The Australian legal industry has overcome 'little fish' syndrome and is now competitive on the world stage; that’s according to a major new study from legal and tax solutions provider, Thomson Reuters. However, the candid research also reveals that despite this, it’s a shortage of time and the challenges of attracting the right talent that’s holding firms back from achieving true excellence.

SYDNEY 4 September 2014 The study questioned 132* senior fee-earning legal practitioners among medium-large firms across Australia, and was commissioned to help Thomson Reuters better understand what law firm ‘best practice’ looks like, and how professionals strive for excellence.

Second to only Europe, Australian legal practitioners considered ‘Down Under’ as the most competitive legal market in the world, coming above the US (third in the list) and Asia (fourth).

However, the research revealed that far from excelling in every practice area, there is in fact significant room for improvement, with marketing emerging as the area firms are weakest at on a day-to-day basis.

Areas firms consider themselves most ineffective at:

  1. Online and traditional marketing
  2. Business innovation
  3. Systems & IT

Areas firms consider themselves most effective at:

  1. Client servicing
  2. Financial management
  3. Practice leadership

When asked what was holding them back from achieving true excellence in every business function, the inability to recruit the best staff (44%) came top, followed by lack of time (43%), lack of budget (37%) or a lack of the necessary knowledge across the firm (36%).

Another issue of concern emerging in the research was a lack of process; 49% of firms had no formal staff training programme in place, 30% never reviewed client satisfaction, while 13% never reviewed fee earner’s efficiency. A further 38% admitted that the Australian legal industry suffers from complacency.

The study also explored what factors professionals used to assess law firm excellence, with quality of work emerging top of the list. Interestingly, ‘profit’ and 'growth' featured outside the top five.

Top measures for law firm success:

  1. Quality of work
  2. Client retention
  3. Efficiency of staff and processes
  4. Niche practice expertise
  5. Innovation

James Boocock, General Manager of Legal Solutions at Thomson Reuters, said: "The bullish attitude towards our legal market is encouraging, and rightly so. In Australia, we have an innovative and respected industry, carrying out world class work each and every day. However, we need to be realistic, and the survey identifies some important issues, particularly around the challenges of finding the right people to take a business forward, and finding the time to do it. Clearly, to be truly competitive, these issues need addressing.

Perhaps a starting point is to tackle some of the areas firms believe they are weaker at, especially IT. The importance of getting this right can't be over-emphasised, and with the right systems in place, for example, sophisticated practice management or workflow solutions, or online research tools like Westlaw, huge time and cost savings can be made, freeing up important man hours to spend on a business, not in a business."

*Study questioned 132 senior staff/partners across medium-large law firms in Australia in July 2014. Detailed research breakdown is available on request.

About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial, legal, tax and accounting, healthcare and science and media markets, powered by the world's most trusted news organization. With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, Minnesota, Thomson Reuters employs more than 55,000 people and operates in over 100 countries. Thomson Reuters’ shares are listed on the Toronto and New York Stock Exchanges (symbol: TRI). For more information, go to

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