The shockwaves from the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across the economy - and professional services firms are no different. As Australia braces for its sharpest economic downturn in decades, legal and accounting firms are facing the prospect of a slowdown in work as clients dramatically reduce their spending on external advisors.
So how are professional services firms navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 environment?
Despite some setbacks, better than you might expect.
Tim Wilson, CEO of MSI Global Alliance - a leading global association of over 260 independent legal and accounting firms - highlights maximising the use of technology as critical to how his members have handled the pandemic. Through the use of webinars,virtual meetings, ‘social hour’ online networking sessions and a dedicated COVID-19 message board, Wilson says MSI’s platform has enabled its members to learn from each other, forge deeper connections and share business opportunities amid the recent turbulence.
Plenty of firms have encountered stumbling blocks while making the transition to remote working. When we asked a host of law and accounting firms what their biggest challenge had been during the pandemic, most nominated maintaining business continuity while swiftly adapting to the ‘new normal’ of the virtual office. Garry Same, Senior Partner of Taylor Smart - Lawyers & Notaries said it had been difficult ‘continuing to work on our client matters by remote access during the lockdown phase’.
It’s likely Garry Same’s experience fits a broader trend. Before what’s been dubbed the world’s largest Work-From-Home experiment, barely one in twenty Australian employees worked from home. Today, leading demographer Bernard Salt estimates that figure has jumped to more than one in three.
Many employees have made the shift to telecommuting while balancing increased caring responsibilities, such as home schooling children and looking after elderly relatives in isolation. These strains are familiar to Justin Marschke, Principal of the Brisbane law firm Tucker & Cowen Solicitors, who cites ‘the additional workload of implementing measures to ensure the welfare of staff, suppliers [and] their families’, while implementing ‘business continuity measures’ as the toughest challenge his firm has faced since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Working remotely can also make it tough to recreate the buzz and energy of a tight-knit office. MSI Global Alliance is helping to bridge this digital divide by providing a platform for legal and accounting firms to learn, discuss ideas and share business opportunities during these extraordinary times. As an international association of firms specialising in matching clients with local experts where they need them, the MSI Global Alliance understands the importance of global associations and networks to succeeding in a challenging commercial environment, especially when it comes to doing business in Australia.
Alec Blacklaw, Managing Partner of Blacklaw Advisory and Area Rep for MSI Global Alliance - Asia Pac region, says MSI Global Alliance has given him ‘access to brilliant minds around the globe, provided fresh perspective and insights, so that we can help our people and clients survive this crisis and be poised to capitalise on the many opportunities that are presenting.’
Likewise, Justin Marschke of Tucker and Cowen Solicitors praises MSI Global Alliance for providing ‘a network of trusted professional advisers with the breadth and depth needed by our clients at a time like this.’ Similarly, Ben Hart, Marketing Coordinator of McKinley Plowman in WA, noted the importance of the resources MSI Global Alliance members have been sharing.
Which is why COVID-19 isn’t just an obstacle for professional services firms. It’s also an opportunity. At a time of unprecedented upheaval, firms have a unique chance to stand out from their competitors by providing first rate service when their clients need it most.
We don’t know how long the disruption will last, or what the new normal will look like. But we do know that despite the pause on travel, the globalisation of business is here to stay. And that means independent firms with a global outlook will continue to have a leg up on their peers.
If your firm is looking for an international alliance of peers equal to the scale of your clients’ ambitions, MSI Global Alliance can help. To find out more about how joining MSI Global Alliance can help your firm compete more effectively in today’s global marketplace, please complete our membership enquiry form.
You can find some existing success stories from MSI Global Alliance AusNZ & Fiji members in the video below as well: