LOD Asia Pacific turns 10 in 2018, with predecessor firms Balance Legal and Advent Lawyers both being founded in 2008. To celebrate this milestone, we sat down with our two founders in APAC, Ken Jagger and John Knox.
1. What led you to creating Balance Legal and Advent Lawyers?
Ken: 10 years ago the options for lawyers were pretty limited. They could take a full time role in a law firm or pursue a career in-house. Part time work was still rare (particularly in law firms) and the in-house community wasn’t as mature as it is today. This meant that a large cohort of experienced, talented (mostly female) lawyers were being lost to the law altogether as they found the legal profession incompatible with their life. And for clients, the only way to access flexible resources was by asking law firms for secondees. This could be hit or miss in terms of the availability and experience of secondees, and the willingness of law firms to release their best lawyers to their clients. The idea behind Balance Legal and Advent Lawyers was to meet this client need using outstanding lawyers who might otherwise have been lost to the profession.
John: I had worked for large law firms for a number of years and constantly heard lawyers complaining about the lack of variety and clients complaining about high costs and the lack of budget certainty. Put simply, I just thought there was an opportunity to do things a bit differently and that led me to create Advent Lawyers back in 2008.
2. Why did you decide to merge Balance Legal and Advent Lawyers in 2012?
Ken: In order to ensure that we could provide our lawyers with the highest quality work, the business needed scale. We needed to be able to quickly meet the needs of large corporate clients across Australia. To do that, we needed Australia wide coverage and access to the largest possible pool of quality lawyers. The merger gave us both.
John: Advent Lawyers and Balance Legal had a very similar business model but were on different sides of the country with quite different client bases. Ken and I got to know each other over a number of years and decided there was an opportunity to create a market dominant player with scale. It was the right call for both of us and has been a real catalyst for growth and momentum.
3. How has the business evolved over the last 10 years?
Ken: The business started out as very much a temporary on-site cover business (annual leave and maternity leave cover). Now we provide temporary and permanent teams of lawyers to undertake entire transactions and projects. And technology now plays a significant role, allowing our lawyers and clients to work collaboratively together.
John: The business has grown significantly over the last 10 years (we now have 10 offices and a team of over 700) but it is evolving constantly in the type and sophistication of services we provide clients. We started by providing clients with straight secondments, essentially solving a resourcing or expertise challenge, but now we also offer OnCall remote services and bespoke designed and managed solutions that involve not just great lawyers but also process improvement, project management, automation and technology. The market is evolving quicker than ever before and clients are becoming more sophisticated by the day.
4. What effect has the merger with the UK’s LOD in 2016 had on the businesses in Asia and Australia?
Ken: The merger with LOD in the UK was the next logical step. It gave us global coverage and we have been able to deepen our relationships with international corporate clients and provide our lawyers In Australia and Asia with even more interesting opportunities.
John: We merged AdventBalance with LOD for the same reasons we merged Advent Lawyers and Balance Legal back in the early days. It was all about scale and being able to offer our lawyers and consultants more opportunities and being able to offer our clients a global service in all the markets in which they operate.
5. What would you say has been the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for the business in the last 10 years?
Ken: In the early years, the greatest challenge was convincing some lawyers to take a chance and work flexibly. Now the law firms are having a hard time convincing people to work full time! The greatest opportunity came from working in an industry where clients were hungry for new options and didn’t need much convincing to try alternative solutions.
John: I think the greatest challenge was in the early days when we were trying to convince lawyers and clients to be the first and try something different. That has changed however, and alternative delivery models are common place. I think the biggest opportunity is going to be over the next 12-18 months as we expand in to the US and also further develop and expand our designed and managed solution offering.
6. The NewLaw market is constantly seeing new entrants. How does this competition impact LOD and do you foresee this competition increasing?
Ken: The legal market still has plenty of room for innovation and development. It is great to see new entrants bringing fresh ideas and products to the market. It’s not a case of NewLaw players competing over market share. Rather, we are all working to provide new solutions for clients and expand our share of the market. There is still a huge untapped opportunity for all NewLaw players.
John: There are new market entrants nearly every week. On one hand this makes it more competitive, but on the other hand it validates the market and helps it grow and diversify. I actually think competition is a good thing and the market is growing fast enough to support all the current players and new entrants.
7. What’s next for LOD?
Ken: There are a number of opportunities for LOD. We will pursue geographic expansion, particularly into the US market. There is an opportunity to consolidate the NewLaw market and build the scale needed to undertake even more sophisticated work. And we believe that legal technology will allow us to deepen relationships with our clients.
John: As I said, I think the big opportunities for us over the next 12-18 months are our US expansion and the further development of our designed and managed solutions offering.