GROWTH WILL be on the agenda of the newly appointed chief executive officer of law firm Ebsworth & Ebsworth, even if it is not just expansion for its own sake.
Mike Watson’s appointment is a sign that Ebsworth & Ebsworth is looking to make big changes over the coming year.
“This change in leadership is the next important step in becoming key participants in sectors that are vital to Australia’s future,” chairman of the board, Robert Johnston, said.
In pursuit of its goal, the firm has established offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with 54 partners and 325 staff — 17 of those partners having been taken on in the past 18 months.
“We’re effectively now ready to springboard into the next stage of our development, and getting a guy like [Watson] on, with his business development skills, is [what] we need to move to becoming a key participant in the sectors where the economic engines are really driving in Australia at the moment … in transport, financial services, property & construction, health [and so on],” Johnston said.
Having worked in the senior ranks of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Watson made similar improvements to Herbert Geer Rundle before coming across to his new position at the national firm.
“[Watson’s] got a great professional services background at PwC in business building. And he’s got really good people skills, so they’re two key qualities we wanted in a CEO,” Johnston said.
“He has taken [HGR] on a journey — modernising it. He comes to us, with us having undertaken a journey like that — national integration, repositioning, investment — and really just to leverage off all those platforms we’ve put in place.”
Watson’s vision for the firm is to “achieve well-considered, planned growth”, not just expansion for its own sake.
“We need to stay on strategy and work with clients for whom we can add value and who recognise our value,” Watson said.
“I understand what is required to be a success in the commercial market and will bring a robust management style and vision to the firm.”
Johnston and Watson will be reviewing the firm’s strategy for the remainder of the year, with a view to unveiling a competitive approach in 2007.
“We’ve refined our strategy — how to differentiate yourself in this really key competitive mid-tier market,” Johnston said.
“We’ve settled that. We’re financially integrated, we’ve invested in technology, we’ve invested in people, we’ve invested in premises — we now have three premier locations. It’s all a part of repositioning ourselves so that we can be as successful over the next 10 years as we have been over the last 10 years.”