The growing importance of the Asia-Pacific Region for international law firms has been confirmed again in a new study by the Law Council of Australia.  The study — entitled Fourth Legal and Related Services Export Survey‘ — and its’ results — were reported by Australia-based legal business development professional Richard Smith (RWS_01) on his blog yesterday.

As Smith relates:  “Total income from exports and international activity of Australian legal services was $932.8 million” in fiscal year 2010/11.  Further key findings of the report, as Smith reports, are:

  • “‘Asia’ remains Australia’s largest “regional” export market.
  • ‘Asia’, as a region, is the only global region to have experienced continuous growth since FY2004-05
  • Export of legal services to China/HK amounted to $124.1 million – dropping from second largest export market to fourth (Smith notes that the “China and Hong Kong market – in dollar ($) terms – still represented the largest by country in the Asia region”).
  • Indonesia saw the biggest per cent increase in exports, up…115.2%.
  • Singapore saw 80% growth from $32.5 million to $73.1 million.”
  • Importantly, as Smith points out:  “South East Asia (excluding Indonesia and Singapore – termed “Other South East Asia” in the Report) contributed $35.5 million to exports. Given what I [Smith] blogged on Friday, SE Asia would now have to be considered one of the real growth prospects for Australian legal services going forward and this is indeed reflected in the Report which states that “South-East Asia has grown much more strongly than North Asia since FY2008-09 as a destination for exports of Australian legal and related services“.”
  • “At $272.9 million, North America and Canada are the largest “single” export market for Australian legal and related services.”

The future for foreign law firms in the Asia-Pacific region

As Smith outlined, the Australian Law Council report is based on 2010/11 fiscal year figures.  I believe it’s vital to keep in mind the predictions for the expansion of the Asia-Pacific legal markets and assume opportunity for both Australian and other foreign law firms is certain to only increase prospectively.  Alan Hodgart and George Beaton (@grbeaton_law) have both predicted the Asia-Pacific legal markets are poised to double in size in the not-too-distant future.  Hodgart predicted in Seoul the market would double between 2013 and 2017.  Beaton predicts the market is likely to double by 2022 in a 2014 book by this author entitled:  A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets.

Taking into consideration the reports 2010/11 figures – and Hodgart and Beaton’s predictions – the Asia-Pacific market appears on track to become a more significant opportunity for Australian law firms than America and Canada are at present.

The full text of Richard Smith’s blogpost entitled: International Trade of Australian Legal and Related Services is now a Billion-Dollar Industry can be read here.

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal and is the author of A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets. He provides writing, editing, research and strategy services to law firms and legal services sector companies.

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