John Edelman, Victor Kelly and Eva Elbourne joined their new firm this week, while Peter Gell will be coming across no later than the beginning of April.
Hunt & Hunt chairperson Maureen Peatman said the addition of approximately 30 staff to the firm would bolster the insurance practice while adding weight in taxation and the more specific field of automotive work.
“We’re very excited that they’re coming. It’s a marvellous start for 2007 for Hunt & Hunt,” she said. “We’re looking forward to a dynamic and exciting year.”
Peatman cited culture and fit as the major reasons why an agreement was reached, while the firm’s reputation for its ethical standing was a further drawcard.
For the former Abbott Tout members, the move represented an opportunity too good to miss, for seasoned partners and staff alike, despite the merger with Home Wilkinson Lowry (HWL) in December.
“We thought it was a good strategic fit, and also offered career prospects for all our younger lawyers too, who don’t always want to be jammed into a narrow field of either insurance or commercial litigation,” Edelman said.
“Hunt & Hunt does both of those things very well, and for a wide number of clients. So a good strategic fit is the way I looked at it.”
Eleven professionals and three support staff have joined the partners in the move from Abbott Tout, with others considering invitations to follow suit.
Edelman described the transition as “a breath of fresh air”, whereas Kelly put it more directly. “Let me put it this way: I am absolutely bloody delighted, and I really mean that. It’s a great opportunity for us, and we’re just so chuffed about it.”
Some of those leaving Abbott Tout have been with the firm for a decade, and in some cases, multiple decades.
Edelman said that in his 34 years at the firm, there had been numerous attempts to woo him to other positions “both in legal and other areas too, non-legal included. Everybody in this office has had offers from time to time”.
Kelly had been with Abbott Tout for 40 years. Elbourne, herself at the firm for more than 13 years, said it was clear why, before the merger, staff tended to stay for long periods.
“I think the thing that kept people at Abbott Tout for so long ... is that we have some really good clients, and very good work, and also some very good people,” she said. “A lot of the people we’re bringing down here have been with Abbott Tout for a significant period. And yes, we do all get offers, but we’re bringing that terrific work with us and these very experienced teams with us.”
Among the new clients coming to Hunt & Hunt are tax and automobile industry figures, through Gell.
“[Gell] is a fine commercial lawyer,” Peatman said. “He brings with him his tax expertise, which is very well known in the New South Wales market. But besides that, he also acts for [millionaire car dealer] Nick Politis.
“It brings together and reinforces our very dynamic automotive industry sector in Hunt & Hunt,” she said.
The courtship between the Abbott Tout partners and Hunt & Hunt began in 2005, before going dormant for a year.
“Both firms mutually agreed that we were not going to pursue those discussions on merger,” Peatman said. “I approached [Edelman] at the end of November  and we did the deal very quickly.”
Discussions with Gell were conducted in December, close to the time that HWL announced its merger with Abbott Tout.