Matthew Burgess

Episode 17   5 July 2021

Tech and pricing innovation in a virtual law firm

Matthew Burgess.jpg

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Tech and pricing innovation in a virtual law firmMatthew Burgess
00:00 / 41:33

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Matthew Burgess

Lawyer, author, speaker

Founder of View Legal

Matthew Burgess is a founder of specialist law firm View Legal which offers holistic estate planning solutions and education for trusted advisers. He has developed a unique virtual law firm model that is all about elegant and effective tech and pricing solutions geared to clients.

We talk about what pricing innovation looks like based on Matthew's real-life experience, how tech doesn't have to be expensive or super-advanced to deliver effectively, and how genuine diversity and authenticity leads to innovation.

Bio

Show notes

Links

Transcript

Comments

Bio:

Matthew Burgess is one of the founders of specialist firm View Legal. Having the opportunity to help clients achieve their goals is what he is most passionate about. As Matthew always works in conjunction with trusted advisers (whether it be accountants, financial advisers or other lawyers) and their clients, finding ways to fundamentally improve the value received by those advisers, and in turn their clients, has led him to develop numerous game changing models. 

 

Examples include providing guaranteed upfront fixed pricing, founding what is widely regarded as Australia’s first virtual law firm, and more recently, developing a platform that gives advisers access to market leading advice and support for less than $10 a week.

Matthew’s specialisation in tax, structuring, asset protection, estate and succession planning has seen him recognised by most leading industry associations including the Tax Institute, the Weekly Tax Bulletin and in the 2014 ‘Best Lawyers’ list for trusts and estates and either personally, or as part of View, since 2015 in ‘Doyles’ for taxation and since 2017 for wills, estates and succession planning.

Matthew is also a fellow of the VeraSage Institute, consultants to professional services firms.

Show notes:

  • [1:49] Matthew takes us through his journey from young-gun partner at a large law firm to realising that being "exquisite" at filling in timesheets did not make him the kind of lawyer he ought to be for his clients.
  • [5:40] Matthew talks about trying to fight the machine from the inside - from piloting fixed pricing to ditching timesheets.
  • [10:12] Matthew shares what he learned about value pricing along the way, including being not attached to the outcome but looking out for the client's best outcome.
  • [14:05] We reflect on the possibility of scaling up value pricing for large law firms, and the impact that would have on the reallocation of resources away from the timesheet model to investment and client relationships.
  • [16:36] Throwing out timesheets means transforming the entire system from one that values "time spent" to one that removes the focus on short-term gains and huge margins.
  • [19:18] Matthew explains how technology is an enabler and it's often simple solutions like retraining lawyers to use cheap and effective technology that delivers significant efficiencies.
  • [23:19] Releasing lawyers and staff from routine work that technology can take care of allows reimagining of the entire law firm including building-in rewards for innovation not adding them on as extra incentives. 
  • [26:54] We discuss how both Big Law firms and New Law disruptors have a part to play in the entire ecosystem of training lawyers technically and to develop emotional intelligence.
  • [31:00] We cover how current law firm partners have no incentive to change the system. From there, we delve into how monoculture in law firms strips out diversity of thought, no matter how diverse people may appear in gender or culture.  
  • [35:22] In talking about authenticity, Matthew explains how until we begin to focus more on results, as a profession, we will not get to true diversity.  
  • [36:54] Our attempt to conform in law firms, from our style of dress to the things we talk about, stifles personality, authenticity and diversity. 
  • [39:41] Matthew's final piece of advice is to focus always on how to best deliver and create value for people. 

Links:

Viewlegal: viewlegal.com.au

Matthew's website: matthewburgess.com.au

 

The Firm of the Future: A Guide for Accountants, Lawyers, and Other Professional Services by Paul Dunn and Ronald J. Baker

John Chisholm, lawyer, value pricing expert and consultant

My podcast episode with John Chisholm

VeraSage Institute, consultants to professional services firms 

The Results-only Work Environment, a new management mindset.

