One of Australia’s highest-regarded financial services lawyers will leave Gadens to join a single-office firm.
Vicki Grey (pictured) has resigned from the Gadens partnership, and will officially leave the national firm after eight years on 7 June to take up a position with single-office Sydney firm Kemp Strang.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly while she is on gardening leave, Grey, who is recognised as one of Australia’s foremost lawyers in the area of lending to self-managed super funds (SMSFs), said she expects to keep her key clients, as Kemp Strang already does work for many of them.
“The firm is on the panel of all of those major lenders, and I am hoping all of those lenders will continue to instruct me at my new firm,” she said.
At Gadens, Grey worked with more than a dozen lenders in developing their SMSF lending policies. Those clients include the Big Four domestic banks, the Bank of Queensland and HSBC.
Prior to joining Gadens, Grey worked for Westpac as a financial markets dealer and was an in-house lawyer at HSBC.
She was also a professional ballet dancer before commencing her legal career.
Grey said she was not concerned about leaving Gadens, a leading financial services firm with multiple Australian and international offices, to join Kemp Strang, which is seeking to muscle into this area.
“The ability for me to have a say in the direction and strategic direction of the partnership at Kemp Strang, I find that very exciting,” said Grey, who denied that she felt she was denied that opportunity within the Gadens partnership.
She also added that her fee structure will not change, despite joining a smaller firm.
“There is absolutely no need for my fees to be reduced at all.
“I am confident that my clients see my fees as being value for money, and I would expect my fees to continue along in the same way.”
Kemp Strang is on the panels of the Big Four domestic banks and also does work for HSBC, Lloyds International and Rabobank. Traditionally, its strength has been in the areas of banking and finance, dispute resolution, insolvency and regulatory work.
The financial services practice area has been targeted by a number of domestic firms as an area of potential growth, as the arrival of global law firms has cut into their share of the M&A, litigation and energy & resources market.
HWL Ebsworth is one firm that has heavily targeted this area, poaching top-tier partners and clients by offering heavily discounted fees.
“Clients in the financial services sector have cost pressures, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” said former Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner Andrew Galvin, when he joined HWL Ebsworth in February.
“My rates are lower [at HWL] and if you can’t beat them, join them.”
In an interview with Lawyers Weekly earlier this month, Kemp Strang managing partner Michael Joseph indicated that he did not seek to sell his firm as a low-fee option.
“I suspect our price offering is very competitive, but price is not the be all and end all,” said Joseph, who lauded Grey as “Australia’s leading lawyer in lending to SMSFs”.
“The best businesses are built around relationships and getting the job done properly and satisfying clients’ needs.”
Kemp Strang has 130 staff in its Sydney office. That includes 18 partners, 35 lawyers and 21 paralegals and law students.
Keeping it local
Despite global firms such as K&L Gates poaching Andrea Beatty, the former head of the financial services and regulatory practice group at HWL Ebsworth, it has traditionally been domestic firms that have competed for clients in this area.
Grey believes that won’t be changing anytime soon.
“I don’t think they will be at all interested in the financial services regulation space because it is not a huge generator of fees,” said Grey. “The type of work I do has never been of interest to a mega-firm, because each individual instruction will never attract the amount of fees to be a partner in a big global firm.”
Grey officially starts work at Kemp Strang on 11 June.
The conditions of her leaving the Gadens partnership means that she can’t speak to any members of her former team about possibly joining her at Kemp Strang until she officially starts on that date.