Disrupting a legal sector with roots heavily entrenched in history is no easy feat but that’s exactly what Warren Kalinko has been doing, since introducing Keypoint Law into the Australian Market in 2014. Thomson Reuters spoke with the firm’s CEO about his innovative approach to law firm partnership and how it is rehumanising legal practice.
Breaking the traditional law firm mould
Keypoint Law’s proposition empowers a collective of senior lawyers who operate without the bedrock law firm principles that are so commonplace. “It’s about self-determination,” says Warren. “We combine the power of the law firm with the freedom of the individual. This is unprecedented for law firms.”
The firm’s model was developed over 20 years ago by Keystone in the UK which is now a publicly listed company and a Top 50 Law Firm. Their most recent annual report showed a year-on-year growth in sales of 27%, to almost $125 million.
“It’s not an easy model to develop,” admits Warren. “It takes years to dismantle the myths of a deleveraged firm and demonstrate performance, and we are now at the point where it’s showing great signs of opportunity.”
How do you rehumanise the practice of law?
The premise of rehumanising legal practice is about disrupting the law firm partnership by bringing to the table the best of what law firms have to offer in terms of legal specialists, teamwork, collegiality and support services, whilst overcoming the parts of law firms that people don’t like, such as:
- Removing all billable hour targets. Operating a professional law firm without the constant pressure of financial micromanagement.
- Decision making around pricing. Empowering partner-level lawyers to make the decisions that impact directly on their financial performance.
- Freedom and flexibility. Keypoint’s lawyers decide how they work, when they work and which clients they work with.
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in many ways, including the flexible working models that have since found permanency in the legal sector. Keypoint launched with a remote ‘no face time’ model back in 2014, which Warren says, “has given them a head start on decentralised work.”
How do clients benefit from this approach?
Thomson Reuters research revealed that 44% of corporate legal buyers value the quality of advice and specialist knowledge the most from their lawyers. Keypoint comprises over 60 lawyers with an average of 18 years’ experience across 25 areas of law, bringing a high level of specialist insight into their service offering.
With Keypoint Law’s flat structure of 90% senior-level practitioners, clients are being looked after by the person with the knowledge and experience, invariably leading to longer term and deeper client relationships. “We find clients really enjoy our model of service delivery,” says Warren. “They can pick up the phone and speak directly to the partner”.
Legal technology has progressed so radically that it’s hard to imagine a time, not that long ago when technology was almost exclusive to large law firms, who had budgets and IT departments to build their own practice management systems. With the influx of technology now available on a subscription or licence fee basis, small firms can access the same tech power as the large firms.
Keypoint offers a stack of technology solutions to support the legal talent, leveraging the UK practice management system to operate in Australia. The move to cloud was significant for the business, enabling them to access everything securely and work from anywhere. Innovation in technology around litigation, due diligence, research and document automation has enabled lawyers to become so much more efficient.
“We have barely even imagined ChatGPT being the latest of a series of innovation in the space,” asserts Warren. “It’s very powerful because it means senior lawyers will be able to do even more by virtue of the technology that sits behind them.”
That said, Warren believes that technology will never fully replace traditional law firm partnerships and leverage-type structures for big clients and transactions, and multi-jurisdictional work. “The big firms are well built for it, and they do a fabulous job, but my proposition is not that” he says.
“The majority of legal work in the Australian market is calling out for personal senior level service and we find ourselves well placed to deliver that. The legal market is big enough for us both to exist side by side.”
Career advice for new lawyers?
“I think it is important to place significance on building relationships, that is, with colleagues, superiors and where possible, clients,” asserts Warren. “Developing strong EQ is just as critical as having a high level of intelligence in your junior years.”
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