Although the lateral acquisition marks a strong push by Dibbs into the banking and finance market, Russell Kennedy was confident that it is also moving from strength to strength.
“[Callea-Smyth] and [Fox] have made some career moves, and that happens from time to time,” Michael Gorton, executive partner at Russell Kennedy told Lawyers Weekly. “So we’re sorry to see them go, but it’s not unusual.
“We’ve already replaced them. As far as we’re concerned, the clients are happy. So we’re just continuing on as before, business as usual,” Gorton said.
Adrian Colman, head of the banking and finance team at Dibbs, said the new appointments were in recognition of the increasing work to be found in the banking and finance sector.
“Banking and finance is the significant area of growth for us, both at the front end, where I’m more hands on in that regard, and [the] natural progression of that to also develop those expertise at the back end of [the] banking and finance sector,” Colman said.
Dibbs was attracted to the two Russell Kennedy partners because of their level of expertise, as well as “the fit within the firm [and] the ability to be able to expand that part of our practice,” Colman said.
For Fox, who had been in his 11th year with Russell Kennedy before the move, the major appeal of Dibbs was the firm’s national affiliation (between offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Canberra and Brisbane) along with “Dibbs having the recognised experience in the insolvency area.
“I have been introduced via Dibbs to another insolvency firm that I haven’t previously dealt with. That’s proof positive of the decision to come across here,” he said.
Callea-Smyth agreed with Fox in that the prospect of working for a national firm was very enticing, along with the fact that Dibbs’ Melbourne office “was in a very exciting transition phase”.
“There’s a fresh mind-set [at Dibbs]. It’s got a friendly and supportive culture, and there’s the added benefit of the national exposure,” she said.
Having herself spent 12 years at Russell Kennedy, Callea-Smyth described the ability to bring a six-member team of staff over to Dibbs as extremely beneficial.
“You know you’ve got the confidence that you have a team that knows how to do the work, and do it extremely well, and confidently,” she said.
Fox agreed, explaining that “it all indicates the team environment that lawyers and support staff work with now … that you do develop a strong rapport”.
Gorton said that it was disappointing to see the former partners and staff go, but it was no cause for alarm in the halls of Russell Kennedy.
“It’s always a disappointment to lose people,” he said. “But we’ve also just recently taken another floor, so we’re continuing to expand.
“We thought that was our growth strategy for the next five years, [but] we’ve just about filled the extra floor. So our problem at the moment is space,” Gorton said.
“We’re a very significant banking and finance practice. We’ve had the [National Australia Bank] as a client for over 30 years, and recently started acting for the ANZ bank as well … this year. So we’re quite happy with the way things are going. The banking work is going well.”
See appointments on page 29