Shared from the Wed 27 Mar, 2019 - Sydney Morning Herald Digital Edition

The importance of the personal touch

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Disruption of the legal services industry as a result of unprecedented merger activity, combined with pressure on legal spend in the post-GFC era, has seen more and more clients opt for the services of smaller, bespoke premium firms.

‘‘When we set up 10 years ago in August, we thought there was a gap in the market coming out of the GFC for a premium, boutique offering,’’ says Paul Miller, founding partner with Mark Deutsch of Sydney-based law firm Deutsch Miller.

‘‘Certain larger and mid-size companies, high net worth investors, private clients and entrepreneurs didn’t always feel comfortable using a big firm, but often didn’t know where else to go.’’

Enter the premium boutique law firm, to which individuals and companies are increasingly turning because they can offer a more personalised service without any necessary sacrifice in quality, Miller says.

Such bespoke firms are often set up by individuals with premier law firm experience, as is the case with Deutsch Miller – which has 22 staff, including six partners – offering the best of both worlds in the areas of corporate advisory and dispute resolution.

‘‘We aim to provide a premium service to our clients,’’ Miller says.

That’s not to say that they are better than the largest law firms; they just provide a different offering.

‘‘We feel we are equivalent in quality and experience to some of the biggest firms in our areas of specialism,’’ he says

Boutique firms may also provide a more cost-effective service compared with some of the big players.

‘‘Matters are run on a lean basis, with flexible teams, calibrated directly to the client’s needs,’’ says dispute resolution partner Shane Anderton, who oversees a varied client base including major and offshore banks, listed companies, SMEs, and senior employees and executives.

‘‘Low overheads reduce the need for overleverage, ‘bolting on’ lawyers and padding of time sheets, but experience means you’re still getting the very best advice,’’ Anderton says.

In other words, it’s a win-win.

Partners at boutique firms can also more easily focus on the areas they enjoy.

‘‘Partners have less pressure on bureaucracy and administration,’’ says Anderton.

‘‘They can spend more time on actually being part of matters and keeping and developing relationships with clients.’’

He also refers to merger activity in recent years, with global firms combining with some of Australia’s largest, previously independent players, which has led to an increase in conflicts and relationship issues.

‘‘I think this has caused sophisticated users of legal services to consider alternative models and alternative offerings,’’ he says.

‘‘Like many other premium boutique firms, Deutsch Miller often works with the bigger top-tier firms, taking cases they, for various reasons including conflicts, are unable to handle.

‘‘When you are in a more boutique environment, or a smaller environment, you’re more easily able to control and create a positive and collaborative culture.

‘‘Happy employees provide a better service to clients. And, also, I like to treat people how I like to be treated.’’

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