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Change a boon for small players

WHILE changes to the law to allow legal firms to incorporate may not have much initial effect at the top end of the industry, it appears to hold many benefits for small practitioners.

The WA Government is still pushing ahead with its plan to allow law firms to incorporate. Its new laws are expected to go before Parliament in the middle of this year. Most of WA’s major law firms believe changes allowing them to incorporate will only truly benefit them if the laws are made on a national basis because they are national players.

However, it could prove a boon for small practitioners. One proposed change will allow lawyers to share profits with non-legal practitioners.

This will allow sole practitioner lawyers to enter into a partnership or a company structure with an accountant, an information technology consultant or even a real estate agent.

Joondalup lawyer Chris Baker said lawyers already were allowed to co-locate with other professional service providers.

“The argument is (that) if we can co-locate, why not go further and remove the barriers that allow us to share profits,” he said. “I practised in the Northern Territory where lawyers have been allowed to incorporate for years and it worked quite well.”

Law Society of WA president Clare Thompson said incorporation would have its greatest effect in regional communities.

“It will allow a lawyer to go into partnership with other local business advisers and help them give a more seamless service to their community,” she said.

“I don’t think incorporation will change the way lawyers interact with the public – just the way they interact with other legal professionals.”

Phillips Fox marketing partner Dean Healy said incorporation and the multi-disciplinary options it offered would probably not be taken up to the fullest by major firms.

“But I think it will have much more impact at the smaller end of the market,” he said.

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