In recent months two international law firms with operations in the Asia-Pacific region have appointed directors of strategy with an aim to gaining competitive advantage in crowded and competitive legal markets.

In May, global law firm Baker & McKenzie appointed Julia Hayhoe Global Director, Strategy Implementation.  As Baker & McKenzie outlined when announcing Hayhoe’s appointment:  “Since 2007, Julia has been the Director of Strategy & Business Development for Baker & McKenzie’s London office. In that period, the London office has risen to become a top ten firm in the annual Acritas UK law firm brand survey.”

And just last month, as Bloomberg BNA reported, international law firm Seyfarth Shaw appointed Joshua Kubicki Chief Strategy Officer.  Kubicki explained his appointment in an article:  “For the last 15 years, my work has always focused on changing how legal services are designed, delivered, bought and sold. Whether as a founder and leader of captive startups within established companies or as an external consultant to legal organizations of every size.”

Competition and strategy at the forefront in the APAC legal markets

These recent strategy appointments come at a time when competitive pressures in the Asia-Pacific legal markets are becoming acute.  As Law360 recently outlined, some foreign law firms have left the region as a result of competitive pressures.  At the same time, Australia’s Beaton Capital will convene a one-day conference later this month dedicated to issues of legal services strategy in the region.

Is strategy a game-changer for law firms?

Eva Bruch, Barcelona-based Strategy consultant for law firms, detailed her opinions about the recent appointments:  “I read about Julia Hayhoe’s pipeline approach strategy at Baker and found it was brilliant because it was bold, aggressive within our industry and a “mold breaker”. Her results in London prove their effectiveness and while there are some other law firms already using this same strategy, being Baker the one doing it now is remarkable.

I think that the [Seyfarth] strategy of putting the customer at the core of the firm’s strategy…with the aim of improving service and supporting it with advanced technology and efficient management systems, is a stronger and a better one to connect with the Asian culture. These are technologically very advanced cultures where customer satisfaction is something that cannot be achieved with a mere customer satisfaction survey.  I think Seyfarth Shaw might have found the perfect match with this new CSO [appointment] and a blooming market. Could it be the first market where the “trademark” is not the number one reason to hire a law firm for important matters? Let’s see…”

Expect the unexpected?

As Kubicki detailed in relation to Seyfarth’s strategy:  “My focus is on the continuity of the client experience firmwide. While there may be some local nuance, the Seyfarth experience should ring true for clients regardless of region: We want to design and deliver legal services that solve for their biggest needs. This will take a variety of forms around the globe, including the Asia-Pacific, but it will be shaped by our clients.”

John Chisholm, Melbourne-based strategic advisor to law firms added: “Given Joshua’s background and the stated purpose of his new role, it would be surprising if Seyfarth Shaw did not relook at their longer term strategy of their APAC presence (including Australia) and in particular the delivery of their services. Expect the unexpected?”

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal

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