Sydney firm bucks virtual trend with Wollongong expansion

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Bucking the trend of expansion by offering services to other markets via virtual technologies, Owen Hodge Lawyers has expanded to the Wollongong and Illawarra region.
The Sydney law firm’s Wollongong office will specialise primarily in family law with plans to also establish a thriving practice in the B2C market in the Illawarra region.
“Human beings are not virtual. Consumers of legal services seek convenience,” Rolf Howard, Owen Hodge Lawyers' managing partner, told Australasian Lawyer.
“In part that is provided by technology but where it is perceived by the consumer as geographically based then a smart law firm has to respond to that need.”
Howard said that delivery of service is not enough because it doesn’t necessarily mean a client’s needs have been fulfilled.
“Many lawyers confuse delivery of the legal service with meeting clients' needs and wants. The former may be integral to the latter but is unlikely to be sufficient of itself,” he said.
“Being a virtual lawyer may be sufficient to deliver a service but it might not be sufficient to meet the needs and wants of the client. Ultimately it is the latter that differentiates the successful law firm.”
The law firm’s expansion to Wollongong is in response to the region’s significant growth in the last five years. Now with a population of over 200,000, Wollongong has become a significant economic and business hub in NSW, it said.
Apart from family law, the law firm sees making inroads in the B2C market in the region with a focus on building relationships with growing mid-tier business clients.
“Naturally, Wollongong is a growing commercial centre. It has some long-standing successful law firms who have provided good quality legal services to individuals and commercial clients in that region. However, they have enjoyed that market to themselves,” said Howard.
“We see ourselves as providing an alternative to many of the mid-tier business clients which exist and are growing up in that region. Establishing ourselves initially in the B2C market is a low risk/cost strategy.”
Owen Hodge Lawyers also sees their growth being fuelled by more and more private practitioners particularly those in sole practices seeing benefit in joining the firm.
“Many lawyers, and particularly lawyers operating in sole practices, are experiencing the complexity of delivering a high quality service at a sufficient fee level into the market place to provide a return that is commensurate with their skills and experience,” the managing partner said.
Howard explained that their work developing their capabilities – particularly their infrastructure and culture – and their efforts to build their brand is expected to pay off especially in attracting talent.
“Our recent past growth and anticipated future growth is being fuelled by lawyers joining us to utilise our brand positioning in the marketplace and the systems and resources available to them to service their client bases and grow their practices,” he said.

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