The American based global law firm Squire Sanders has taken 15 partners from Minter Ellison to start its first Australian office.
On Friday 5 August, Squire Sanders announced that it was entering the Australian legal market via the opening of a single office in Perth. In making the announcement, the American firm said that the current managing partner of Minters in Perth, John Poulsen, was the designate Squire Sanders Australia managing partner and that it planned to commence operations in October.
"The enhanced practice will enable the combined firm to strengthen relationships with clients in Japan and China, where Squire Sanders has strong offices, and with clients and opportunities in South Africa, and the rest of South East Asia," Squire Sanders chair and global chief executive officer, James J Maiwurm said.
In talking to Lawyers Weekly, Minter Ellison chief executive partner John Weber admitted that "there would have been some people we would have been happy to have from that [Squire Sanders] office".
However, he said that Minter Ellison senior management had been negotiation with the Perth partners for around 12 months about the future of the Perth office - which was not a fully integrated part of the Minters network, and that this now gave his firm the opportunity to establish a fully integrated Perth office by the time Squire Sanders is up and running in October.
"Over the last few years, as part of our strategy agenda, was a desire to get our office in Perth integrated, as up until now, it has operated under a license agreement" he said. "The way I look at it, we are now able to execute on that strategy where we would be able to open our own office."
Weber also said that he had an "open mind" about Minters joining a global law firm in the future.
"It is possible that we would go down the merger route in the future," he said.
While all the defecting partners are still with Minters for the moment, the only four partners who have indicated they will be remaining with the firm post-October are John Prevost, Leith Ayres, Ben Cockerill and Andrew Thompson.
Weber said that by the time the integrated office opens in October, he would like to have at least eight partners in Perth, and around one dozen shortly after.
He said the shortfall between now and then would be made-up by internal promotions, lateral hires and the relocation of existing Minters partners from the east-coast to Perth.
Squire Sanders currently has 36 global offices, which are largely based in the USA and Europe. In the Asia-Pacific, it has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo.