First NewLaw business to become a registered law firm

by Samantha Woodhill17 Oct 2016
The NewLaw phenomenon is beginning to infiltrate the New Zealand legal market with alternative legal service provider lexvoco set to become an official Kiwi law firm, registered with the New Zealand Law Society.

“We are in the process of completing the New Zealand Law Society processes to entitle a small number of our senior team to practice as law firm directors/shareholders. Once this is done, we can commence operations as a law firm. We’ll be an incorporated legal practice,” Stephen Mullins, general manager NZ & managing counsel told NZ Lawyer.

“We expect this to be completed by early 2017.”

Mullins said being a law firm, rather than a legal services supplier, allows lexvoco to offer legal advice as resourcing or strategy support.

“We’ll be able to advise clients who don’t yet have internal legal, but would like access to that function,” he said.
“It also helps us in attracting top legal talent and will replicate our business model in Australia.”

Having opened up shop in New Zealand in July, lexvoco is gaining momentum, announcing the appointment of former McKenzie Ellis director Jill Pitches as HR manager.  Pitches will support the main business: providing a resourcing solution to in-house legal teams, as well as strategy and technology.

“We occupy a unique position in the NZ market in that we supply experienced in-house lawyers to legal teams, quickly, flexibly and cost-effectively,” Mullins said.

In just three months, the business already has a talent pool of 50 lawyers.

“Our first six client assignments are now underway, ranging from ad hoc commercial overflow work through to a six-month GC cover,” he said.

Mullins said he’s thrilled to have Pitches on board as identifying talent and the selection process is crucial to the firm’s success.

Pitches decided to make the move to lexvoco as McKenzie Ellis wound down and after meeting with Mullins, realised the similarities between her previous role and the objectives of lexvoco.

“It became apparent that the two businesses shared a common ground,” Pitches said.

“Serendipity is the word I’d use to describe it.

“[We] focus on in-house legal teams and resourcing in-house legal teams by getting confident lawyers who have in-house experience and then putting them back into in-house legal teams in Australia, and now in New Zealand.”
Pitches said lexvoco is really piloting NewLaw in New Zealand.  She said the size of the New Zealand legal market has been a deterrent for NewLaw firms until now.

“The initial part of what [Mullins] was doing was business scoping really – going out and talking to clients and in-house legal teams and saying, ‘if we could provide this to you, would you use it’ and overwhelmingly the response was yes,” she said.

“He didn’t get one person saying or a little bit hesitant.

“On the lawyer side of things too, they tentatively put some advertisements out there just to see who the type of lawyers are that might be interested in working in this way and again they got a really good response to that.”