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Martin Wiseman: Time for New Zealand firms to shift focus

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NZ Lawyer | 03 Feb 2014, 08:00 a.m. Agree 0
DLA Phillips Fox partner, Martin Wiseman, says it's time for New Zealand firms to take a fresh look at their priorities
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  • Ron Pol, | 03 Feb 2014, 11:55 a.m. Agree 0
    The figures for in-house counsel are considerably higher than the 'corporate' quoted, as it also includes 'government' plus unions etc.

    We've maintained records over many years; the trend is indeed rising, and as well as the growth of in-house counsel in absolute numbers, it's now around 20% of the profession.

    Interestingly in the context of Martin's comments, the growth is often in 'new' general counsel positions, not just expanding existing legal departments.

    Every few months we seem to see another 'mid-sized' company, or (to a lesser extent) agency, which had previously relied exclusively on external counsel, hire their first in-house lawyer.

    And oftentimes, firms are surprised, even though the signs (typically) follow a fairly common process over several years beforehand.
  • Ashley Balls | 10 Feb 2014, 10:16 a.m. Agree 0
    I share Ron Pol's view that it is around 20% of all lawyers in the in-house counsel 'space'. Moreover, I consider the revolution in legal services delivery referred to by Wiseman to be something of a tsunami of change rather than some gentle evolution. For years (decades even) clients have had to put up with fees/charges rising at a rate faster than inflation but not any more. The growth in the legal profession's numbers is such that supply now exceeds demand and the position will only get worse. If normal economic pressures are at play (and they are) this can only lead to falling prices. Factor in the increasing availability of inline and commoditised services and substantial change is inevitable. That said my glass is very much half full - the future is challenging and exciting but it is not going to be an extension of the past.
    We are already seeing massive changes in partner:lawyer leverage ratios which implies declining profits when measured on a profit per lawyer basis. New methods of working will have to be found and if overseas experience is a guide the revolution will be in the 'high street' as these firms are much more able to adapt quickly than their monolithic counterparts.
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