Consulting Market Thriving in Australia

One thing that has really stood out for us with the success of our recent Thrive events is the amount of lawyers who are working in consulting and the growth of that area in Australia. One of our major sponsors, Peerpoint by Allen & Overy, was a huge part of our Sydney event and it was fascinating to catch up with them and discuss the growth of their business. So interesting in fact that I suggested we write an article about it!

You see it is our strong belief that we need to tell the stories of growth in areas of the legal services sector that can truly deliver on better work experiences. What aligns us so well with businesses like Peerpoint is the fact that most people who come along to our events and engage with us are mid to senior level lawyers who are looking for something different. This could be starting their own firm, or it could be going and working as a consultant.

We've watched the development of consulting services businesses with interest and were drawn to Peerpoint through our relationship having helped A & O around the world for over 12 years. For anyone that doesn’t know Peerpoint is a global platform for self directed lawyers. What was interesting with their approach was how distinct they were culturally from the firm as a whole, and how passionate they were about their offer. There are certainly no flies on the Peerpoint team! Wanting to check out what we were about, they snuck into our first ever event to see if we were legit! This won me over at the start! I thought, these guys are serious and seriously have their finger on the pulse to be engaging with us. Our subsequent chats were dominated by a shared belief in empowering lawyers to have better careers and giving them choice.

A year on and catching up at the Thrive event illustrated just how much they have grown and the entire market is starting to embrace consulting. They've doubled in size in just 12 months, have some amazing clients including big 4 banks, and have maintained their values of control, choice and calibre during this time. Putting my former recruiter hat on I was super impressed by their ability to grow at speed and find high quality people.

Why are businesses like Peerpoint growing?

We're in the middle of a fundamental shift in what it means to work. This is by no means isolated to the legal industry but a mega-trend across the entire industrialised world. Technology that allows people to work remotely coupled with new ways to manage that process and the reality that it is a cost effective way for business to hire means consulting will continue to grow. Business of all sizes are embracing the gig, freelance and contracting economies like never before, simply because it is easier. Yes, these models aren't that new... there have been contract roles for decades. The difference is in the demand and execution side, as it is now easier to manage and execute.

Want some facts to back that up? The freelance workforce is growing at three times the rate of the traditional workforce. By 2020, it is estimated that 43% of the US workforce will be freelancers or independent consultants. According to the Peerpoint survey, 68% of respondents in ANZ rank work/life balance as a key indicator of career success, while 27% of lawyers had considered completely changing their career.

What does this mean for the Industry?

For the legal industry (and accounting / finance / etc etc) this means more jobs that were taken by full time people are going to be taken by contractors. Whether you like that or not doesn't matter, because it's happening. The industry as a whole has to start to react to this at both a regulatory, and cultural level.

On the regulatory front it is important that law societies and other governing bodies ensure that the regulatory burden on lawyers keeps track with the reality of the workplace. This is a big issue for a lot of self employed consultants. Whether it is responding to new fee arrangements, or in a more macro sense, embracing innovation - the regulators have to move forward with time.

With respect to culture, we as a profession need to start evaluating what working as a lawyer means in his new paradigm, and how we educate the next generation of practitioners so that they are nimble enough to move with the times. The industry is, by its nature, risk averse, and that is great when advising clients, but it is not great when ensuring the culture keeps up with the reality of delivering our services.

So, what are the benefits to working as a consultant?
Primarily, consulting gives you control to work for, and with, the people you choose. Full time employees have very little medium term control of what they work on. They work with the same people, at the same time, in the same place, for years on end. Consulting gives you the opportunity to choose the type of contract that you take for the type of client you want to work for. Contracts can roll over, but generally they are for set periods of time and then you have the ability to take on a new challenge. Peerpoint, for instance, makes this possible by not requiring consultants to be exclusive to them, giving you ultimate control.

Working in different organisations on a variety of work can be very appealing to continuous learners who like to develop new skills and the intellectual rigour that goes with that. It can be tough if you're stuck in a team, where you do the same work all the time, to get the chance to expand your skill set. Consulting gives you these opportunities to work on different areas of law and develop new expertise. With over 54% of respondents to Peerpoint's recent Future for Legal Talent report saying intellectual challenge was of primary importance to job satisfaction, it is clear that consulting can fulfil this need for a lot of lawyers.

It's already clear that a lot of lawyers prefer to work as consultants as well. The future for legal talent report indicated that 85% of legal consultants are satisfied with their work life balance compared to 64% of lawyers in law firms. This is a startling fact when considered in the context of how many professionals are seeking better balanced careers.

Finally, being able to move within organisations gives you the opportunity to experience different company cultures and meet new networks of people. Working in different environments is a sure fire way to build your professional network.

Conclusion

Businesses like Peerpoint are growing at pace and creating great opportunities for lawyers looking to embrace a more fluid approach to their career. Whether this means working 9 months and travelling 3, or having the control to be able to move within industries and take on new challenges, options like Peerpoint will appeal to senior lawyers looking to wrestle back control of their careers.


To find out more about Peerpoint and download a copy of the Peerpoint Future for Legal Talent report just go to this link.