AsiaLawNetwork is attending and speaking at the Regional Law Firm Management Forum in Singapore on 29 November, 2016 alongside a panel of speakers on the theme “Change: Technology Enables, People Deliver”. In this article, we interview Andrew Barnes as President of the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA), who are introducing this forum with ALMG.
What is the Regional Law Firm Management Forum?
The Australasian Legal Practice Management Association, together with the Law Council of Australia’s Law Management Group, have created a one-day high level event.
- This forum is for managing partners, law firm leaders and those broadly interested in the business of law.
- Program is evenly balanced between Australian and Singaporean content and presenters.
- The conference is not a lecture; the programs are designed to encourage interaction throughout.
- We will have Q&A, access to speakers during breaks, a closing panel to bring together the concepts from across the day and also a platform where specific questions can be provided to the panel in advance.
- The event is on 29 November at Raffles City Conference Centre from with breakfast beginning at 8.00 am, with have closing canapes and cocktails from 4.45 pm.
- Register now at this link
The conference is not about providing technical legal education but about understanding how the law firms can understand and adapt to a changing landscape. If you are wondering where your chosen legal career might take you, or how you might develop management skills in a law firm environment, you will find something in our event to satisfy you. Indeed, a tech-savvy lawyer will be in their element. Our program may inspire others to explore further study in computer science to underpin the legal training.
What is the theme of the forum?
I spoke with different people in Singapore during the early planning stages and two distinct concepts came through – technology and people. These concepts are not mutually exclusive and indeed law firms of the future will be as much about technology as they will about people.
The theme “Change: Technology Enables, People Deliver” captures this.
- Technology is not a singular solution to everything, but a conduit to innovation, success and hopefully prosperity.
- Without smart, progressive people applying their skills and experience then technology can be a wasted investment.
- Firms have a choice – pre-empt change and prepare now, or wait and have it forced upon them.
What are the Key Messages of this conference?
How firms begin to identify that now and begin the prepare their firms for these changes is a crucial underlying element of a firm’s longevity. Some of these changes may be only two, five, ten years away.
A change mindset is the starting point to any investment in technology.
- You cannot work with tomorrow’s tools whilst you are wishing it was yesterday.
- Technology can be seen to cause angst to people too comfortable in their work (if it isn’t broke, why fix it?).
- Firms need to be diligent in not only their investment or financial commitment but also in their commitment to people and thus their culture.
- A firm might say they are change ready, but are they change willing?
With this in mind we have two key presenters to expand on this message:
- Andrew Price – Andrew has practiced law and been a Chief Operating Officer at one of the country’s leading insurance firms. Andrew has unique accreditation in change management and now consults widely on change but also firm strategy around business development principles. Andrew has extensive international experience and has previously presented at the Law Society of Singapore.
- Sumith Perera – Sumith is the Chief Operating Officer at Hall & Wilcox, possibly Australia’s leading mid-tier firm for growth and innovation. Sumith has worked alongside the firm’s Managing Partner to expand across multiple states and introduce a new way of practicing law. In Sumith’s words, Hall & Wilcox are excited about the future of legal services without being panicked.
We have blended the Australian based speakers with local thought leaders. The interaction between the sessions will be a highlight of the day. What Andrew and Sumith have been able to achieve with the careers are not bound by jurisdictional regulations but are driven by the opportunities that exist to apply broad based commercial and innovative thinking to traditional law firm structures. Our program has universal application.
One of the things we do well at ALPMA is bring non-legal perspective to legal audiences. In Singapore we are delighted to be joined by:
- Margaret Manning OBE and Chief Executive of Adelphi Digital, headquartered in Singapore.
- Adelphi Digital paints a picture which excites about the future, whilst setting down the opportunities and challenges.
- They work to prepare their clients for the digital revolution, and that message from outside is just what law firms everywhere ought to hear.
Singapore is at the confluence of so many important influences in the legal profession – large firm headquarters, proud local firms over more than 100 years standing, international arbitration, changing regulations and technology inclined leadership. Add to this the vibrant tech start-up scene and a clear appetite to embrace the future, the legal profession is well placed.
At a commercial level there will be an in-built inquisitiveness toward the style of program ALPMA and ALMG deliver successfully in their domestic markets.
At a philosophical level we are seeking to develop relationships in the professional development for law firm manager space.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Singapore legal event in late 2015. During the visit we also met with firms and key people on the ‘non-legal’ side of the profession. We left quite clear in our minds that one day we would be helping Singapore set up their own ALPMA-type body. Whilst this inaugural event is under our banner we hope it rolls out annually and is driven by local volunteers. ALPMA’s strategy is to build collaborative international relationships with similar member focussed professional associations rather than to establish physical presence via an extended branch or chapter network.
The response to this to date indicates to me that we will be able to tap local interests and move forward with this objective.
What is your Personal Philosophy?
I have spent my time in the legal profession in one mid-tier firm. Until I became involved in ALPMA and aware that, whilst conservatively managed, not all law firms operated the same way. On the surface they seemed the same but the influences of the leading parter(s) meant things were happening behind the scenes which helped set firms apart. Some firms attract and retain, others have a revolving door. Some are well liked in their communities, others less so. Some grow, some fold.
Those law firm partners who have a broad enough perspective to encourage an environment where non-lawyers have an active sear at the decision making table are therefore going beyond their own knowledge bank to welcome unique expertise and insight. Ultimately the big decisions rest with the equity in a partnership or an Executive Committee but the decision process is often strengthened if a non-legal professional, unburdened by clinical legal training, can offer deep subject matter expertise.
Management domains such as finance, HR, marketing and technology are not core skills of lawyers. Blending legal thinking with broad based operational managers enhances the decision process and can only help improve a firm.
What is the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA)?
ALPMA (www.alpma.com.au) is the peak Australian membership association for legal practice managers and leaders. Our members include practice managers, senior executives, specialist managers and Managing Partners. More recently we have had lawyers with management roles and sole practitioners experiencing the benefits of our association. We deliver more than 100 development sessions annual across Australia and New Zealand. Everything we do is designed to deliver on our Promise to Members.