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The NewLaw firm

The NewLaw firm

By Adam Wakeling

2016 LIV Law Firm of the Year Hive Legal has an innovative approach to practice. What would a law firm designed from scratch to suit the 21st century look like? Around the world, there are new and established law firms seeking to answer that question by adopting different business models. To show an example, the YLJ spoke to Melissa Lyon, Mira Lutfi and Rohila Rahimi from Hive Legal. Founded in 2014 by partners from large firms and inspired by new law models overseas, Hive has gone on to win several awards, including PEXA Law Firm of the Year in the 2016 LIV Awards. In particular, we spoke about the firm’s approach to work spaces, billing and the use of new technology. Work spaces Technology allows lawyers to work out of the office, at home or at the workplace of a client. Hive’s cloud computing and remote workspaces mean that it requires only a small office space in Melbourne. It has hot desks rather than offices for each lawyer and common meeting rooms for client meetings. The costs savings can be passed directly to the client. “Clients embrace this model as the quality of service is not affected by the location from which it is delivered,” senior associate Mira Lutfi told the YLJ. Associate Rohila Rahimi explained that a flexible workplace allowed lawyers to work when they were most productive. “Our focus is on the final product delivered to the client rather than the ‘facetime’ in the office.” Billing Clients are looking for more flexibility in their billing arrangements. Some like time-based billing, but others prefer the certainty of fixed fees. Some Australian firms, including Moores, Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky and Lavan Legal, have moved away from time-based billing to value pricing and fixed-fee arrangements. Many lawyers as well as clients prefer these models. Hive does not use time-based billing unless the client requests it, and more than 95 per cent of its work is done on value pricing with fixed fees agreed in advance. “Fixed fee billing goes a long way to ensuring clients feel comfortable with the complete product being delivered. For example, clients should be able to pick up the phone to chat through an advice after it has been issued and settle any uncertainties without having to worry about the ‘clock ticking,’” Ms Lutfi said. “Not using time-based billing also allows young lawyers to spend that extra time to learn and develop,” Ms Rahimi said. Technical innovation More firms are adopting and even developing new technology. DLA Piper has launched the Kira document review system, while Gilbert + Tobin has applied to patent its new software. Hive is no exception, developing an app for the superannuation industry to use in breach reporting and hiring a graduate lawyer who can code. Not using time-based billing obviously gives its lawyers more time to work on long-term solutions. “The evolution of technology in the legal space is perhaps most appreciated by young lawyers who are usually the ones doing the leg work on repetitive tasks which are capable of being automated. This frees up young lawyers to take on complex work earlier in their careers,” Ms Lutfi said. Conclusion Young lawyers will often find themselves in very different work environments from their teachers or mentors. “In light of the technological advances in the legal space, coupled with increased digitisation occurring within our clients’ businesses, the future of the profession is likely to demand agile lawyers with strong commercial know-how a lot earlier on in their careers,” Ms Lutfi told the YLJ. Today’s graduates are tomorrow’s partners, but today’s firms may need to adapt to last that long. Adam Wakeling is a senior compliance adviser at State Trustees and is co-chair of the YL Editorial Committee.

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