The Trusted Advisor (20th anniversary edition) by David H. Maister, Robert Galford and Charles Green

 
 
 
Matthew Burgess Image Quote G.jpg
 

Transcript: 

Geraldine  0:12  
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the New Earth lawyer podcast where we feature conversations with lawyers who are changing the practice of law to change the world. I'm Geraldine Johns-Putra, I'm your host, I'm a lawyer based in Melbourne, Australia. And today I'm speaking with Matthew Burgess, a lawyer from Brisbane, Australia. Matthew co-founded the niche legal practice View Legal in 2014. And he had been a partner and a lawyer at one of Australia's leading independent law firms before that, for over 17 years. His passion is helping clients to successfully achieve their goals, and he specialises in tax, estate and succession planning and he provides strategic advice to business owners and high net worth individuals. His focus is on small to medium enterprises, and private business owners. He also works on transactions with with listed companies, but leveraging off the skills he developed working in the SME market, Matthew has now developed a number of innovative legal products for clients and for advisors. Welcome, Matthew, it's really a pleasure to have you on the podcast. 

 

Matthew  1:25  
Geraldine, great to be be part of your podcast. Thank you. 

 

Geraldine  1:27  
Thank you. So the question that I'm going to start with is, is having been a partner at a large law firm, you've moved into your own independent practice and niche practice. When did it occur to you that you want to do law a little bit differently than when you're doing it now?

 

Matthew  1:49  
Well, awesome question. I think it's one of those examples, and that probably comes up in a lot of the conversations that you have where you there's no exact one moment, I should be asking you the same question. but there were a whole number of issues. And I think in fairness to the industry, or that part of the industry that I came out of, and then I did love it and I seemed to be okay at it, for many, many years. So I think if you were asking for any one moment, when my thinking slowly started to change, it would be Ironically, the very first partners meeting I ever went to or partners retreat, I should say, I went to, only just 30, so having made it through the partnership game very, very quickly and my main skill was filling in timesheets. So I was exquisite at that, and always focused on plenty of chargeable units and I think as a joke, the partnership gave me the topic of work life balance, which was sort of a vogue thing back in the early 2000s. And, I still to this day, I don't know how it happened or where I got it from but someone gave me a copy of Firm of the Future by Ron Baker and Paul Dunn. And at the time, I couldn't process it, it was just too far outside my brain to be able to piece it all together. But about three or four years after that, I re-read it and then that was probably the real start from there to say there must be another way. There's got to be another way.

 

Geraldine  3:26  
Do you think it was the three, four years of being a partner? Or was it that the seed had been planted, and it just needed time to germinate?

 

Matthew  3:35  
Well, and we were talking in the pre show that the absolutely awesome surrounding that you are in even in a lockdown world where we're just all the knowledge around you encasing you in terms of your bookshelf there. And I, look, I think it probably is a little bit of both. It was you know, part of it is when you're exquisite at filling in timesheets, you don't actually, I should only speak for myself, if I perceive that both at an organisational level and industry level, and then ultimately at my personal level, I didn't want to have any other way. It was really convenient being able to record, 6 to 10 chargeable hours a day, if you're good at that. 

Geraldine  4:16  
Yeah. 

 

Matthew  4:17  
And if you don't really see much else going on in your life. Well, it's, you know, why would you want it to be any different when you get at that game?

 

Geraldine  4:24  
I really identify with that. I remember having conversations when I was a young associate with a partner. And he liked these fireside chats, right? Because he really wanted to get to know his lawyers. And he was trying to get into the whole what makes you tick, what really motivates you and I remember saying to him, I don't really want to get into this. Because I even, early on, I must have been a third or fourth year lawyer, I had a sense that if you dug too deep into the question you wouldn't find much at all. Other than because there's a mountain and I need to get to the top, which is what billable hours is all about, right? 

Matthew  5:06  
Yep. Yep, absolutely. 

 

Geraldine  5:08  
So it's just once you expand your mindset, then you you can really begin to question that while you're on the treadmill. What's beyond? 

 

Matthew  5:20  
Yeah. 

 

Geraldine  5:21  
So that began, obviously, well, you, you were still on track, you were still a partner. And then you decided to actually leave and set up View Legal?

 

Matthew  5:33  
Yeah, I mean, we've glossed over about 10 years there.

 

Geraldine  5:38  
Well, take us through it!

