How and why do some country law firms not only survive but prosper while others flounder and fail?
Caroline Hart provides insights for creating a successful country law firm through her interviews with over 40 practice owners who generously share their experiences – good and bad. The remarkable lessons they provide are distilled into seven elements of success.
The book is comprised of chapters covering critical areas such as governance, leadership, information technology, human resources and succession planning. Each chapter concludes with a Masterclass or Lessons Learnt section which gives readers a framed summary that will help them navigate the challenges and opportunities facing their own practice.
Practical and engaging, this book provides a valuable insight into the real lives of owners of country law firms. It reveals what it takes to ensure profitable practices, maintain productive client relationships, retain highly motivated staff, and ultimately ensure the longevity and success of a country law firm.
From the Foreword:
“I commend Dr Hart for undertaking this important work. The result is sound practical advice about the challenges and opportunities of country practice. More than that, this work will also usefully inform the many city legal practitioners who are searching for more cost effective, flexible and personally satisfying forms of practice.”
The Honourable Chief Justice Kourakis, Supreme Court of South Australia
Foreword by The Hon Chris Kourakis, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia
About the Author
PART 1 – INTRODUCTION
1. Why Country Legal Practice is Different
2. The Power of the Owner
PART 2 – THE OWNER IN ACTION
3. Create the Law Firm
4. Lead and Manage Strategically
5. Populate the Law Firm
6. Connect Through Technology
7. Build Reputation
8. Drive Profitability
PART 3 – THE OWNER EXITS
9. Capitalise on Success
10. The Seven Elements and the Future
An experienced practitioner may benefit from confronting information that maybe “known” but which may still call for action within their own business. Junior practitioners may learn lessons hard learned by years of experience.
Rather than prescribing responses, the book repeats the mantra that firms need to make choices that fit.
There are references to resources that will give more specific suggestions on the details of responses.
The interview base of the book is reflected by case studies with summaries of the interviews. These case studies help to anchor the conceptual discussion into the real world.
There are useful illustrations of old school thinking and new school thinking in the anecdotes.
Tim Tierney, Law Letter, The Law Society of Tasmania, Winter 2019
Dr Caroline Hart is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba. Cognisant of the persuasive power of groups of seven, and after many years of research and interviews conducted with regional practitioners, Dr Hart has distilled the seven elements that go to making a successful country law firm. According to Dr Hart, those seven elements are: creating the firm; strategically leading and managing it; populating the firm with good legal staff; using information technology innovatively; building reputation and attracting clients; and driving profit and preparing for succession. Readers will quickly appreciate that those seven elements are not of themselves unique to country legal practice. Indeed, the chapters dealing with issues such as identifying and retaining good staff and using information technology innovatively to both improve client outcomes and to achieve a more flexible and ‘personally satisfying’ form of practice will no doubt resonate with many metropolitan practitioners.
Although at times this book is a bit heavy on statistics, Dr Hart provides insightful analysis of the particular traits and challenges of rural practice. For example, she explains the factors contributing to the trend towards the breakdown of traditional partnerships and the rise of “mobile sole practitioners” working with a laptop and mobile. The book reads a bit like a business motivation and self-improvement book. Each chapter contains excerpts of interviews with real life practitioners and case studies of a regional practice. Each chapter concludes with either a masterclass or lessons learnt which ‘is intended to provide the reader with a framed summary that may have direct and useful relevance in the context of their own experiences and issues’. Dr Hart has also included a list of resources at the end of each chapter and an annotated list of resources with a particular focus on legal practice management texts and resources.
Queensland Law Reporter – 25 May 2018 –  20 QLR
Country lawyers have long been recognised as a different breed to their metropolitan counterparts: their ongoing relationships, to both local communities and clients, demands a different business model, and a style of practice more closely attuned to maintaining human as well as commercial capital. This study unlocks the secrets of successful country practitioners, and shares insights also applicable to lawyers working in the urban village. Based on extensive empirical investigation, but also drawing upon relevant research conducted in other jurisdictions, this study brings together a wide range of evidence and opinion that illuminates the way forward. It offers those responsible for managing country law firms clear guidance on how to survive in an ever-changing and unpredictable environment. The study will also interest policymakers and researchers wishing to understand how lawyers contribute to sustaining the fabric of rural society.
Professor Kim Economides, Flinders University