Start-up virtual law firm claims victory in major leadership award

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Hive Legal, a start-up virtual law firm, was been crowned the 2014 ALPMA/Telstra Thought Leadership Award winner last night.
 
The firm, a newbie in the Australian market, beat out other finalists AdventBalance, Swaab Attorneys and PD Lawyers.
 
The results were announced at the ALMPA summit gala dinner in Melbourne.
 
ALPMA president and financial controller of the Legal Lantern Group Andrew Barnes says the transformation of the legal sector is well underway.
 
“[It] represents both a threat to traditional law firms and an opportunity for those willing to embrace change and new ways of thinking and working,” he said. “In a risk-averse industry, it is very important to showcase the success of innovators to serve as motivation and inspiration for others.”
 
The group managing director of Telstra Business, Will Irving, agrees that things are changing fast, and says the digital era means that the way we do business is evolving.
 
Hive Legal is a fantastic example of a firm that is embracing the opportunities this new era brings and is reaping the rewards. With technology that better empowers staff to work and truly collaborate remotely, professional client service now has a new benchmark,” he says.
 
“This shift to mobile working is driving greater productivity in the legal services sector. More importantly it enables firms to better serve clients, build more valuable relationships and in so doing, strengthen their competitive advantage. 
 
Jodie Baker, the managing director of Hive Legal, told Australasian Lawyer that the model is thriving.

Opened in January this year by a group of experienced partners from large law firms who sought to redesign legal services, the firm has grown from three to 11 employees in just eight months. 
 
While it has central hub, Hive Legal lawyers can choose when and where they would like to work.
 
It is also one of the few Australasian law firms to adopt value pricing.  The scope and value of each project is discussed with clients. A resourcing plan and timeline is developed, fees and billing milestones are agreed upfront with the client and the budget is then locked in.

“If you produce the work at home or in [the client’s] office it really doesn’t matter where you’re located as long as the quality is there,” Baker says. “One of our core values is collaboration and we work very closely as a team to deliver outcomes to clients. We’re very much about working together and to make sure the clients are of the firm and not an individual person.”

Baker is thrilled that Hive Legal is being recognised for bringing a different model to the market.

A collaboration between new model law firms like Hive Legal and larger traditional firms could be the future of Australian legal services, she says.

“There [are some] clients who will choose a large firm but still need the speciality expertise…In larger markets like the US and the UK it’s common. A client will unbundle their legal services and expect the firms to collaborate. We’re keen to progress that and say there is absolutely no reason that these firms can’t work together.”

A trend like this is very much driven by clients who want a more cost-effective outcome, says Baker.

The three Award finalists were:
 
  • AdventBalance, an alternative legal services provider, where the firm’s  lawyers all work on-site with clients rather than in the office -  leveraging business social network Yammer to improve staff engagement and communication
  • Swaab Attorneys developed a Separation Survival Kit on a USB that helps its family law customers better understand, prepare for and manage legal documentation associated with the separation process. 
  • Property and Development Law, a boutique law firm in the Whitsundays delivering improved client service via a mobile app and client portal.

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