Shared from the 3/28/2019 The Age eEdition

Challenging the status quo in the legal world


Client experience is at the forefront of a law firm shift away from hourly rate systems.

Forward thinking and with unique business models, today’s innovative law firms are challenging the status quo.

Contemporary workplaces with flexible arrangements and innovative business structures are transforming how the legal industry operates.

Hive Legal is one of the first law firms in the country to move beyond the traditional model, away from the hourly rate system to a structure that aims to improve the experience for clients and lawyers.

As part of the shift, time sheets go in favour of value pricing.

Hive works with clients to agree the value of the work the firm does, ensuring certainty and allowing staff to focus on achieving high quality outcomes for clients rather than being rewarded for time taken, says Hive Legal principal Mitzi Gilligan.

The firm also embraces workplace innovation, offering its team of 24 a contemporary, flexible environment.

Launched five years ago with five founding partners, Hive Legal provides toptier corporate and commercial advice to listed and unlisted companies, SMEs, family offices, start ups, government and statutory bodies, in highly regulated industries including energy health, telecommunications/IT, financial services and transport. Gilligan, a founding partner, says the firm’s vision was cultivated by the experiences original managing director Jodie Baker gained while working in the Unites States. “She had seen what forward-thinking law firms were doing there and had started to shape her own ideas of what a law firm of tomorrow would look like back in Australia,” Gilligan says.

“We could see the legal profession needed to change. It was very much 20th century, old fashioned and it was being left behind the rest of the world in terms of innovation in technology and in its business model.

“My experience in some traditional models was that the structure [of hourly rates and time recording] discouraged collaboration, innovation and efficiency.

“Value pricing is the opposite. It encourages all of those things. Everyone is aligned in terms of wanting to get the project completed quickly and successfully.” Fellow principal Joanna Green says their clients like the business model. “People are not paying for your time, they are paying for your skill, expertise and the outcome.”

Green says it is pleasing to see other firms now following in Hive’s footsteps.

“There will always be the old way of thinking that you need to be at your desk from 8am to 10pm, but gradually people will realise you can get better outcomes for your team and your clients by trusting them to work in this way.”

Hive has a Melbourne CBD office but is designed to facilitate remote working, with some of the team based in NSW and also working with many clients interstate.

“The fundamental premise is that everyone is free to work anywhere and any time as long as the client’s needs are met,” Gilligan says.

This flexible business model caters for families and allows staff to pursue other interests.

“We have an author, we have people who are studying, we have people who want to spend significant amounts of time overseas,” says Gilligan.

Hive Legal has won a clutch of industry awards for innovation, staff wellbeing, general excellence and diversity.

‘People are paying for your skill, expertise and the outcome.’

- Joanna Green (pictured, inset)

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