 

Matthew  5:40  
It's probably the statement that I'm, you know, very much, you know, I was given an enormous opportunity with that firm, and it is, was anyway an outstanding firm probably still is, I don't keep track of it too much. And, I tried very, very hard to change both that firm and the industry from within. And so the catalyst, to skip over that 10 year period, which was an abject failure, it didn't achieve any of the things that we tried to change. That became a point, it wasn't in the interests of the firm, wasn't in the interests of the customers, it was an interest of me to keep fighting that fight, like, this was not the fight for to be having so, it just made sense to exit stage left. And as we say, start from scratch. And I think from our perspective, you know, we didn't even really need a business plan as such, because we just took everything that we knew and learnt and had lived in a big law world and the old world and did the opposite. I think it was, it was absolutely that simple. Every single time we were in doubt as to what to do, we would say, right, what does a, what does a traditional law firm do? And we do the opposite.

Geraldine  6:56  
And you conveyed that to your clients. But how did that happen? Did that happen organically? Or did you just go out there and say, everything you're expecting from big law firm, we're the opposite?

 

Matthew  7:08  
Look, a bit of both. I mean, we had been trying to do this, I think I won't get the years  exactly right here, but probably about four years out from leaving, so it was around 2010, just after the GFC actually, so there we are I have dated it properly, we quite radically, we started giving fixed prices that were promises that we didn't break, regardless of the time recorded. And then not too long after that we started a trial of not even being on the timesheets, even though we were sitting inside a firm that was renowned as being a timesheet firm exclusively. And so I think for a lot of the customers that were paying any attention at all, I mean, they had experienced first-hand elements of the model. 

Geraldine  7:51  
Yes. 

 

Matthew  7:52  
And for them, it was just a no brainer. You know, like, why would you sign up for the uncertainty and huge hourly rates, when you can have certainty and a fixed price up front, like it's just not, any normal, rational, or any person that we would want to try to serve, that just resonates with them without any sales pitch, it's a no brainer. 

 

Geraldine  8:14  
This is interesting to me, because I had a conversation with John Chisholm, who, you know, on this podcast a few years back, and of course, John has been advocating for throwing away the billable hour model for years for more than a decade. And we're talking around the practice of it, right, the practical part versus the theory. And so it's really interesting to have you on the show, talking about the practical part. So all the questions I had, like, did you go slowly or did you just rip off the band aid? Was it, what, and apart from the process of getting from timesheets to not, what have you learned along the way in terms of pricing and value?

 

Matthew  9:02  
Well, we've only got five hours together, I think, is that right?

 

Geraldine  9:09  
For part 1... 

 

Matthew  9:09  
I'll have to give you the condensed version.

 

Geraldine  9:12  
Just some highlights... 

 

Matthew  9:14  
It was a very, well, maybe I'll say maybe three things. Firstly, John, in particular, and then the entire Verasage community as a whole, back then, enormous influences, I mean, effectively changed my life. So I cannot speak more highly of them. And John, in particular, as a mentor, and then and then throughout through that entire organisation, so if anyone doesn't know anything about their research, which is, I'm sure you put it in your show notes, it's just, it's absolutely magnificent organisation and community. And the beauty of it is that you can just get access to it immediately. And then that's the beauty of the Internet. Whereas back in the early 2000s, there just wasn't that ability to have a community,  have a tribe and sharing information. So that would be the first one. The second one was it did take us years to get to the point where we could price upfront. I would say, if you know hindsight, it's wonderful, isn't it, but I would say we should have just ripped the band aid off. 

 

Geraldine  10:12  
Okay.

 

Matthew  10:12  
Like every single problem was only a problem because we made it a problem. It was not a problem in any other framework, it was only a problem because we ourselves, were the people making it a problem. And the third one is. and this probably just took time to realise but then why wait? You know, I think the beauty now is because there is so much more information, you don't have to learn those hard lessons yourself. We sort of thought pricing, fixed pricing was a destination. It's not, it's a journey. And so to answer your question on on infinitely better now and pricing than I was 10, or 15 years ago, but I mean, I guess part of the excitement of it is that, and I'm sure some of your books in that cupboard, it would be very useful, you're just constantly learning, like it's a lifelong process to learn how to be a better person. 

 

Geraldine  11:01  
Yeah, that makes sense. I guess you're also guiding clients, right? If you've got clients who are used to the old model on the conversations that you need to have, firstly, because I don't know how many clients are used to having upfront conversations with their lawyers about values and objectives and pricing.

