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Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry – August 2019

 

NSW: looming legal aid crisis

NSW is on the brink of a legal aid funding crisis and risks replicating the United Kingdom experience where strikes by lawyers over low fees have plunged the justice system into chaos, according to a confidential report to government. Read more.

Australian worker wealth gap grows

Today, millennial workers globally have less wealth compared to predecessors at the same age. Although Australian household assets have tripled since 1990, “the wealth bonanza has been far from equally spread,” with increases concentrated in “older households.” Read more.

Algorithms and big data are entering the often shrouded world of alternative dispute resolution. 

Robots and artificial intelligence seem worlds away from the sensitive and nuanced area of international mediation. Here, battles are largely settled behind closed doors and skilled mediators pick their way through sticky negotiations. Algorithms and big data, however, are fast entering the often mystery-shrouded world of alternative dispute resolution. Read more. 

Are micro-practices the boutique firms of the future?

Micro-practice law firms – which refer to legal practices that employ only lawyers, who undertake all of the financial and administrative tasks themselves rather than hiring or outsourcing to others – are shaping up as increasingly popular and attractive for boutiques across the country. In an increasingly modern legal marketplace, it is integral for lawyers to consider every vocational option and opportunity to ensure success and productivity. Read more. 

Monthly compilation of key updates for the legal industry. July 2019

Are the big four accounting firms a threat to traditional legal service or are traditional legal firms taking over the market share of the big four?

Several lawyers have spoken out about whether the big four accounting firms present a genuine threat to the traditional legal service offering, showcasing mixed opinions.

Here is a report from Lawyers Weekly who spoke to five lawyers, with varying levels of expertise across the business of law, to find out whether there is a perception that the big four is something the legal profession should be concerned about. Read More

Do organisations need to do more than just comply with the Modern Slavery Act? If so, what?

For companies, going “beyond compliance” might mean implementing new strategies or adopting new approaches:

The commitment of the company’s leadership to making change is key. Allocating responsibility and setting metrics are ways that the leadership team can make clear how seriously it is taking the problem.

Undertaking assessments of the likely social impact of any actions that the company takes. For example, a “compliance” mindset might be to terminate a supplier contract the moment that modern slavery is identified. A kneejerk reaction like this might be more detrimental (it might force the immediate closure of a factory, pushing workers further into poverty). A more positive approach might be to work with the supplier on remediation and improving standards.

Building relationships with NGOs who work in high-risk markets where companies source goods. NGOs can help with risk identification or assessment, and be a source of local advice on remediation if modern slavery is found.

Raising staff awareness and understanding through training and internal communications. Some companies have organised for staff to visit areas from where products are sourced, to gain first hand experience of the problems. Staff who understand the “why” of compliance are more likely to be motivated to push for change and improvement.

Read this complete article written by Michael Milnes, head of commercial and competition law at Practical Law Australia.

Whistleblowers in Australia have reason to rejoice – so long as they are in the private sector.

Thanks to new laws that came into effect this month, private-sector whistleblowers have a range of new protections. This includes, in certain prescribed circumstances, the prospect of being compensated if they experience adverse outcomes after taking their concerns to the media. Read More 

Crowdfunding litigation: A problem or a solution?

The reality, however, is that the rise of crowdfunding litigation has prompted complex professional, ethical and practical questions that the community, courts and the legal profession must carefully work through. To ensure what is done with good intentions does not have the unintended consequence of undermining the rule of law, the merits of a case, or public confidence in our courts or justice system. Read this article by Arthur Moses SC,President, Law Council of Australia . Read More

ACCC: Facebook and Google’s power distorts companies’ ability to compete

The long-awaited Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) report into the out-of-control growth and dominance of digital platforms has been released, with the watchdog critical of giants Facebook and Google.

The overarching theme of the report can be distilled into the ACCC not trusting the platforms to self-regulate, with “holistic reform” required to stop them from growing further out of control. Read More