McKay's Solicitors was established in Mackay in Queensland in 1988 after the merger of two local firms. It then bucked the usual trend of expansion into other regional areas by heading into the Brisbane CBD and establishing an office in 1995.
The firm's expansion into Brisbane was a decision made by partners wanting to move for lifestyle and family reasons. Rather than breaking the partnership, the firm saw an opportunity to expand into other markets.
The Mackay firm is the largest in regional central Queensland, with 90 staff employed, 25 of them solicitors and 35 paralegals. It practises mainly in property law, conveyancing, commercial litigation and personal injury.
The firm has an innovative business model where specialty areas operate under different names but are divisions of the law firm. These include the Family Law Centre, Statewide Conveyancing and Mortgage Settlements Australia.
Mark McGrath - a partner at the firm and the fifth generation of his family to live and work in the region - says Mackay is at the cutting edge of the Australian economy because it is driven by coal and other resources.
"If Kevin Rudd says that from an Australian perspective he'd rather have the Australian economy than the American or United Kingdom [economy], then I would say that I would rather be in Mackay than Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne," he says.
"It will be the first place to recover before those major centres and that's why we act for a lot of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne clients, particularly in the development industry ... who still continue to heavily invest and develop in central and Northern Queensland because of the positive business aspects in this area."
National law firms such as Deacons have asked the Mackay firm to handle significant work. Some of these projects include commercial litigation from development projects with design issues and property matters where local lawyers are needed on the ground to put developers' ideas into practical effect.
McGrath says that his firm's relationship with leading firms is not characterised by trying to take work off them, but rather "trying to work with them to get a project done for a mutual client".
- Sarah Sharples