 

Matthew  11:23  
It's really insightful. And I accept that it can be difficult in that space. But think, though, that the diffculty arises when you're attached to the outcome. So as the advisor, if you're mainly worried about whether you're going to pick the client up as a client or not, it becomes very, very difficult. If you're unattached to that, and in fact, what you worried about is the client getting the best outcome for them, then whether the fixed pricing resonates with them or not, doesn't matter. Like if it doesn't resonate with them, we just help them get to a firm where they, you know, they prefer to be paying the hourly rate, but it becomes a self-selecting process very, very quickly. And the only times we've ever had a problem when you look back at it after the event, and we use a tool called an after action review, where we do actually sit down and go through a formal process to analyse that, I think I'd say every single time it's because we've lost focus on what's important for the customer. And we've become attached to whether they're going to use this or not. Or engage us.

 

Geraldine  12:29  
Which has probably got lessons for the broader relationship, right? Your job is the advisor, keep your eye on that. Do it well with integrity. And the rest will take care of itself in a way because it's not about, it's about client interest rather than self interest. It's kind of obvious, but we're just so bad at it, or we've been trained differently.

 

Matthew  12:57  
Yeah, it is. And look, not for a minute easy. I mean, one of the pieces of literature that has always resonated with us and goes to your point about being a bit of, you know, a journey more than a destination is that if you're pricing properly, you should be missing out on somewhere between 20 and 30% of every matter that you price. Well, you know, talk to that in the construct of a big law firm, and then they'll, you'd probably be sacked, if you're as a partner saying, well, I've deliberately priced this in a way that we're going to be losing 1/3 of all the work that's potentially coming in the door. It's just so outside what most big law firms, how they operate, as long as a customer can pay the hourly rate, they're a customer, but there is no other criteria.

 

Geraldine  13:46  
Which kind of brings me to a question that I had and that's scale of your model, right? So billing with no timesheets, having the agreed outcomes or agree pricing conversation? Can it be scaled up to a bigger law firm?

 

Matthew  14:04  
Absolutely. 

 

Geraldine  14:05  
Yeah.

 

Matthew  14:05  
I mean, I think that, again, I'd probably just throw a couple, you're asking some seriously, fundamentally important questions here. And I'm really not doing justice to them. But if I just give you a couple of little snippets, and then the first one is the overhead that's carried in the current model is unbelievable. I mean, even on a conservative, it's probably 10% of the firm's resources, go to running the time sheets. So let's just, if you rip the band aid off to use your phrase, then suddenly you've got 10% extra to stop allocating to processes around a fixed pricing model. And then the other comment I'd make is that in in the context of every other sustainable business, I mean, they all seem to be able to do it without recording time at an hourly rate.

 

Geraldine  14:55  
Yeah. It has to do a lot with the margins of large law firms and a bit of a reality check, have you actually delivered value to clients and how you look after your people as well. So what you're talking about in terms of that, the resources that go into timesheets, some of that you can't really record, but you can't really measure, because that's the element of having your whole workforce trained to fill in timesheets. And if you release that, then my feeling is that you release a lot more than you know, the hours that they or at the end of the day when they have to fill it in, it's more than that. It's actually a mindset shift, an energy, and then they'll be able to put more back into investment time for themselves and for client relationships and for the firm as a whole. And you can't really measure that. But you probably reap the rewards before too long.

 

Matthew  16:01  
Look, you're so insightful in the way that you explain it on. The other angle to that line of thinking would be, you know, we used to have an internal joke, which probably isn't a joke and probably isn't funny that you know, when you recruiting, how do you determine whether you've got a good lawyer sitting in front or a bad one? Well, the bad lawyers make matters last for months and months and months. And the good lawyers make them last a bit longer. And if that's the if that's your recruitment mentality, 

 

Geraldine  16:35  
Yeah. 

