For its Smalltalk newsletter the Law Society of New South Wales this month asked Noric Dilanchian eight questions.
Answering them involved introspection, and an opportunity to profile why we collectively love working for clients in our firm. Employees and interns in the firm poked and proded draft answers to ensure they reflected our reality.
To also keep it real for colleagues in the legal profession, some answers touched on practical challenges today in running a firm to both deliver and derive value with clients.
1. What kind of work does your firm do?
We do multidisciplinary work, moving beyond the legal dimensions of practice to achieve results for clients. We advise on how to secure and manage intellectual property and IT assets, engage personnel and investors and prepare documents to effect business model innovation or redesign.
This approach shapes the firm’s six practice areas. Those areas begin with theory and then move to specific areas of business law practice and are capped with dispute resolution know-how:
Commercialisation and knowledge management
IP, technology and e-business
Corporate and business dealings
Finance and securities
2. How long has your firm been established?
The firm has been operational since 1 July 2000.
3. How many partners and employees are there in your firm?
We have one principal and five employees.
4. What are your points of difference from your competitors?
Being a firm specialising in information technology and intellectual property, is only an entry point. Our contribution of real value, begins by understanding and modeling a client’s commercial, business and technology opportunity. To design a solution we then bring together knowledge, resources and people with expertise in law, entrepreneurship and management.
How do you market your legal practice?
We are active users of Twitter (with three handles @noricd, @trademarkrego and @annexium) and to a lesser extent LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook.
5. How do you stay up-to-date with legal changes and practice management issues in a rapidly evolving environment?
The practical effect of that in IP, IT and other business transactions is ensuring clients benefit from emerging or likely future developments. This is very important when industry technologies, ways of working and deals are changing at a difficult to predict and unprecedented pace. For all this, today the stream of information I receive in my Twitter feed is my greatest aid for research.
With the decline in middle management since about 1990, and more people moving into being independent contractors, a generation’s body of knowledge about management, letter writing and normal business practices has been lost. From this misconceptions arise that legal work can always be “plug and play” or a process akin to product selection off a supermarket shelf (ie compare pre-set prices and features and then self-select).
6. How do you grow talent in your practice?
What are the main challenges you face as a sole practitioner or partner in a small to mid-sized firm?
Instant digital communication, among other developments, has greatly affected the expectations clients have of professionals to provide service in slender time frames. The problem is not going to go away. Individuals, start-ups and small business clients typically provide scanty information by email in the morning and call in the afternoon expecting an answer. Even larger enterprises are guilty of this lack of project management skills.
A financial challenge is that small business clients increasingly treat private practice business lawyers as if we are in-house counsel. Yet instead of paying us a salary, they expect job-specific, pre-fabricated results and fixed quotes.
Our most significant response has been to invest enormously in the development of workflow methodologies with integrated legal templates. We have a suite of about 2,000 of them. They vary in format, length and bias. They include template agreements, checklists, questionnaires, guides and advice letters.
7. Where do you see your firm in five years' time?
Making better and greater use of technology to extract better instructions, model possible solutions, and then communicate and implement them. We are in the fortunate position of receiving early insights into technology developments in IT. This feeds our technological literacy and ability to quickly understand the context of innovation businesses and then get quick results with our templates.
8. What advice would you give to someone starting their own practice today?
You need to understand business and human nature. Early on in a conversation with a business client make this statement – “If you can indicate to me, with supporting written information, how you are going to make money or add value I can then provide legal and related advice to you.”