Survey reveals impact of emerging professions in the legal industry
ALPMA-CLI Emerging Legal Professions Survey finds the legal industry is underprepared for the future of work.
SYDNEY: June 21, 2018: Legal business professionals (who are not lawyers but work in the legal industry) are having a significant impact on the delivery of legal services, but most law firms are not providing an inclusive workplace where these professionals can thrive.
This is the key finding of The Emerging Legal Professions Survey (the Survey), conducted by the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and the Centre for Legal Innovation (CLI) at The College of Law. More than 180 individuals working in the legal industry, law firms and legal organisations in Australia and New Zealand took part in the Survey.
The Survey found that in the majority (59 per cent) of law firms and legal departments, 40 per cent or more of their employees were not lawyers. These legal business professionals were employed in a range of roles including as CEOs and C-level management (24 per cent), office managers (9 per cent), human resources (4 per cent) or in IT (2 per cent).
While lawyers and legal business professionals work together in the majority of organisations, they do not share the same employment status or career opportunities.
Lawyers are more likely to be employed on a full-time basis than legal business professionals. Only 12 per cent of law firms responded that 95 per cent of their legal business professionals are full-time employees. This contrasts with the 31 per cent which employ 95 per cent of their lawyers full-time.
Another significant disparity exists when it comes to career opportunities. Most legal organisations (52 per cent) had defined career paths for lawyers, compared to 29 per cent for legal business professionals.
Lawyers were also more likely to have competency frameworks in place for their roles, to guide their career development and promotion. Currently 44 per cent of respondents had a competency framework for their lawyers while only 34 per cent had them for legal business professionals.
Terri Mottershead, Director of the CLI, said that the contemporary legal workforce is multi-talented and multi-disciplinary, but the legal industry is struggling re-shape its staffing models to embrace the increased role of legal business professionals.
“Traditional lawyer work is decreasing while legal work done by other professionals is increasing. Where legal business professionals were once mostly employed in clerical or administrative support functions, they are increasingly integral to delivering cost-effective services, product development and revenue generation.”
“As legaltech and AI continue to advance, these professionals will increasingly be in demand to work directly with clients, and to lead multi-skilled project teams.”
“The future of work in law firms and legal departments is already here. If firms don’t incorporate these emerging professions to help them deliver better and cheaper services, then their clients will choose to move to alternative service providers,” Ms Mottershead said.
Fiona Croswell, Learning and Development Manager at ALPMA, said legal organisations should devote time to addressing the disparity in working conditions between lawyers and legal business professionals, and create high performing multi-disciplinary teams.
“Unless legal business professionals are given the same employment status and career opportunities, law firms will be unable to attract the talent they need.”
“We need to spend more time on defining key skills and career paths for legal business professionals or many highly skilled professionals will choose to work in other industries, seeing a job with a law firm as a career limiting move,” Ms Croswell said.
Matthew Shaw: 0451 152 602
The Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) is the peak body representing managers and lawyers with a legal practice management role. ALPMA provides an authoritative voice on issues relevant to legal practice management. Members of ALPMA provide professional management services to legal practices in areas of financial management, strategic management, technology, human resources, facilities and operational management, marketing and information services and technology.
About the Centre for Legal Innovation
The Centre for Legal Innovation (CLI) was established by The College of Law in 2016. The objective of the CLI is to act as an incubator for approaches to the digital transformation of legal practice. The Centre undertakes practice related research, provides opportunities for the professions to discuss and debate the changes taking place in the legal industry, share experiences, and find solutions that best support them in remaining relevant and competitive in a new and evolving legal marketplace.
About The College of Law
The College of Law is the school of professional practice for lawyers in Australia, and New Zealand and Asia. It is the largest provider of practical legal training in Australasia. Its mission is to deliver innovative, practice-focused legal education and training to enhance the careers of practising professionals across Australasia and its region.
With over 60,000 graduates since opening in 1974, it’s alumni are spread across all facets of the legal profession in Australia, and New Zealand and Asia. The College’s teaching staff help set it apart from similar institutions through its focus on practical law and the needs of the practising legal professional.