 

Matthew  16:36  
And then there's as you say, so this is an ecosystem. So let's just pretend for a minute, we're thrown out the timesheet, well, what does that mean? Well, firstly, it means that all of your most successful performers under the old model, where it was all about the inputs, are now at risk of being your absolute worst performers, because it's suddenly all about the outputs. And secondly, you're announcing of your innovation to the marketplace, because that's what seems to resonate with the marketplace without actually having anything underneath the surface in truly investing in technology, gets very quickly called out because the partners assume that I still want the same margins. In fact, I want ideally, bigger margins. But you can't get that margin play unless you're willing to double down and actually properly invest in technology solutions. So it is, it's almost naive to suggest that removing the timesheets, themselves would be enough. But as you say, it's an entire ecosystem. And it's an entirely opposite approach to almost every aspect of the firm currently.

 

Geraldine  17:43  
Which goes back to your statement about it being a journey, because you remove that that one thing which is so emblematic of your system, you remove that one thing, and you're actually setting off on the journey to a whole new, brave new world of unleashing potential and proper investments in and proper client relationships. So I can imagine it would have been incredibly exciting, it probably still is, but you're touching on technology, which we talked a little bit about before we started recording. And I wanted to bring out some of the things that I've been seeing, having looked around your website, your website is chock full of solutions and products, ebooks and other tools. Now, what occurred to me when I was looking at your website is you use technology, you leverage technology, but it doesn't really have to be incredibly high tech, does it to actually make sure that you're getting returns out of it. What are your learnings in this area? And why don't you think or why do you think it is that large firms don't use technology more? 

 

Matthew  19:03  
You didn't tell me you were only going to ask really, really hard and in-depth questions. 

 

Geraldine  19:07  
I'm talking to someone who is living and breathing the new model law firm. I'm sorry, Matthew, I just couldn't let this pass without really digging into some of the insights you can provide us.

 

Matthew  19:18  
No, well, maybe the answers are a little bit too superficial for what you're asking for. I think our experience is exactly what you've said. So it's not actually I mean, the technology's only ever an enabler, is the reality in all businesses. And I think there is a risk in the law and I'm speaking firsthand because we've made this mistake that you forget that and you think that it is about the tech but it's not as you said, it's not about the tech, it's about what what product can enable you to do, to deliver to your customer. And that has been a lesson learned how to, and I think it's a lesson that you just got to keep reminding yourself about, it does mean you know forever more fancy ideas come onto the scene. And the other big thing, I think, for us, again, without getting us dragged back into that earlier discussion is that incentives matter. So in other words, if you've got an explicit technology solution, I'll use one example, we, when we first, because we did try to build a tech-enabled solution inside the big law firm and one of the things that we did had an automated, there's a whole lot of products that were automated through a process, but then arrange for a customer meeting via, you know, at the time, revolutionary technology being video conferencing. Back in about late, around the GFC and so we needed to coordinate calendars. So we had a calendar built that cost tens of thousands of dollars, probably took almost a year to build it. Well, now, if I think you even did it to organise it. So there's automated plug-ins that you pay a few dollars a month for, and it can entirely automate processes. And so then it goes to your point, what are you, you know, what is it that you're enabling? And if the incentives inside the big law firm, the longer it takes, and the higher the hourly rate, the better. Then I think there's a reason that a lot of the disruptors that are coming in just almost laugh at the law, because they're just know. We ban people from typing just to use a really simple example, because the voice recognition and offshore transcription services are exquisite, and so much quicker and so much better quality. 

 

Geraldine  21:41  
Yeah. 

 

Matthew  21:41  
And yet, if I guarantee that if you walk into a law firm today, there's a very small typing pools, and almost all of their senior lawyers sitting there typing away.

 

Geraldine  21:54  
I can attest to that.

 

Matthew  21:55  
Because it's chargeable work. Yeah. 

 

Geraldine  21:56  
Exactly. And you haven't really been conditioned to think about how you can make yourself more efficient, right? So I only learned about the dictation tool on Microsoft Word in the last couple of months after I came out of Big law, right? 

 

Matthew  22:14  
Interesting. 

 

Geraldine  22:15  
I can actually just speak to Microsoft Word and it'll type it up for me. Wow. All the transcripts that I do for this podcast is just I pay not much a month, a flat fee a month to an AI platform and it will produce 40-45 minutes worth of recording for me as a transcript. And there's a little bit of editing to do, but it's amazingly accurate. And we could do this, we don't need notetakers. We don't need young lawyers to be trained to become notetakers in meetings for example. 

 

Matthew  22:53  
And typists.

