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Key topics include:

  • Connecting organisations and professional services providers
  • Legal Dept management; legal function productivity and value
  • Corporate governance; Legal compliance

Click here for more articles from a regular column in the award-winning Docket magazine, from the Washington-DC-based Association of Corporate Counsel) on relations between in-house and outside counsel, legal department management and professional issues.

The University Rankings debate - easy-measure outputs vs better-for-society outcomes

Snapshot of some emerging issues in a few elements of the NZ legal market.

The success of the Public Defence Service, increasing constraints on legal aid and continuing economic pressures have forced some lawyers to leave the market or move away from main centres because of reduced workloads. Ron Pol was invited to share observations on recent legal market changes.

And for a wider perspective, Richard Susskind's romp through the current state and future of law in just 10 minutes:

Couch case casts lawyers in different light, National Business Review

Journalist suggests "it is common knowledge lawyers have as much credibility among the public as used car salesmen", but notes significant pro-bono work by lawyers, including Ms Couch's lawyer Brian Henry.

NZ legal services income holds, profits drop, LawFuel

Ron Pol provides a more detailed account of the state of the New Zealand legal services industry.

Slow growth in $2.7Billion law industry, LawFuel

The legal services industry in New Zealand amounted to $2.7 billion in the year to June 2011, but showed a paltry 0.5 per cent increase in income for the sector.

The real 'cruel hoax' of NZ Law Awards exposed, LawFuel

A barrister complains about the 'cruel hoax' of Law Awards; LawFuel asks Ron Pol to sift fact from fiction.

  • Update: A senior New Zealand legal leader added: "It is interesting how the profession is still measuring itself by peer perception rather than client perception. New Zealand is a little behind in that regard..."

NZ Law Awards 2012

Team Factors developed the methodology for and independently identified winners of the New Zealand Law Awards from 2006-2012. For more information in confidence about your results in the NZ Law Awards contact us

Effective Practice: Value billing - has your firm considered changing? LawTalk

LawTalk asked three leading practice management consultants in the Law Management Group "Should New Zealand law practices be considering changing to value billing?" Ashley Balls, Richard Burcher and Ron Pol respond

Disputes settled without going to court, Chris Barton, NZ Herald

Getting to court is slow, costly and stressful; so many companies are embracing new ways of settling disputes - hiring an umpire and thrashing out their differences face to face reports Chris Barton. Ron Pol offers a word of warning. The promised flexibility and speed of arbitration and mediation is not always as straightforward as it seems; with complex processes creeping in.

  • Article also available on AMINZ website, here

Expensive charade sparks fears, Dominion Post, Catherine Harris

Lessons from all of government legal services review for recruitment agencies.

Dealing with Legal Fees, Marlborough Express, Eloise Gibson (Fairfax Business)

The growth of alternative legal fee arrangements in New Zealand.

Boutique firms dominate New Zealand Law Awards, NZ Lawyer Express

Playing rough over legal fees, National Business Review

  • The next stage in the government legal services tender is revealed, with a Dutch auction to drive down rates in a 'widget' procurement strategy.
  • Continuation and comment on "Gummint writes" and "Billion dollar profits" columns (below).

Gummint writes: Dear Sir, you're fired, National Business Review

  • Government procurement process may deliver politically appetising 'saving' whilst creating bevy of mega-firm monopolists and locking out more sustainable savings for another 6 years.
  • With law firm profits a record $1Billion, many businesses still don't use basic legal efficiency metrics aligned with performance improvements long used by CFOs; many toolkits don't extend beyond the usual 'request for proposals' blunt instrument.

Legal Eagles soar to $1b, Business Day (Dominion Post) by Nick Krause

NZ lawyers pre-tax profits have passed the $1 Billion mark for the first time, even as the economy has been struggling. The economic impact has been spread unevenly among law firms.

  • Also appeared in the Christchurch Press and Waikato Times
  • Billion dollar profits favour the few, National Business Review - references Dominion Post article and adds piece on profitability of legal business compared with other businesses, subheaded "Gross margins."

The iPad 2 - consumer gadget or useful work tool? Law Talk

Is the iPad 2 a sleek laptop replacement for busy professionals?

