AFL expands into Northern Territory

AFL expands into Northern Territory

24 October 2021 By Jerome Doraisamy

Listed firm Australian Family Lawyers is acquiring majority ownership of a Darwin-based practice, meaning the national firm now has a presence in seven Australian jurisdictions.

After reporting “record” revenue in FY21 and declaring its intent to be “Australia’s largest personal services law firm”, Australian Family Lawyers has yet acquired another practice.

AF Legal Group (ASX: AFL), otherwise known as Australian Family Lawyers, has entered into a binding Heads of Agreement to acquire 51 per cent of Darwin-based family law firm Withnalls Lawyers.

The news follows AFL’s acquisition of Kordos Lawyers in July of this year and its acquisition of Watts McCray in June.

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The 51 per cent of Withnalls shares or assets is being acquired for upfront cash consideration of $447,287 and upfront script consideration of $447,287, subject to completion of due diligence and the finalisation of transaction documentation.

Darwin was the last remaining capital city on mainland Australia where the listed firm did not have a presence, AFL company secretary Maggie Niewidok said in a statement to the market. There is also, she noted, a “significant transitional population” supported by people movements and employment contracts in Defence, Public Sector, Mining FIFO, and a renewal in Tourism post-COVID-19.

AFL executive chairman Grant Dearlove (pictured) said: “We are pleased to continue our growth into new markets in Australia. This transaction represents our first partnership where we have invested alongside an existing shareholder principal at a regional level.

“Having worked in the Northern Territory, I appreciate it’s a unique market and that working with a partner who has built a successful business in the region is the best strategy for success.”

Whithnalls principal Vanessa Farmer has lived in the Northern Territory since 1974 and has practised for more than two decades. Her firm has provided exclusive specialist family law service to Territorians for over 16 years.

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Ms Farmer said that she is “very much looking forward” to partnering with AFL.

Withnalls, she proclaimed, is “ready to grow”.

“Our existing practice is underwritten by our history of quality work and referrals. Now with AFL’s digital presence and its operating efficiencies, we can grow faster and deliver to more Territorians seeking the strength of a modern national family law firm with a long-standing local presence,” she said.

“Vanessa is a leader in her market, and we share the same desire for growth and expansion in new locations such as Katherine and Alice Springs,” Mr Dearlove added.

Withnalls recorded over $2.5 million in professional fees for the financial period ending 30 June 2021, and the acquisition is “expected to be highly earnings accretive” for AFL, Ms Niewidok submitted.

AFL expands into Northern Territory
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