How Corrs Chambers Westgarth was ‘well placed’ to deal with the pandemic

21 April 2022 By Lauren Croft
Gavin MacLaren

After reframing its strategy in 2018 with the addition of a new chief executive, Corrs Chambers Westgarth has continued to grow into different markets and states.

Following a number of new appointments this year alone, CEO Gavin MacLaren spoke to Lawyers Weekly about the firm’s recent growth – and what he’s looking to focus on moving forward.

“With my appointment as CEO in 2018, Corrs refashioned its ambition and strategy to seek market leadership and to focus on working with clients on their most significant and complex transactions and disputes. Our ambition as a firm is to replicate in Australia the best practices of leading independent international firms overseas,” he said.  

“Our particular focus has been on creating an effective and collaborative culture, enhancing the training and development of our lawyers and delivering innovative solutions to the challenges facing our clients. This approach has seen the firm’s revenue grow by over 75 per cent over the last four years. Over the same period, the partnership size has increased by 20 per cent. In particular, we have increased the number of partners in our corporate, banking, financial services, projects, industrial relations and energy and natural resources practices. This growth has enabled us to significantly improve our market impact.”

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In February this year, just weeks after Allen & Overy’s head of debts and projects made the move over to Corrs Chambers Westgarth, two more senior partners made the same jump.

Allen & Overy’s partners James Abbott and Simon Huxley will follow Adam Stapledon over to Corrs Chambers Westgarth, the latter announced. This followed the addition of a financial services regulatory specialist as partner in the firm’s Sydney office in October last year.

Mr MacLaren said that these appointments support the firm’s growth – in addition to an increased focus on specific areas.

“Our focus is on continuing to deliver on our current strategy, which will include further growth of the firm across corporate, litigation, banking and finance and ESG, in particular, in the Sydney market. We have a strong pipeline of internal talent and we see most of our growth coming from internal promotions over the next five years,” he said.

“In five years’ time, I want to see the firm in a position of clear market leadership.”

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Despite disruptions caused by the pandemic, Corrs was able to continue to grow whilst continuing to adopt a flexible working culture.

“The pandemic caused a huge amount of societal dislocation, challenged many of our clients and fundamentally disrupted the way we work. Corrs was well placed to deal with the early challenges of the pandemic, having already adopted a very flexible working model which could be seamlessly rolled out at scale from March 2020. The firm’s business and growth plans were not adversely affected by the pandemic,” Mr MacLaren explained.

“Increased flexibility is one very positive development for our people. However, the challenge for us – like many organisations – is how to balance this enhanced flexibility with rebuilding an in-office culture that enables our younger lawyers to learn by osmosis and builds esprit de corps across the whole firm.”

Over the course of the next year, the firm will focus on a number of key areas, including responsible business, ESG issues and the return of positive interest rates and the impact that has on Corrs corporate and financial sponsor client base, Mr MacLaren said.

We have a strong track-record of supporting our clients on responsible business and ESG matters, including in relation to corporate governance, climate change, environment and sustainability, and human rights. Our newly established responsible business and ESG practice group is responding to the increased client demand for these services. Decarbonisation and the changes that it necessitates is also going to be a significant focus for our clients over the next few years,” he said.

“[In addition, we are] supporting our clients as they navigate the supply chain disruption arising from the pandemic and heightened geopolitical risk, including undertaking significant business restructures that respond to these challenges.”

In addition, “culture and connection” will continue to be extremely important across the profession, Mr MacLaren added.

“Firms need to focus on culture and connection. In many markets, lawyers across all areas of the profession are suffering from the aftereffects of two years of uncertainty, increased demands and heightened stress levels,” he said.

“There must be a renewed focus on employee wellbeing and on creating opportunities for bringing fun and social engagement back into the workplace.”

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How Corrs Chambers Westgarth was ‘well placed’ to deal with the pandemic
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