The white paper, Australia in the Asian Century, opens
with the line: "Asia's rise is changing the
It has already changed the world for Australian law firms,
producing an internationalisation of the market that has created a
strategic choice for firms between international mergers and
independence; between bricks and mortar overseas and the strategic
relationships model celebrating world-class capability.
Of the top 10 law firms in Australia, half have chosen some form
of merger or formal alliance with firms based in the northern
hemisphere. However we choose to structure our firms in this new
market, the message of the white paper is clear.
A mindset shift is required for Australians to see the route to
Asia as direct to Asia and not through other regions and their
capitals. And new capabilities and relationships are required to
work effectively with and in Asia.
The white paper sets 25 national objectives within five areas of
focus to guide Australia's success in the Asian Century. These
are just as relevant for law firms as any business or
A major theme is building on our strengths. The skills that have
made us successful in the past are a strong foundation for the
Our legal sector is enormously attractive to Asia for the
quality it offers, its established legal frameworks and traditions
and outstanding legal education system and our people. Competition
within the region will grow only more fierce, and the Asian Century
demands that we continue to grow and improve, particularly in terms
of legal quality, human capital investment, innovation,
adaptability and flexibility.
We need to build Asian capabilities, so we can truly understand
Asian societies, their business models and their people.
This includes their legal institutions, political leaders,
commercial practices, cultures and governance standards as well as
their approach to business.
This happens in our commitment to world-class legal excellence,
on-the-job training, the experiences we create for our people and
citizens of Asia, our learning and development, as well as in our
Diversity of people and capabilities enriches any firm and
creates a culture that is accepting, adaptable and open to change,
as well as highly skilled.
And it isn't just about us. It's also about Asian
citizens. Asia will become an increasingly significant source of
new ideas, technologies and leading-edge legal practice for
We need our citizens – more than a quarter of whom, on
average, were born overseas – and their networks and
experience working overseas to help to build social, business and
cultural networks that help us work with Asia to make the most of
their new ideas and talent as well as ours.
But that, perhaps, is the most important activity –
connecting with Asian markets and building relationships.
Relationships are the foundation of Asian business and the key to
everything else – building knowledge, trust, partnerships and
growth. We must seek out new connections, not just by exchanging
business cards, but by working together and exchanging value.
And this is the paradox of the Asian Century. While we are
witnessing the fastest and most powerful period of change in
history, the key to success is to do something consistently and
deliberatively, to invest in human capital. To take time to make
connections, develop partnerships, get to know people and
In short, to understand our neighbours and make ourselves a true
neighbour within our rich and diverse region.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
Most awarded firm and Australian deal of
Australasian Legal Business Awards
Employer of Choice for
Equal Opportunity for Women
in the Workplace (EOWA)
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The TPP could have a significant positive impact on the investment and financial services of Australia and Singapore.
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