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Sparke new threat to top-tier firms

Sparke new threat to top-tier firms

The top tier has a new and passionate opposition, determined to "keep bowling it to them" in the market.

THE top tier has a new, passionate opposition, determined to "keep bowling it to them" in the market. Mid-tier law firm Sparke Helmore's top man, appointed yesterday, says his firm can compete with the best of them.

Jesse Webb, the newly announced managing partner of national law firm Sparke Helmore, says recent panel appointments, and the firm's ability to compete on fees and value, make it a very real competition for the top tier.

Sparke Helmore announced the promotion of Jesse Webb, 40, yesterday. He has been with the firm for more than 20 years and as a partner for 10 years, having started out in the mailroom.

The appointment, which is effective immediately, coincides with the appointment of a new chairman with partner Phillip Salem, who succeeds Geoff Pike after three years.

Webb replaces John Davis, who has held the top job for the past five years. Both John Davis and Geoff Pike are returning to practice at Sparke Helmore.

"It's an interesting time to be leading a national law firm given the current market challenges," said Webb.

But also on the new top man's radar is the prospect of a national profession, given the firm has eight offices spread out across the country, as well as large law firm incorporation, which he says he is keeping an eye on.

But one thing Webb appears relatively relaxed about is the firm's, and the mid tier's, ability to match the top tier in the current global economy.

"We're competing with the top tier every day of the week. We're punching above our weight every day of the week with those guys and we're really well placed," he told The New Lawyer.

"I think clients in the current economic climate see there is value in moving to a mid-tier firm rather than staying with a top-tier firm. They are getting value for money with a mid-tier firm. We are bowling it up to those top-tier firms every day of the week."

Webb said the firm's recent appointment to the Westpac, St George legal advisers panel is "evidence of those big corporates moving to the mid tiers".

Sparke Helmore, a national firm with offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Sydney and the Upper Hunter, is staffed by more than 600 people including 57 partners, 51 special counsel and almost 150 lawyers and law clerks.

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