Ron Pol puts one of the most locked-down, least-PC friendly tablets to the test in the workplace.

Also see:

Ten percent of New Zealand's legal spend up for grabs? Law Association of NZ newsletter

Does a government tender process offer hope for struggling firms, and what does it mean for barristers and in-house counsel?

Client care - 7 practical tips Law Association of NZ newsletter

A business development and client relationship perspective on the 'client care' rules - seven practical questions to ask about your client care engagement letters.

Opportunities missed, LawTalk (Letter to Editor)

Lawyer complaints about the Public Defence Service miss the mark, and miss opportunities to extend consumer choice and advance the public perception of lawyers delivering a vital and exceptional service.

Corporate conundrum, NBR Briefcase

Notwithstanding pressure to tackle law firm fees more creatively, law firm managing partner says resistance more from corporate clients than firms. Legal consultant responds that the best innovations move beyond zero-sum thinking, with opportunities for clients to save up to 20% of their total legal spend even as a firm's profit margin improves.

Government could save $20m on legal advice, Business Day (Paul McBeth)

The Government is looking to save as much as $20m a year by creating a shortlist of legal firms it's willing to take advice from.

Quotes from a forthcoming article prepared by Ron Pol shortly before release of the All-of-Government legal services tender.

Local iPad app first for New Zealand legal profession, LawTalk

NZ Law Society reports ACLA/CLANZ Legal Department Benchmarking Report New Zealand's first iPad app for NZ lawyers, and the first for Australasian in-house lawyers and their law firms.

Foxes and ostriches, National Business Review

Law firm metrics, client-focused firms doing well, and $100M government legal tender announced

Legal Tender, In-Business (Alex Tarrant) also here

Planned changes to the way government purchases legal services will affect the big legal firms as well as smaller ones, and could accelerate a process of firm closures and consolidation.

Stepping up globally, NZ Lawyer In-house

A look at some of the global trends facing corporate and government General Counsel, including dealing with competing pressures and re-engineering the legal department.

A vital dimension of client care, Law Talk

Customer driven lawyers and the client perspective. Musings on the topics: What do you call clients? What do you sell? Your aim is to satisfy and delight clients, right? We're customer focused, so we're ok? Our brand is all about being customer-driven? They're some of our best clients, really?

Also see:

New Zealand's legal bill jumps as lawyers beat recession, Council Brief

Although government agencies and companies' faced budget and revenue cuts, official statistics show lawyers' incomes continued to climb during the first full year of the recession.

Increasing lawyer productivity and potential, NZ Lawyer

Legal services consultant describes eight models for assessing personal potential, as one element of the Smarter Legal Model.

Belt-tightening - New Zealand style, Australasian Legal Business

While 2009 may have been the low point of the GFC, new figures reveal that lawyer billings and profits actually increased during this period. Overall it seems that the reported belt-tightening intentions of corporates and government agencies has not had any impact on the country's official statistics.

Lawyers fees rise during GFC, Business Day

Lawyers came through the recession with record earnings but could yet suffer a delayed hit as clients look for ways to cut costs.

The Impact of law firm branding, Bulletproof blog interview, by Larry Smith of Levick Strategic Consulting

Extended interview into law firm branding which has uncovered some startling statistics about how corporate clients perceive their legal services providers.

(Richard Levick, based in Washington DC and a world leader on legal and crisis communications, was named to the list of The 100 Most Influential People in the Boardroom - a ranking compilied by the National Association of Corporate Directors and Directorship Magazine. The list includes such leaders in their fields as Mary Shapiro, Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett.)

Law firm branding - the client perspective, NZ Lawyer

Lawyers can radically reposition their brands by transitioning from a strong client focus to a more powerful client perspective.

Branding dilemmas befuddle law firms, National Business Review

According to the research produced in the metrics-laden Benchmarking Report, law firms have some major branding issues.

The GC brand, National Business Review

"Clear imperative for GCs to break away from the perception of being just the lead lawyer. The first step, surely, is to make the investment in the [Benchmarking Report] (rather than seeing it as a cost) and reap the benefits of what is undoubtedly the most extensively researched material of its kind ever undertaken. Cheap at many times the price..."