 

Geraldine  22:54  
And typists. The idea of all that all those extra salaries you're paying in law firms around support staff. And I don't really want to suggest that we can get rid of a whole lot of support staff and costs and layoff a lot of jobs. But there are efficiencies that we can clearly obtain, if we spent time retraining lawyers.

 

Matthew  23:19  
But I think you've actually, I agree with you but I also think in one of your earlier comments, if your senior associate is not sitting there typing out meeting notes or drafting from scratch that document, I mean, these are highly trained, amazing people, if they're not spending eight hours a day doing that stuff, that input stuff, then they can be flipped, and they can be doing output stuff. And I would say that would be for the entire firm, I'll give you, if you've got highly competent, great people inside your organisation and they're sitting there spending most of their waking hours doing internally focused, air quotes, chargeable work, if we can, as you say, leverage technology to do that, well, then there will, some firms will choose to just retrench. But other firms will say we've got an amazing opportunity here to reimagine how we can add value to our customers.

Geraldine  24:14  
Yeah, and what you're saying also about that idea that someone could produce a solution that would benefit the whole firm and benefit the clients of the whole firm so that they're thinking outside their unit, their team and their department. I think because of the structures in some law firms that itself can be very hard to incentivise properly. And I've seen law firms try and do it with, you know, incubators or hubs, or whatever. And then reward people accordingly. Give them recognition, but it's so outside of the structure because people are rewarded within their silos firstly. 

 

Matthew  24:59  
Yeah. 

 

Geraldine  25:00  
And then even all the way through the hierarchy, people are rewarded so that they if they develop something for their own team, then then that's going to be career enhancing. But it doesn't necessarily spill over to the whole firm. And the fact that we actually have to create workarounds to get an outcome that will benefit the whole firm, for example, just shows how much the model, the entrenched power of the model is inefficient and impacting on proper gains. It is actually really, it does require reimagining like you're talking about. So it must have been a relief to start from a blank slate when you did.

Matthew  25:50  
Yeah, it is a perfect word. And I think, I mean, at the time, there was an enormous amount of frustration, which has led to relief, I actually and hearing you explain it then reminds me of this I actually feel sorry for, because people in big law are, they're great people, and who've invested enormous amounts to get to where they are. But the world is changing. And if you, Clayton Christensen wrote about it 30 years ago, the innovator's dilemma is that the history shows that it is highly unlikely that the Big Law will succeed in the new regime. And so therefore, yeah, there will be enormous amount of pain that will be suffered by that part of the industry. And that, you know, it's, it's okay, because that they've obviously made law to the position that now enjoys. 

Geraldine  26:48  
Yeah. 

 

Matthew  26:49  
And yet, there'll be disruptors that will come in and move the cheese.

Geraldine  26:54  
Yes, I've had conversations with people about the role of big law firms. And one of the things that is consistent, one of the common threads is the training that it gives, right? So if there's a role for big law firms, and I'm probably not doing justice to really, like you said, they're incredible people who work in big law firms, highly intelligent, so just to call big law firms a training ground is not doing them sufficient justice. However, to focus on that part of their role to the legal profession, they really do provide an exquisite, you know, unsurpassed, as far as I'm concerned, training ground for future lawyers. So if we didn't have big law firms, and one of the things that I have grappled with is how we would produce future generations of lawyers who understand what it's like to draft well, to capture legal concepts well, in order to translate client instructions into a document or into a statement of claim and so on, because I don't want to now hang it on law schools, but you don't really learn that in law schools, either, right?

Matthew  28:12  
No, the question I'd have back for you, which I've heard you ask in different contexts is, is the training that is being provided, is it actually useful? And is it actually what the training should be? Because is it in fact the ability to draft a good statement of claim or is it the ability to have an insightful, self aware, emotionally intelligent conversation? Is that the value that lawyers should be adding? Because if technology can effectively automate the statement of claim, then what does it matter how well the lawyer was trained in drafting? So technology is not there yet, obviously. But as you say, it opens up a whole raft of really, really important, really deep questions that maybe Big Law doesn't quite have the answer for.

