Demand rose for fixed fee work to drive down costs, with firms outsourcing a portion of their work abroad including to India and South Africa, as well as for lawyers that used and created legal tech.
The Australian market was largely shielded from the GFC so avoided the forced NewLaw adoption, but now it needed to catch up following the pandemic-induced recession, Mr McQuillen said.
Firms had previously got away with dragging their feet despite client demand, but there is a growing awareness among top legal managing partners and CEOs that NewLaw disrupter firms are aggressively growing and those who do not catch up will be left behind.
“Now COVID … is forcing the legal industry to innovate and digitise, but also to look at the best way to resource everything against the backdrop of belts tightening,” Mr McQuillen said.
As well as sparking an overdue shift to online systems for both courts and firms, the pandemic has also seen a rise in client demand for lawyers to offer more services than just legal advice, and to do so faster.
If client demands mirror those of businesses in London after the GFC, they will also want more fixed price, project-based work instead of billable hourly fee structures, he said.
“The thing about fixed fees is it gives a client predictability of budget. They want a good price but that’s not everything; they want to know what they will need to pay,” he said.
“But it also incentivises the supplier to innovate and deliver better because they don’t get paid hourly … It shifts the incentive [for staff] from how much they earn from it, so how long it takes, to how efficiently they do it.”

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