DIBBS ABBOTT Stillman has done away with the position of chief executive officer (CEO), restructuring its Melbourne office with the appointment of a new general manager of business services.
This follows the merger of Melbourne-based firm Abbott Stillman & Wilson with Dibbs Barker Gosling, effective as of 1 July 2005.
Chris Arnold, who was CEO of Dibbs Abbott Stillman in Melbourne after the merger, finished in the role on 1 May 2006. He had previously acted as CEO of Abbott Stillman & Wilson.
Chairman Peter Joyce of the Melbourne office told Lawyers Weekly the old management system was struggling to reach its peak performance. The firm made the change “very simply, because it wasn’t working well the previous way,” Joyce said.
“We found just in the last two years, or the last 18 months more particularly, we weren’t managing our business as well as we could and should have, and as well as we thought we should be doing … in the Melbourne office.”
Although the restructuring has occurred only at the Melbourne office, the future decision to reorganise other offices around the country is “a question that’s open at this point in time,” Joyce said.
However, rather than being a matter of firm-wide policy, Joyce believes it is the individuals who count the most.
“There’s a variety of models in professional service firms and in law firms — whether it’s accounting or law or engineering — and all of them seem to be effective if you get the right people in the right positions,” he said.
“It very much boils down to the people at the end of the day.”
The right person for Dibbs is Jo Mithen, who began 2 October of this year. Described by Joyce as “very talented” and “impressive”, Mithen was appointed to the new role after she finished up as executive director of the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI), the professional membership based association for HR practitioners in Australia.
“We think she’s got excellent experience in her background. She’s well qualified: she’s got a law degree, a commerce degree and an MBA. So she ‘knows her onions’, as they say in the classics,” Joyce said.
Part of that knowledge helped Mithen pull AHRI out of a troubling period, for according to Joyce, “[AHRI] was a group that went through difficult times. [Mithen] rescued it, pulled it together and then ran it very, very effectively for some time, and so she had great experience at working with people in a services related industry”.
Dibbs’ new management structure came into force after Arnold left earlier in the year to become the CEO of accounting firm WHK Armitage Downie.
“In [Arnold’s] days, we had myself as chairman, a partnership and [Arnold] as CEO,” Joyce said.
“But we now have an executive, which is myself chairing and four members of the partnership that actually run the firm. And the general manager runs the business services group, which is supporting the running of the firm in that context”
Arnold was unavailable for comment owing to deadline constraints.