Geraldine  29:01  
Yeah, so the idea of, like you call it an ecosystem, and I really liked that idea, we've all got different roles to play. And we haven't really been giving enough credit perhaps or enough recognition to the disruptors and the role that they are playing in the ecosystem. It may not be that they replace big law firms in a lot of the reports or the press around, legal press around this, is about how the disruptors, New Law are going to take market share. It's really not about replacing, it's about providing a space for everybody and different players finding the niche. And I think then you'll have a far more rounded profession, and lots more options for people coming through. It is actually quite exciting, isn't it and in more innovation happening probably both ways. So not just New Law learning from Big Law, but Big Law learning from New Law.

Matthew  30:07  
Yeah, the question, as you say, is that with the overheads and infrastructure that Big Law carries, can they be nimble enough even if they want to be?

Geraldine  30:16  
Yeah. And that's the pain point, right? Because you're asking people to give up, you're probably asking people to give up current remuneration, and you're definitely asking people to give up future aspirations. 

Matthew  30:35  
Yeah. 

Geraldine  30:35  
Which is, yeah, and a recognition that is as law becomes more accessible, as people switch up different solutions, well, the margins are reduced, and it's just going to be a whole different profession. It's just not going to be the path to riches that it once was.

 

Matthew  31:00  
Yeah. Well, it is. Well, and that's right. And you hear a lot of the consultants say, you know, try telling a bunch of blokes, and it tends to be white blokes, who have been earning a million bucks a year plus for many, many years, they've got an erroneous business model. 

Geraldine  31:16  
Yeah. 

 

Matthew  31:17  
Say, well, I'm you know 50-something. couple more years like this, and I'll be fine. And seriously, it's somebody else's problem, even if their business models totally stuffed. It's just not my problem. 

Geraldine  31:27  
Yeah. 

Matthew  31:28  
Because all my money I've got out. Now, am I being unduly unfair to said, older men running those shows?

Geraldine  31:39  
It's also, it's not just older white men, because the model is the way it is, anyone who gets to that top of the tree position. 

 

Matthew  31:46  
Yeah. 

 

Geraldine  31:46  
They have absorbed that way of thinking.

 

Matthew  31:49  
Correct. And it is interesting, isn't it, because when when you hear these firms getting awards for diversity, it tends to be quite a polarised like, it's just basically to me it seems to be well, how many females have we got as compared to males? But as you've just rightly pointed out, the reality is if the females have made it through the game, the diversity of their thought, is there is no diversity. It's exactly the same as all the other people there.

Geraldine  32:19  
Yeah, this is actually one of my bugbears. And it's interesting, because I think you and I had a prior conversation where we touched on diversity. And I said that I read something that you written about how it's diversity of thought that counts. And I completely agree, you know I'm female. I'm not born in Australia, a migrant. But I got onto the treadmill. And I was no different in my thinking from the so called, you know, older white males that you were talking about, right? Because that's where I wanted to get to. 

Matthew  32:53  
Yeah. 

 

Geraldine  32:54  
So I suited up and I even had a very male briefcase, and I was just a version of those people who happened to be female. But it took me a long time before I realised that I was not being true to myself, and that the true diversity that I could bring was in thinking differently, the different experiences that I had. So yeah, I think it's when when law firms encourage true diversity, then we might get people who are less about what's in it for me and protecting my patch, and maybe we'll get that innovation trickling down and people willing to sacrifice their own take home pay. But I wanted to actually get into something else that we've been talking about. And when I first looked at your website, one of the reasons I said I think I want to interview Matthew Burgess was because you say, one of the things you say about yourself is that you like green smoothies, right? I like green smoothies. So, okay I've got to interview this man. It gets into something else that I wanted to talk to you about and that's like letting your personality shine through, right? So it doesn't seem like a big deal to say I like green smoothies, but in a way it is because you sometimes get law firm websites, I mean you read these bios and so on about people and they all kind of sound very much the same. Sometimes you get them, you get ones where people are trying to be authentic, but it just comes across as trying. So what I want to get at is that you struck the right note. And it was interesting, what I want to get at is, is that something you feel able to do now out of Big Law? Do you agree with me that Big Law can stifle personality? 

 

Matthew  35:04  
Wow. I mean, as you were talking there, the first thing that came to mind, I can't remember who said it, was if you can fake being authentic, you've got it made, something along those lines.

 

Geraldine  35:19  
I know, all those courses on how to be authentic.