Lifting the General Counsel brand NZ Lawyer

Lessons from the CFO. Lawyers adding strategic value can take the test to see how they help advance the GC brand.

Time for General Counsel to stop talking and take action, NZ Lawyer

Key findings and action points from a comprehensive new benchmarking report and a clear and detailed picture of the current state and future direction of in-house practice.

Only one ranking matters when it comes to a survey, The Australian

The ACLA/CLANZ Legal Department Benchmarking Report's results are the most honest and unbiased of any conducted in the law firm ranking business, according to Australasian legal marketing expert Trish Carroll.

Size of legal fee does matter: clients, The New Lawyer 

Optimal outcomes and value for money are more important than hourly rates; but overall a better understanding of client needs is critical, particularly as legal departments reducing their cost base have a direct impact on the revenue base of many firms

Big law big trouble, National Business Review 

New report "contains a wealth of information on how legal services providers, both inside and outside... can cut costs and generate greater efficiencies: indeed build a better relationship between client and firm.

The legal A-Team, Business Day

In-house lawyers working for some of New Zealand's biggest corporates and government departments have drawn up an "A team" of external law firms and lawyers they rate as the country's best.

Australian law firm rankings by clients, The Australian

    A survey of leading general counsel has identified lawyers nominated by their clients as the nation's best.

    Size, national reach and the much-vaunted cast of thousands is no longer a guaranteed measure of success when clients are

    increasingly concerned to secure the most cost-effective representation.

    Chris Merritt interviews Team Factors' Director Ron Pol

Presentation outline: Professional services procurement - defensible outputs or optimal outcomes?

Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS Australasia), Wellington, 3 June 2010

Within the context of major public sector contracts and significant change in the government sector procurement space, Ron delivered a provocative presentation designed to test assumptions and generate debate.

The Future of Law

Corporate Lawyers Association conference, 14 May 2010, Rotorua

Are you too busy operating in the now to think about different ways of doing things in the future? The future is already here, yet unevenly distributed, so you may have missed what others around the world have already started doing. Panellists share a concise and sometimes provocative package of future strategies. What's happening in New Zealand, Australia, Asia-Pacific and internationally? What works? What doesn't work? What can work better? And what else is coming down the track?

Straight talkin', Australasian Legal Business

What's in a brand? ALB editorial about the perceived uniqueness of law firm branding, from the reporting of "an illuminating exercise by professional services consultant Ron Pol on how clients, and indeed firms themselves, perceive law firm branding."

Law firm websites; a marketing cliche? by Renu Prasad, Australasian Legal Business

Traditional assumptions about how clients use websites need to be viewed with some scepticism.

Lawyer use report wins major award

The ACLA/CLANZ Legal Department Benchmarking Report, which ACLA CEO Peter Turner says is "already being put to great use by companies and government agencies keen to ensure they get the best value from lawyers" wins APEX 2009 Award (US) and Pride in Print Awards (NZ).

Being an Organization Lawyer, Vermont Law Review, vol 33:729 (2009), by William B Lytton, former Tyco General Counsel, International Paper General Counsel, Chair of the Association of Corporate Counsel, and counsel to Presidents Reagan & Bush Sr.

Text of speech to law school community on a different perspective to that typically presented at law schools, many of whose graduates will work for organizations at some point in their careers. Experience and insights from one of the world's foremost in-house counsel, including on leadership, followership, service, inspiration, vision, honesty, integrity and encouraging personal growth. Vermont Law Review, vol 33:729 (2009)

In-house needs reality check on value, New Lawyer, Richard Stock & Ted Dwyer

Many general counsel don't realise how legal spend can be quickly reduced with the right combination of measures, but law firms may not initiate the discussion. There's no use complaining and then doing nothing; GCs need to take the lead on reducing costs. As the leading resource tool of its kind in Australia and New Zealand, the ACLA/CLANZ Legal Department Benchmarking Report mentioned in this article provides a wealth of information on which to base effective strategies.

Women and Other Levers of Economic Progress in the Legal Profession

My unborn grand-daughter might be the first woman to enter a profession in which the levers of power are shared equally between men and women. Paper prepared for the launch by Prime Minister the Hon John Key of NZ Global Women.

