is – both co-operation and competition.”
Following the rise of NewLaw firms, Beaton says there may be “some, but few” firms who still believe they are “like King Canute”, trying to hold back the tide.
“No BigLaw firm is immune,” he says.
“In London a month ago my team and I spoke with many BigLaw firms and NewLaw providers. It’s true to say that most City firms are making concerted steps to learn from NewLaw and are acting.”
Corrs plans to supply top tier, high quality lawyers with 3+ years’ experience to in-house teams to resource legal matters and projects.
It expects to field between 30 and 40 lawyers for clients and non-clients alike within 6 months.