 

Matthew  35:22  
It is like that I was I don't know if you put the video out on this, but when you were describing you had, you know, you suited up and you had the good looking suitcase. I mean, it's just, you just can't be any other way. And I was, and I don't I mean, I think that's the other thing. And you've said it as well, part of today's program that to be a little bit different in law, it's like, well, when I used to suit up it was like, I'm not going to wear a tie today. Whoa, really? I just and look, as you said, on one level, it's just so superficial, who cares what you drink, who cares when you wear, but on another level, the framework and the discipline and the rules, the unwritten rules, are just so demanding. And I am going to sound like I'm just flogging the same thing. I think that one of the best pieces of thinking that I've seen in this space is The Results-only Work Environment, people out of the US, the two ladies that wrote that book, and have driven that and I think that until the legal game becomes more focused on the results rather than the inputs, it's going to be basically impossible to have any diversity of any description. Because you just can't. You've got to be seen and act and do it all in the way that resonates with the overall model. 

 

Geraldine  36:53  
Yeah. 

 

Matthew  36:54  
Which is, and so the answer your question, yeah, I mean, I was absolutely part of that problem, and then I lacked the self awareness and skills to do anything about it while I was inside the machine. And frankly, the fact that I even tried to was disrespectful to the machine, I wouldn't have been self aware enough to say that at the time, but looking back, I think the fact that I tried to rebel against that side, I'd quite often wear board shorts, you know, all day, if I didn't have a customer meeting, I was not putting on a suit. Well, you know, that I had disciplinary stuff against me for failure to comply with the dress code. And yet, I mean may now COVID, of course, everyone does that. But the fact of the matter is, it was disrespectful to me to the firm that had been built, that I tried to rebel against that.

 

Geraldine  37:42  
That's quite incredible, isn't it? If you think about just the demands that we as educated, qualified, you know, we think of ourselves as intelligent people, just we acquiesce to. And you will dress a certain way, you will only speak on acceptable subjects. 

 

Matthew  38:04  
Correct. 

 

Geraldine  38:05  
You will censor yourself essentially. And it doesn't mean that we were going to go around offending people. But it's just, there were some things that I knew that I didn't speak about at partner meetings or partner gatherings. But it was actually part of my personality that I wanted to bring out. But I didn't feel it was acceptable. Now, for example, I have no children. So I couldn't really talk about you know, which school and school holidays, et cetera, et cetera. But there were tons of other things that I thought were really interesting, books I was reading, that I wanted to talk about. And  I would sit there thinking, I can't actually raise this because people will think I'm odd and strange. And once they think I'm odd and strange, then I'm some sort of a threat. 

 

Matthew  38:54  
It's a slippery slope. 

 

Geraldine  38:55  
Yeah. And if I'm a threat to the status quo, then that's going to be career limiting. And so it was just easier to censor myself. And the freedom I found when I got out of it, I think I'm still testing the boundaries of. I'm going to ask your last question. Any advice for the upcoming lawyers those who really do want to wear board shorts all day?

 

Matthew  39:27  
If you start at the value that you're trying to create and work backwards there'll be nothing that you can't do. 

 

Geraldine  39:38  
Yeah.

 

Matthew  39:41  
I mean I literally just made that up. So you can critique that until that doesn't make sense but I just listening to everything that you've been saying, I think if you're centred on how you, as an individual can best deliver value and create value for other people, then I think the dots will just join themselves. Might take a little bit longer, but they will join themselves.

 

Geraldine  40:03  
Yeah, I like it because it goes back to one of the earlier things you said, right, which is you be the advisor and the rest of it, stop focusing on what you get out of the client, focus on what you need to do for the client, which is your job, right? Your role. And that goes back to it right, which is entirely consistent. And it is also, one of the books that I was talking about in an earlier podcast was The Trusted Advisor, which is an oldie but a goodie. And one of the things that David Maister says, and that is to reduce self orientation. Just stop thinking about yourself, stop having that thing going on in your mind the soundtrack or whatever it is, which says, what am I doing? What am I saying? What do I have to say next? And focus on your client. So it's a bigger perspective in that it's focused on on what you can deliver in your role as a lawyer, which is actually quite profound. So thank you, Matthew, for a really enjoyable conversation.

 

Matthew  41:13  
Thank you really appreciate it and best wishes. Thanks.

 

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