On my recent visit to Australia, I spoke at the 2nd Annual Law Tech Summit in Noosa, Australia. Put on by the fine team at Chilli Marketing Solutions, it was a very well organized event, with a lot of great content. The highlights for me, were the keynote given by Richard Susskind who's concepts and theories have heavily influenced how I view IT within legal, and Peter Williams, a Partner at Deliotte and CEO of their web and software development business, Ecplise. I found Peter's views on how to rapidly experiment and implement technology very refreshing, as we often get too bogged down in the minutia of a project to actually get it off the ground.
I learned a lot about the legal market, the economic climate and the 'proper' way to pronounce such words as aluminum and tomato, as well as certain acceptable words in the States that are off limits in Australia :)
"Brain drain" was a phrase used often at the conference. The country is experiencing a flight of talent, mostly to the UK. While wages appear to be decent for most tech-related jobs, the cost of living is very high (a Volkswagen Passat costs around $40k and a Snickers bar at a convenience store was $2.00 - food was particularly expensive) and as a result many of Australia's brightest young minds are taking their talent overseas.
More and more legal work is coming from all the growth from China. With construction comes a lot of legal work, especially litigation. One consultant, Justin North, suggests that the next large merger will not be "vertical" (NY-London), but "horizontal" (China-Australia), because of the synergies between these two countries and their respective economies.
Over the years, I found that there are a handful of highly innovative firms in Australia, such as Mallesons who have taken the Recommind product to new levels with their Decisiv e-mail management tool. While there are firms in Australia that are arguably more advanced in their use of technology than any firm here in the States, it seemed that firms are generally a bit behind what we are doing here as an industry. Many of the conversations were on topics we were dealing with 3-5 years ago.
There are also many thought leaders from Australia, both within law firms and on the vendor side. Justin North, who recently left Baker Robbins/Thomson to start his own consulting company (Janders Dean), is among those leading the charge on the innovation front - not only in Australia, but across the globe. Most recently, he's been working with a few of the largest firms on the planet on the selection and implementation of enterprise search.
All in all, it was a very interesting conference, well run, with a good mix of content and opportunities for networking. Anyone in Australia should consider their next event in 2008.