Cochrane Lishman, a small Perth-based law firm, sits at number ten in the mergermarket M&A league tables, released last month, in terms of value of deals completed.
The firm completed A$523 million in deals in the past year, with only eight deals, thereby beating firms including McCullough Robertson, DLA Piper, Johnson Winter & Slattery and even Linklaters in the tables. It sits narrowly below Gilbert + Tobin on the tables, which did A$554 million in M&A deals.
The firm was also well-placed on the mid-market deals mergermarket tables in July, with 10 deals and A$3,228 million in deals. Topping the same tables in terms of value was Freehills with 66 deals worth A$29,148 million and Mallesons Stephen Jaques with 48 deals worth A$41,090 million.
Former Mallesons partners Ian Cochrane and Michael Lishman started the firm three and a half years ago in a bid to compete with the national firms in Perth. Lishman, who spoke to The New Lawyer about how it competes with the top tier in that market, attributes much of the firm's success to the Perth market itself.
"It's the nature of where we are in the market. We have probably done more contested taekover bids than any firm in the past couple of years. I think it's because there aren't that many takeover bids, and so there are not many lawyers who have done more than a couple," Lishman said.
Lishman, who has been at Mallesons since he was an article clerk, his first job, and who has worked in the Perth and Melbourne practices, said: "There are only a handful of lawyers who have done more than one or two of these, and Ian and I are two of them."
Lishman said clients are more likely to choose an individual than a firm. His focus on the Perth market, he said, gives the firm an advantage. "Most of the takeovers that are done, the decision to appoint law firm is made at the CEO and board level, and we have pretty strong relationships with the business people around town."
By the firm's count it has done about A$15 billion in M&A deals since it set up. "And we're about one-100th of the size of Mallesons. So relatively I think we have probably boxed above our weight," Lishman said.
The national firms are "intrigued", Lishman said. While he admits a firm the size of Cochrane Lishman is "not going to knock Allens of their perch, realistically", he said management in other firms "view us with a mix of fear and indifference".
And because of the firm's focus on M&A, it tends to refer more work to other firms than is referred to it. But, when it does come from other firms, it tends to come from other law firms or mid-tier firms "looking for a safe pair of hands to do corporate transactions for their clients. Knowing we don't do banking and finance, property and the rest, we're not going to try and take the client away".