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Two fresh news stories from Australia…

Queensland firm purchases OpenPurchase
McCullough Robertson, Queensland’s largest law firm, has selected the OpenPurchase electronic purchase order system from Swerdlove. McCullough Robertson will implement the fully-functional automated purchase order system in order to control procurement costs and make its entire purchasing process more efficient. McCullough Robertson, a long time Swerdlove client, has acquired an
enterprise license, enabling all 350 staff including partners, lawyers
and support staff to use OpenPurchase for purchase requests, if
required or desired.

McCullough Robertson previously operated without an integrated purchase order system.  In selecting OpenPurchase, the firm sought out fully-functional automated purchase order software that integrated with its Elite Enterprise practice management system. By integrating purchasing technology with the back-office accounting system, purchasing order requests will be linked and considered within the General Ledger budget to improve the firm's purchasing processes and cost management.

Survey reveals leverage gap
A recent survey of 175 practice managers undertaken by LexisNexis and The Australian Legal Practice Management Association at the ALPMA Summit in August 2009 revealed a significant ‘support staff gap’ between law firms’ ideal levels of resource and those they are actually employing. Over 40% of practice managers believed that their current leverage ratio was 1.5 support staff or more per lawyer. However, a similar amount (44%) believe that the ideal ratio was 1 member of support staff for 2 or more lawyers – a considerable difference that has an important impact on the bottom-line of legal businesses. The disparity underlines the need for comprehensive practice management solutions to reduce complexity and improve efficiency across the legal industry.
The findings also revealed that practice managers do not see cost reduction as a business priority currently, preferring to concentrate on improving the efficiency and performance of their processes. Only 10% of respondents noted that driving down costs was their most pressing challenge, as opposed to 30% citing maximising efficiency and a further 20% concentrating on performance improvement.
TJ Viljoen, LexisNexis Pacific CEO, commented “With clients demanding efficiency and better performance, we can expect to see a transformation in the way that the legal world operates. It is often said that when one door closes another one opens, and this is never truer than of a law firm in an economic downturn. However, the disparity between the optimal numbers of support staff and lawyers working together in law firms and the true figures is a concern that we must take very seriously. Practice management is an essential part of each and every law firm, and we should be ensuring that each firm has the correct balance of staff to maximise its impact.”