Not just cricket

Stefan Stern
8 November 2013

First, a confession. My views on Australia were formed in the (Pommie) winter of 1974/5, when (younger readers may need reminding) the cream of English cricketing talent was well and truly done over by a ferocious character who came to be known as Lillian Thomson. Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, that is, the most formidable opening bowling combination of the past 50 years. They broke my poor little English heart.

Of course the relationship between the Aussies and the Brits is about a lot more than just cricket. There are two codes of rugby for a start. But the ties that bind these two nations are far more substantial than that. Every year on Anzac Day the world is reminded about the sacrifice Australian and New Zealand servicemen and women made in two world wars.

Brits tend to have an inferiority complex towards the US, the former colony turned global superpower. Something far more equal and mutually reinforcing is to be found in the Anglo-Aussie relationship. British commercial and cultural life has been enriched by generations of Australians who have brought originality and (at times) creative genius to our shores. And the odd Brit export has shown up down under and not had too bad a time of it either.

British business has benefited enormously – by and large! – from the Aussie influx. CIPS’ closeness to Australia can only be a good thing, and I look forward to further fruitful collaboration. But first please let us keep the Ashes this winter. (I know, I know…)

 

Buying legal services

So, the lawyers have discovered procurement. It had to happen. For years now legal services have been coming under increasing cost pressures, not least because of the discipline and professionalism of purchasers. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, they must be thinking.

The fate of law firms is instructive. For generations the profession has been protected by the specialist skills and knowledge required to practise law. But now competition and globalisation are bringing about dramatic changes. And buyers have been at the heart of this process.

Is it necessary to hire elite London firms, and pay their high hourly rates, for work that could be carried out by others in less expensive parts of the country? Do you even need a British-based law firm at all if the tasks you require are essentially bureaucratic, repetitive and straightforward?

Change is all around us in business, and not even “magic circle” law firms are immune. So now the shoe is on the other foot. Legal firms should be grateful that the cost realism brought about by procurement is something they are now having to learn about and ultimately master themselves.

And if they want to ensure their new purchasers are signing the right sort of contracts, well, at least they’ll have some decent lawyers on hand to give these deals a thorough inspection.

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