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Silver linings for regional and suburban lawyers during pandemic

Silver linings for regional and suburban lawyers during pandemic

By Karin Derkley

COVID-19 Practice Management Technology 


The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, but it has also presented some silver linings for regional lawyer Jacqui Brauman.

Ms Brauman (pictured above) will be presenting at the LIV Regional and Suburban Lawyers Conference on Friday 20 November. She says the restrictions helped level the playing field with bigger city-based firms for her Nagambie practice TBA Law, which also has offices in Wallan and Romsey.

The firm was already well-geared up for remote working, and technology made social media marketing and networking events much more convenient for colleagues and clients who have been spared travelling long distances to participate, she says.

"We were ready. Not for a pandemic, but because we have up and down services with electricity and NBN here, so we always have to have a backup provision and be ready to pack up our laptops and take our handsets home.

"That meant that very little changed from our client's perspective: the phones were the same, and the only difference was that we moved on to Zoom for the majority of our appointments."

Her firm was not alone in being well set up with remote working technology, she says. "Because so many of us have multiple locations, you always need to be able to access to everything from whichever office you are in."

Already actively marketing its services on social media, the firm quadrupled its output when restrictions came in, producing fortnightly Zoom webinars and Facebook Live events with guest presenters discussing topics such as the changes the pandemic brought to insurance, lending and superannuation.

"We knew people weren't going to be out and about as much, so we couldn't get in front of them through their sports clubs or through community centres. So, we thought, how else do we get in front of them and make sure we're giving them information when they need it?"

The firm's partners have become adept at presenting on video, she says. "I gave them the roster and said here's your topic, so off you go. It means now we've got all these recordings of great content." Social media engagement has increased, with up to 20 registrations for each webinar each fortnight, far more than previous such events. "So that's truly been worth it's while."

For Merton Lawyers managing partner Anthony Curtin, who will also be speaking at the conference, the pandemic provided an opportunity to fast-track a long-held plan to establish a US office of his Hawthorn-based corporate, property, litigation and private client services firm.

"We had to think differently and accept that some things might be slowed to a grinding halt, other things might be accelerated and some things might be brought forward,” Mr Curtin says. “For us it was an opportunity to get on the offensive and reprioritise areas that we needed to be in.

"We have quite a strong pipeline of work that comes from the US – of investors, tech companies and founders. We're moving over there to set up an Australian office that's practising Australian law, but based out of New York and California."

When COVID hit, Mr Curtin says he and the other partners decided to spend this period of time building networks with US law firms, government, industry and investors as well as making applications to the New York Bar and the California Bar to set up a representative office over there.

"What we've been able to do is make a good start on 12 months of planning, which means that once things open up there, we will be ready to press go. Had COVID not hit, it probably wouldn’t have happened until the following year."

Mr Curtin says he remembers going through the GFC as a young lawyer at Blake Dawson. "What I feel is that the people that went through the GFC came out with an amazing skillset and great resilience and intangibles that are separate to law.

"So, what we've been communicating to our staff is to hang in there because this will be something that will build your resilience, it'll build your empathy, it'll build your understanding of clients, it'll build your understanding of the economy."

Find more information and register for the LIV Regional and Suburban Conference.

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