Lawyer of the Week, Episode III
Melbourne, Australia, George Beaton
Pamela: Welcome to Lawyer of the Week. I am very pleased today to have Dr. George Beaton from Melbourne, Australia.
Dr. George Beaton has held senior academic positions in the medical, business and law facilities of leading universities in South Africa and Australia. George is regarded as an authority on professional services industries and their firms, particularly law firms.
His research interest is the imperative for law firms to remake their business models on the subject of which he wrote a NewLaw, New Rules in 2013 and Remaking Law Firms, Why and How. The latter book was published by The American Bar Association in 2016.
George consults to professional services firms in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, U.K., United States and Canada.
Welcome George, we are so glad to have you as the lawyer of the week today.
George: It’s my great pleasure, Pamela.
Pamela: What time is it there for you?
George: It’s now ten o’clock in the morning.
Pamela: Okay, it’s nighttime here for me. My first question is when and what made you decide to write your book?
George: The book to which I think you are referring is Remaking Law Firmswhich is a major work published by the American Bar Association. It was written in response to my first book, NewLaw New Rules, which was the first time in the world anybody had recognised the NewLaw business model and understood how it differed from traditional law firms. The NewLaw model in my book offers clients many advantages over the traditional law firm model (which we now call BigLaw). And, importantly it offers to the owners of the traditional (i.e. BigLaw) model firm, opportunities to, in my language, ‘remake itself’ in response to the many challenges the model has. So it was in response and answer to your question, I decided to write Remaking Law Firms “To give partners and attorneys in the traditional law firms a big wakeup call, and answer the question ‘What do we do about it?’ in practical ways.
That’s why I wrote the book with the emphasis not only on why you should do it, but how you should do it. What are the practical strategies that you can adopt over a number of years to improve the operating efficiency and client effectiveness of your law firm?
Pamela: That’s really a great contribution that you made with both of your books George. Who is the perfect referral to your business?
George: The perfect referral is a law firm that has seen the light, and who understands that the partnership needs to mobilize itself to start making changes. This is not because there is smoke coming under the door and there’s a sense of great emergency, but because over the next five to ten years, if they don’t start changing now and remaking themselves, the firm will progressively become less relevant to clients and therefore to the attorneys that work in it and the partners that own it. So, my target readership is firms that want to make the change and who are seeking guidance on what to do.
Pamela: Can you tell us a little bit about your biggest wins and challenges in the work that you do?
George: Some of my most rewarding client experiences have been with the largest law firms, the very big ones. I’ve had the privilege to work with two of them in Chicago, London and Shanghai. Both of them are represented with offices in Australia. I’ve worked with their executive committees to get a really deep grasp of what it means to take institutions that are decades and generations old, preserve the best of those traditions and legacies, and start to make the changes which will ensure their continuing relevance to clients.
Pamela: That’s really good. I see it myself, so I do know that there are a lot of firms that are steeped in those old firm cultures. To hear that you’re able to work with some of the biggest farms and help them to see the light, it is very encouraging.
George: Yes, I don’t think it’s so much their size, clearly for persons like myself and my colleagues in our consulting firm, working with these big names is immensely ego enhancing, if I may say so, but some of our most progressive and determined firms are small with 50 or fewer attorneys. You don’t have to be large and on the world stage to seize these opportunities and to apprehend these threats. It really is a function of the vision and the insight of the leaders. When they get it, then there’s an opportunity for them to persuade and help their partners get the message and act to remake themselves.
Pamela: It’s good news to hear that George. What legacy do you want to leave in your practice and your consulting firm?
George: I’d like to leave a group of people to continue the work, adding value to our clients and researching. We are very committed to our own proprietary research in the industry, hence my writings. Our research among the clients of these BigLaw firms, understanding what makes clients tick, why they are changing and how they’re becoming more demanding of what they expect is world-leading.
I’d like that to continue as the next generation comes along and brings its new skill set, it’s digital know-how and fresh eyes. The Millennial generation of attorneys is very different the previous generations in the way they view the profession of law and practice of law and the need to remake the psyche of attorneys.
Pamela: That’s good. Tell me one thing aside from business that you do in your spare time to relax?
George: My wonderful wife and business partner Margaret and I are very keen Australian native gardeners. We have a seven acre property where we toil in the field, so to speak, to put back the native bush and fight to reduce weeds and look forward to the spring which is a couple of months away; we will have a wonderful show of Australian wild flowers.
Pamela: That’s wonderful and I’m so glad to have here with us today George. We really appreciate the work that you’re doing. It makes a big difference out there in the world. There’s a lot of upheaval going on in the legal profession. There are a lot of initiatives that are getting ready to come down the pike with Patrick Krill, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that work. So there are a lot of shakeups. With you at the helm here and making a difference all over the world, we really value and appreciate the work you’re doing.
George: It’s my great pleasure to have been with you. Thank you for inviting me, Pamela.
Pamela: Thank you, George, I really appreciate it.
Here are Links for George Beaton and his books as well.
- American Bar Association Publishing to order Remaking Law Firms: Why & How
- Amazon to order an e-copy of NewLaw NewRules
- Read more about Dr George Beaton’s work on the clients of law and other professional services firms here.
Contact Pamela DeNeuve
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