Piper Alderman’s managing partner-elect, Tony Britten-Jones (pictured), intends to focus his energy on growing the firm’s Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane practices.
Britten-Jones, previously based in Adelaide as deputy managing partner and head of the national property and projects division, will start in the role of national managing partner on 1 January 2015.
“I am very much looking forward to the challenge [of leading Pipers]. We are a firm with a great foundation and I am very lucky to be entrusted with this role,” Britten-Jones told Lawyers Weekly.
He added that he would be moving to Melbourne with his partner to start the new role. Britten-Jones replaces Tony Phelps, who held the position of managing partner for four and a half years.
Explaining his decision to direct more attention to the east coast offices, Britten-Jones said, “We are pretty solid in Adelaide at the moment, but the market here is pretty flat. We’ve recently promoted Tim O'Callaghan as head of the Adelaide office so I feel that things are in pretty good hands.”
Britten-Jones was not overly optimistic that the Adelaide market would pick up in the short to medium term, but said the firm was not planning any future redundancies.
“If anything, we probably trimmed too much and are leaner than we would like to be. It is very hard to get that balance right. We will be, if anything, expanding slightly,” he said.
Pipers made seven Adelaide staff, including three senior associates, redundant in February.
In contrast, Britten-Jones said the firm was feeling confident about the Brisbane market and was keen to grow the Brisbane office.
Pipers is not trying to compete on the international stage, said Britten-Jones who ruled out any global mergers for the foreseeable future. He added, however, that Pipers might consider merging with smaller firms but that nothing major was planned at the moment.
Dissenters in the ranks
Pipers has seen a number of partner defections over the past year. This week, Sydney office head Frazer Hunt moved to Mills Oakley with a team of lawyers.
Last week, IP and technology partner Richard Chew left Pipers to join Sparke Helmore’s Sydney office. In March, Pipers partner Robert Speirs left to launch a boutique firm with senior associate James Ryan.
Britten-Jones said a vast majority of the departures were by partners in practice areas that the firm is moving away from.
“It is fairly natural that the lawyers in the lower level insurance litigation markets and other civil litigation areas would feel less comfortable with the direction of the firm because the reality is that we are not focusing on that,” he said.
Gordon Greive has been appointed temporary head of the Sydney office and Britten-Jones said he will be talking to the Sydney partners over the next month with the view to making a permanent appointment next year.
The Sydney office has grown recently with the addition of a new corporate partner, Tania Zordan, in October. Zordan previously worked at boutique firm Zorgan Legal and Kemp Strang Lawyers.