We decided to launch our new law firm, and the reaction of clients and colleagues was markedly different. Why would we leave the comfort of traditional “Big Law” firm environments? Most of our clients have understood and appreciated our motivations and their response has been very positive.
On the other hand, the reaction of our competitors (other private practice lawyers) was far more varied; from the “envious but wary”:
– “I wish I had been so bold when I was younger”
to the “dubious”
– “well, most law firms in Hong Kong don’t make any profit anyway, what makes you think you can do it?”
The reaction to the launch of our flexible resourcing business, GPS Flex, was similar. Clients have been very supportive. Some clients have been very curious about how it would work for them.
The reaction of private practice lawyers has been similar. Some lawyers immediately got what we are trying to do, whilst others, who are still wedded to Trad Law, were just a tad dismissive. For example:
– “are they starting a virtual firm?”
– “are you providing an outsourcing/contract lawyers business?”
Overall, these reactions have reinforced to us that we are on the right track i.e. our clients largely understand what we are trying to do and impressed by our innovation and are keen to give us a try. Our competitors are in two camps – those who understand it and wish they could do it themselves and those who do not seem to, or choose not to understand it.
What is GPS Flex?
A fundamental principle behind our business is to expand the available pool of outstanding legal talent by tapping into an alternative HR model. This obviously also allows us to give our clients better value for money, but it also allows our fee earners to get a better return for their efforts.
Our model is driven by the recognition that there is a significant pool of talent that is insufficiently utilised in Hong Kong. “Trad Law” firms remain entrenched in their employment practices and, for many firms, unless a lawyer is working 200 billable hours a month and pushing for partnership then these people are not of interest.
The GPS Flex model means that the permanent team – which includes senior partners and juniors (both trainees, junior associates and paralegals), is supplemented by a pool of very talented, experience professionals, with the right skills for the assignment, when we need them.
For our Disputes Team, the GPS Flex model means we can supplement the services of our experienced partners with junior to mid -level barristers. Using barristers for disputes work is hardly novel. Using barristers to do the heavy lifting on big arbitration and litigation cases is more unusual. Big Law firms remain desperate to squeeze every dollar from every client to pay for their associates—whether they have the right experience for the case or not. We have a core group of junior and mid-level barristers in Hong Kong, England and Australia that we match to our cases depending on their experience and the nature of the disputes..
For our Transactions Team, our permanent team taps into a different part of the GPS Flex team – ranging from senior consultants who want to work on a deal by deal basis to those part-timers who want to work a limited number of hours per week due to family and other commitments. Our model appeals to lawyers who are stay home parents, part time entrepreneurs and millennials, who do not want to slave away for years in the same way most current senior lawyers did.
GPS Flex enables us to tap into a large pool of diverse expertise in Hong Kong and across the region. Our relationship with our IP consultants is a case in point. Dan and Helen continue to be dedicated directors of the IP consultancy, SIPS. However, their positions with us enables them, where appropriate, to utilise their qualifications and skills as Hong Kong lawyers. It also enables us to readily call on the help of two very experienced IP lawyers on both contentious and non-contentious projects.
It is important for us that the members of our GPS Flex team have sufficient seniority and experience to allow to trust them to work in a flexible manner. However, it is even more important to us and our clients that all our cases and projects are genuinely partner led and managed. For us, our GPS Flex model works “behind the scenes” giving us better cost efficiency, without compromise on quality, experience or capacity.
Today’s reality is that clients want and demand partners to be hands on. The days of partners passing the running of a client matter –even “small” clients or matters – to associates have passed. Clients increasingly demand that they can rely on the experience of a senior lawyer driving their work. GPS Flex ensures that GPS McQuhae LLP can deliver to these client expectations, backed by a flexible team with the right experience, qualifications and talent to deliver the best result for our clients.
Look forward to Part 2: How do we deliver differently?