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Latest news – Strong pandemic profits; Law societies impress; Attractive firms named

Most Aussie firms defy COVID-19 downturn

A new report reveals that most Australian law firms have successfully combatted the disruption and financial pain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest CommBank Legal Market Pulse reports a mean profit increase of 7 per cent across the sector this year. A further boost of 5.5 per cent is expected in FY2021. Almost eight out of 10 law firms said that profits were stable or increased in the 12 months to the end of June 2020, compared with the previous 12-month period. Almost three-quarters of firms also indicated that they found maintaining cash flow to be easy or manageable during the pandemic.

Admittedly, some firms have struggled, though, with 21 per cent reporting reduced profits. The firms that have shown greatest resilience scored well against five criteria: profit growth, maintaining cash flow, managing staff utilisation, adapting to remote work, and ability to compete.

CommBank suggests digital transformation remains a key focus for firms, while flexible and remote working options are expected to expand across most firms, as well as enhanced digital services for clients.

Belinda Hegarty, Commonwealth Bank’s national head of professional services, comments: “We expect to see a continued focus on digital transformation that has followed years of investment in technology within the sector. This will help firms meet client expectations that legal services need to be delivered faster, more cost-effectively and add greater value than in the past.”

Standing of law societies on the rise

Perceptions of Australian law societies are on the rise, according to the fifth annual Ethics Index.

After a couple of years of falling community impressions, the picture looks brighter this year for the law societies. The index quantifies the perceptions of Australians of the overall importance of ethics and the level of ethical behaviour of individuals, institutions and professional strands across the country. It is published by Governance Institute of Australia.

In 2020, law societies across the country have improved their standing among Australians, with 61 per cent of respondents to the survey deeming such societies to be either “somewhat ethical” or “very ethical”, while just 14 per cent said they were “somewhat unethical” or “very unethical”. The results mark the best result for law societies since 2017.

While law societies are perceived as more ethical this year compared to recent years, they still lag behind organisations such as the Australian Medical Association, Engineers Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

MinterEllison heads ‘most attractive’ list

MinterEllison has topped the rankings for firms seen as the “most attractive” by legal professionals across the country. Now in its sixth year, the Top 25 Attraction Firms ranking is part of the Legal Firm of Choice Survey and identifies the most sought-after employers across the country.

The rankings are based on the results from one question in the recent 2020 survey, which asked: “Which firms would you most likely consider a move to if you ever decided to leave your current firm?”. Respondents could select up to five firms.

This year’s survey recorded the views of more than 900 legal professionals across Australia. The list in descending order is:

25. Moray & Agnew

21. Clifford Chance

21. Deloitte Legal

21. K&L Gates

21. KPMG Legal

19. Allen & Overy

19. PwC Legal

18. Maddocks

17. Norton Rose Fulbright

16. Maurice Blackburn

13. Baker McKenzie

13. Colin Biggers & Paisley

13. Sparke Helmore Lawyers

12. HWL Ebsworth Lawyers

11. Mills Oakley

10. Clayton Utz

9. Gilbert + Tobin Lawyers

8. Hall & Wilcox

7. Corrs Chambers Westgarth

6. Lander & Rogers

5. Ashurst

4. Herbert Smith Freehills

3. Allens

2. King & Wood Mallesons

1. MinterEllison