Also see:

The Business of Law 2009

The 2nd edition of this book is described by publisher Thomson Reuters as the latest, most comprehensive report on the state of the business of law in New Zealand; with an in-depth analysis of the trends affecting the legal profession supported by relevant demographic, statistical and financial data.

Authors: Ron Pol, Ashley Balls, David Maister, Stephen Mayson, Rebekah Palmer, Miriam Bell

Selected extracts:


The Business of Law, as featured on Prime TV, TV One, National Business Review, The Dominion Post, The Press, The Waikato Times, NZ Lawyer, Law Fuel and Scoop, including:

The Opportunity Maker, by Ari Kaplan (Book Review), Thomson West

The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for inspiring your legal career through creative networking and business development

Local Authority legal teams - lean, starved or captive?

Legal work heavily outsourced; implications for in-house lawyers.

It's official - lawyers care, NZ Lawyer

Third client care article. Reviews new ADLS 'client care' form, and asks what the profession can do now.

Also see:

      (This commentary is updated from time to time, with version date shown under document heading)

      [Not recommended]

      [Not recommended]

Client care Q&A, NZ Lawyer

Second client care article. Client care Q&A's after first article ("Client Care - Yeah Right?"), plus free client care template letter.

Client care? Yeah, right, NZ Lawyer

First client care article, in response to lawyers' concerns expressed after NZLS 'client care' seminars.

The best lawyers, already delivering exceptional client service, may find client relationships strained, not strengthened, by the so-called 'client care' letters suggested by some templates.

Costs' system also bad for clients, Law News (includes Long Term Reviser Withdraws, by Brian Keene QC)

Linking fee complaints and discipline is bad for clients and lawyers.

The article and letter mentioned in Costs' system also bad for clients are also available:

Procurement guidance for local authorities, NZ Local Government magazine

The Auditor General's new procurement guidelines for public entities now extend to local authorities. This article outlines 20 practical tips for local authorities, followed by a law firm's experiences of local government procurement of legal services.

Large vs specialist: what's best for clients? NBR Guide to Business Law

Large firms or boutiques? Are niche firms the way of the future or a passing fad?

The Pecking Order, NBR Guide to Business Law

Price-performance comparison of the big law firms by in-house counsel. (For the rankings and the full price-performance matrix, see article below "Clients rank top firms on price and performance")

Clients rank top firms on price and performance, eCLANZ

Price-performance rankings of New Zealand's largest law firms, based on a survey conducted by Team Factors with CLANZ and Thomson Reuters involving nearly 30% of New Zealand's in-house counsel as key client representatives.

"The quality of Ron's practices and techniques makes this the leading benchmark survey. This particular matrix is one recognized internationally as the key performance indicator." Chief Executive, Large law firm.

Inhouse legal report, National Business Review

Huge collection of metrics hitting just about every performance point a legal department needs to make.

Yes, there is a lawyer in the house & How we compare, Business Herald (Eloise Gibson)

Pressure to limit costs means many organisations are relying more on in-house teams; and how many lawyers does a company need to make $1 billion?

Benchmarking data for Australasian law departments, The Engine Room

Law dept benchmarking has long been available in the US. Similar data is far less common elsewhere. So, this Report is big news. Workload is such a big problem, because few legal departments actively try to improve productivity and deliver meaningful workload reductions. Why?

Why law departments struggle to improve productivity, The Engine Room

Some law depts are unable to unlock potentially millions of dollars in savings, because of general counsel background and attitudes, organisational culture, resources and in the case of Australian and New Zealand law departments the dearth of industry data has meant a lack of awareness of what's actually possible.

New report helps reduce legal costs, Boardroom (Institute of Directors)

Does your company spend too much on lawyers? "It works, but can it work better?" is the mark of a new breed of legal managers who seek opportunities to improve productivity on legal costs.

Good counsel tops $50m for local councils, Sunday-Star Times (Garry Sheeran)

Councils use of in-house counsel less than central government

The Great Legal Takeover, NZ Management (Eugene Bingham)

The growth of New Zealand's in-house counsel profession

Managing your matters, NZ Lawyer

Matter management systems available to in-house counsel

True leadership, NZ Herald (letters)

When managers apply legalistic arguments defensively, a lawyer demonstrates leadership, compassion and common sense.

