The Australian legal sector is undergoing a period of significant change. Innovative new methods enabling firms to become more productive and cost effective are being adopted.
The Asia Pacific region is perceived to be the dominant region for global growth in the next century, consequently European and American law firms have invested in Australia so as to have strong base for further expansion into Asia.
The Australian legal industry is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.1% between 2013 and 2018.
Australian legal exports have increased at a compound rate of 3% over past five years. This is primarily due to globalisation of the industry with Australian lawyers conducting legal work for US counterparts.
New global law firms in Australia:
•Norton Rose Fulbright
•Clyde & Co
•Allen & Overy
•Herbert Smith Freehills
•King & Wood Mallesons
There has been significant change in the landscape of the Australian legal sector over the past few years as British, American and even Chinese firms established practices in Australia or merged with national and local Australian practices to create a globalised market. Further part mergers, co-brandings and ‘integrated alliances’ between Australian and international firms are likely to continue. UK firms with a strong international reputation, solid client base in the UK and Asia Pacific and an interest in expanding globally would do well to consider expanding into Australia.
Many firms and companies outsource their legal support services to specialised teams. Firms frequently outsource their accounting, information technology, word processing, printing, cleaning and human resources. Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) is also increasingly prominent in Australia.
A recent trend has been for firms to insource tasks such as e-discovery as a means by which to gain control over work, prioritise tasks and reduce delivery time. Firms, top 500 companies and start-ups are hiring short term contract lawyers to provide extra support during peak periods, short-term heavy workloads and to cover leave. There are likely to be opportunities in Australia for UK companies that can compete in the market by offering high quality services at competitive prices.
The demand for legal consultants and external legal managers is increasingly widespread. There has been a recent trend for Australian companies, including banks and insurance firms to utilise legal managers and consultants in addition to their in-house teams, to provide advice and project manage large scale litigation. Legal consultants ensure companies pay appropriate fees; assess the quality of work by outside firms, provide advice on the legal processes and liaise between the company and firm. There are opportunities for experienced UK legal consultants and consulting companies in Australia.
Restructure and Specialisation
The Australian legal industry is being restructured from multiple directions. In addition to the globalisation of the Australian legal sector, increasing numbers of firms have adopted non-traditional business models. Several firms in Australia now operate on a fixed fee pricing structure. There is also a trend towards firms providing specialist services in a limited number of practice areas, rather than the full service approach that has long been favoured. Law firms in Australia are becoming increasingly specialised in order to justify high costs and gain an edge in a competitive market. To become more cost-effective firms will likely cut underperforming areas and focus on the most profitable sectors. Recently the industry has witnessed boutique, specialist firms, top heavy with senior associates and partners win and perform high end work for multi-national companies and corporations.
Getting into the market
UKTI’s team in Australia, with its wide local knowledge and experience, can provide a range of services to British-based companies including:
Bespoke market research
Introductions to contact in Australian business and government
Product launches and events
PR and marketing support
Business centre hire
Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).
To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.
Melena Dirou, Trade Development Manager, UKTI Sydney. Tel: +61 (2) 8247 2225 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Odette Hurle, Trade Development Officer, UKTI Sydney. Tel: +61 (2) 8247 2213 or email: email@example.com.
UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.