Speaking exclusively with Lawyers Weekly, managing director Heinz Lepahe (pictured) confirmed that he left ABLA this month (14 April) and has since agreed to join HWL Ebsworth in Brisbane as a partner. He starts the new role on 5 May.
When asked about the future of ABLA’s Brisbane office, Lepahe said the firm had decided to run it as a satellite office managed out of Sydney.
“That’s not what I signed up for ... [the Brisbane office] is no longer a freestanding business in its own right in the way it was intended to be,” he said.
“I am not interested in being part of that kind of a structure because you don’t need a managing director when you’re managing and directing out of Sydney.”
Since Lepahe started at ABLA in 2012, the firm has reduced the headcount in Brisbane from around 10 fee earners to just one lawyer, workplace relations special counsel Alana Paterson.
However, NSW Business Chamber, which owns ABLA, revealed to Lawyers Weekly that a senior legal practitioner from a top-tier firm has just accepted a leadership role at the Brisbane office. While NSW Business Chamber would not reveal the lawyer’s name, it did indicate that the firm will expand its Queensland headcount over the coming year “as the state’s economy continues to recover”.
NSW Business Chamber also maintained that it “continues to invest in building capability which helps and supports businesses throughout Australia, including in Queensland”.
Lepahe joined ABLA in Brisbane in 2012 from Mills Oakley and brought along two other lawyers, including a senior associate.
The industrial relations lawyer has also been a partner at Cooper Grace Ward, Nicol Robinson Halletts Lawyers and Murdoch Lawyers.