Who opens the $200M public purse?, NZ Lawyer

Government legal spend; the top 30 law firms; and commentary on procurement and tender practices.

Through your clients' eyes, NZ Lawyer

Selected brand attributes associated with some of New Zealand's leading firms

Cost of leaky regulators gets worse, National Business Review

Impact of regulation worsens, CLANZ survey shows, Law Talk

Survey of regulator conduct and attitudes, and strategies for dealing with regulators, by some of NZ's largest companies

Lend Them Your Ears , and Listen, to Influence, LawTalk

Helping bridge the perception divide between lawyers and clients

Salaries & Benchmarking for NZ conditions, Corporate Lawyer

Independent and extensive salary information for corporate and government lawyers.

For publicly available research reports, click here. For more information, contact us

Strategic Law Firm Management: Clients are Key, InBrief

Organisational clients ask firms to engage with them from more of a 'client' perspective

Sex and the law - how women make us all richer, NZ Lawyer

Survey shows striking differences; Gender diversity in top management is simply good business

Two weeks after this article was published, the ECONOMIST published articles with similar findings: The Conundrum of the Glass Ceiling and Helping Women Get to the Top (contact us for more information)

How client-focused are you really? RainToday (with Patrick J McKenna, Edge International)

It's up to law firms to take action in setting how their clients measure the value they provide

Court strips General Counsel's privilege, Corporate Lawyer

Managing risks of the modern corporate counsel with mixed legal and commercial roles

The Quest for Seamless Service: Ensuring Consistency with Multioffice Law Firms, ACC Docket

Ronald F Pol and Patrick J McKenna - To secure more benefits from convergence, what can organisations do when their preferred law firms' other offices fail to measure up to the high standards of the main office?

Marketing value, LawTalk

What it means for lawyers to market the value of legal services (second article of two)

Clients seek value, LawTalk
International report shows corporate clients need more than just great service. (first article of two)

House message: Media management for in-house counsel, Lawyers Weekly

How in-house counsel help maintain their employer’s reputation, by Richard Levick

Increase legal department value: Establish a goal focus, ACC Docket (with J & R Hansen)

Communicate with management in goal-focused terms that demonstrate value

Corporate Culture: The mortar that binds best governance, Boardroom (NZ Institute of Directors)

Critical importance of organisational culture in effective compliance programs

Corporate lawyers walk over hot coals, Law Talk
Corporate ‘retreat’ designed specifically for teamwork, fun, and lasting benefit
Can’t get no satisfaction: the law and its customers, LawTalk
What’s right and what’s wrong with the delivery of legal services?

Get More Value from Outside Counsel: Show them the Flipside, ACCA Docket (now ACC Docket)

IIn-house counsel deliver more value by helping outside counsel become more client-focused.

Noisy silent withdrawal’ & ‘up the ladder’ exemption, Lawyers Weekly

US corporate governance and conduct rules sought to extend to non-US lawyers.

(An earlier related article on this topic is Of snakes, ladders, academics and long-arm jurisdiction, Lawyers Weekly)

Privilege, in-house counsel and lawyers as team players, Lawyers Weekly

Teamwork between in-house and outside counsel encourages open debate and value delivery

Crisis at the Top – is time running out for boards and directors, NZ Management

The state of corporate governance in New Zealand after international collapses

Stop Rain Dancing! – 5 management habits for in-house lawyers, J&R Hansen, ACCA Docket (now ACC Docket) Summary of management habits for not getting bogged down with ‘stuff’

Removing hidden legal costs, NZ Business
Hidden costs from inefficiencies in the legal process itself

The efficient resolution of commercial disputes, Law Talk

Outlines some key issues with and possible improvements to the discovery process

Seven steps to value-added legal services, NZ Business
A method for encouraging lawyers to deliver a more effective, and valuable, service

Capabilities of effective in-house counsel, Law Talk
Attributes and capabilities for corporate counsel

The ideal external lawyer, Law Talk
Key characteristics sought by corporate clients in selecting external counsel

Justice Brad Giles, Law Talk 1999

Access to justice is served by judges empowered to progress cases effectively and efficiently. Justice Giles' death was premature, for what he might have achieved by an incisively analytical yet decisive style.

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