Latest news – SMEs choosy with law firms; Queensland barrister recognised; Lawyer satisfaction levels slump

[Australasian Law Management Journal,Finance & Accounting,General Management,Marketing & Business Development,People Management(HR)] September 17, 2019

One in three SMEs happy to ditch lawyer

More than a third of Australian small and medium-sized businesses are willing to seek the advice of a different legal adviser, according to NAB’s inaugural Australian Legal Services Industry Survey.

The survey notes that SMEs rely on and value their current lawyers, but nevertheless they are quite prepared to switch firms, with more than one in three changing their lawyer in the past five years. The reasons? High fees and not feeling valued are among the reasons highlighted for switching. About one in five SMEs were put off by work being done at the last minute, while a similar proportion sought the services of a specialist. Those SMEs new to the game, or about to change owners or leadership teams, appear the least steadfast, with about seven in 10 establishing or transitioning firms having switched providers over the past year.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Lawyers are SMEs’ second most widely used professional service provider;
  • 1 per cent of lawyers but 18 per cent of SMEs say doing work at the last minute is the reason clients change firms;
  • 40 per cent of SMEs are billed by the hour, but just 25 per cent of SMEs want to be;
  • $39,000 is the average amount SMEs spend on legal services each year; and
  • 7.3 out of 10 is the average mark that SMEs scored lawyers, putting them among the top three advisers when it comes to giving business advice.

Barrister claims national Young Lawyer gong

A Queensland barrister has won the 2019 Australian Young Lawyer Award, hailed for his outstanding contribution to the legal profession through pro bono work and access to justice and diversity advocacy.

Reimen Hii, 32, is co-founder of the Queensland branch of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association, a national non-profit organisation promoting cultural diversity in the legal profession. He has spearheaded a range of initiatives to support junior and culturally and linguistically diverse members of the profession, promoting cultural and gender diversity and awareness in the profession and judiciary. Hii has practised at the Queensland Bar since 2017. He has also worked as a solicitor in private practice, a registrar of the Tongan superior courts, as an Associate to Hon. Judge Susan Purdon-Sully of the Federal Circuit Court, and as an Associate Legal Officer at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia, a UN-backed war crimes tribunal.

Law Council of Australia President Arthur Moses SC praised Hii’s contributions to the profession. “Mr Hii is an incredibly accomplished young lawyer who has a clear passion for access to justice and diversity in the law,” he said. “Whether mentoring law students, or providing pro bono support to Queensland community legal centres, Mr Hii has significantly contributed to the legal profession and community and is well deserving of this award. I have no doubt Mr Hii will continue to make an outstanding contribution over the course of his career.”

The 2019 Australian Young Lawyer Award (Organisation) winner was The Legal Forecast, for its significant contribution to the legal profession and the community, empowering new ideas and change through the lens of technology, innovation, wellbeing and access to justice.

Legal professionals send message to employers

Satisfaction with legal employers has reached its lowest point since 2015, according to the 2019 Legal Firm of Choice Survey. The annual report is conducted by Momentum Intelligence, in partnership with Lawyers Weekly, shows that, on a scale of one to five, the mean score for satisfaction currently sits at 3.81, a sharp decline from 2017 (4.45) and 2018 (4.16). This year’s satisfaction rating is also significantly down from earlier years: 4.37 in 2015 and 4.31 in 2016.

When broken down into demographics, the research shows that males (3.84) are just slightly more satisfied than females (3.81). In terms of age brackets, those aged 65 or over are most satisfied (4.16), followed by those aged 18-25 (3.96), those aged 35-54 (3.88), then 55-64 (3.82) and finally those aged 26-34 (3.67). The ratings for satisfaction by years of experience mirrored that of satisfaction by age, with those with more than 20 years of experience rating themselves as most satisfied (4.04), and those with between one to three years of experience ranking lowest (3.41).

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Momentum Intelligence head of research services Michael Johnson said ‘satisfaction’ was a measure of an employee’s memories, experiences and attitudes. “The 22 different attributes that we measure alongside satisfaction have all experienced negative year-on-year changes, with leadership (the greatest driver of satisfaction) taking the biggest hit with a drop of 12.5 per cent.”