Ten years ago, large US law firms thought strategy meant “we have quality lawyers.” In contrast, Australian firms were conducting serious market analysis and formulating real strategic plans. They are still way ahead of US and even UK firms. Here is yet another example. 

Minter Ellison is one of the top six firms down under, comparable to a a top NYC or Magic Circle firm. Being a big player in a relatively small but highly sophisticated domestic market, however, drives creativity and innovation. The A-Bomb of Differentiation (Lawyers Weekly, 16 Nov 2007) explains that the Adelaide office invested $5 million in case management and other software to enable it to handle – profitably – high volume work such as “banking, claims management, franchising, leasing, medical negligence and workers compensation.”

By investing in systems, sharing risk with clients, and offering alternative pricing, the firm achieved “double-digit” revenue growth for 5 years in a market generally considered stagnant. Nigel McBride, the Minters lawyers behind this, emphasizes that while technology is essential, the key is offering clients a total solution, a whole different model. While US firms continue to merge (“bigger is better”), Australia shows how innovation – from legal technology to publicly traded law firms – can change a market.

Minters is not the only top-six firm to innovate with technology. Blake Dawson was an early innovator with it legal technology practice; Mallesons has won awards for its TalentNet recruiting system.