THE MID TIER is beating the top tier to headlines this week in a string of mergers across the country.
The merger between commercial law firm Phillips Fox and the Perth partnership of Gadens was on Monday labelled a means to provide “a full complement of specialist services” for Phillips Fox. While the merger would increase its strengths where it was already strong, the firm said, it would also give it an impressive track record in the mining and energy sector.
The Perth office of federated partnership Gadens will be taken under the wing of Phillips Fox, also adopting the name of the firm. The merger comes four months after Phillips Fox opened its fully integrated office in Perth, having already operated a franchise in that city for almost seven years.
Gadens said it is realigning its skills and strategy in the merger, moving away from the larger firm, which does match it in terms of brand. “We’ve got expertise in areas that are important in Western Australia and the economy over here is booming and is driven by the resources boom, and so we’ve got specific skills that are aligned to that need. Nationally, Gadens is known for its operational banking side of things, and we were keen to align ourselves with a firm whose brand matched where our skills and expertise are,” said CEO of Gadens Lawyers Perth, David Prentice.
“Now we are focusing on energy and resources, IR, property — those key areas in WA where the action is. The volume banking side of things will be staying with Gadens and we’ll match our skills set to a brand that suits us.”
He said it is important to make sure that whatever service and expertise the firm delivers, it should be aligned with what the firm is doing nationally. “We’ve found that if we put effort into becoming experts in delivering services in a particular area, then the clients reward you. But if you are trying to be everything to everyone, it is more difficult. Clients are getting switched on to the generalist approach, they are happy to move around and go where the skills are.”
Gadens’ Perth office will increase from 6 partners and 23 lawyers to 12 partners and 40 lawyers under Phillips Fox.
Law firm Hunt & Hunt has re-established its presence in Brisbane through a new federal alliance with Macrossans Lawyers, to begin in October this year.
The chairman of Hunt & Hunt and the firm’s legal group board, Maureen Peatman, said the firm is delighted to have forged a link with Macrossans.
“A strong presence in Queensland is a vital part of our national footprint. The demand for us to have high quality legal expertise on the ground in Brisbane was market-driven and I can think of countless clients that will welcome this announcement,” Peatman said.
Deciding the move with a unanimous partner vote, Macrossan’s chairman Bill Hickey said the arrangement allowed his firm to maintain its independence while reaping the benefit of being part of an established national group.
“For us it is the best of both worlds, because we’ll be part of a strong national network, which will benefit our existing clients, with respect to the delivery of services throughout Australasia. Also, it enhances our own business prospects, because in conjunction with Hunt & Hunt, we’ll be looking to acquire work from national clients, which the Hunt & Hunt national presence will assist,” Hickey said.
Peatman said that the new relationship suited her firm well. “Macrossans Lawyers complements our firm very nicely in terms of its client base, industry focus and, most importantly, cultural fit,” she said.
Hickey agreed that the arrangement made good practical and commercial sense.
“What we liked initially were the people, and from there we looked to where they were heading with their practice, which was a range of commercial property and insurance,” he said.
“The other thing is that they see themselves firmly as a mid-tier firm, providing their services across the group nationally, and we like that, because that is the way we see ourselves: a mid-tier firm with personalised service to business clients, but also private clients, as well as government clients.”
The new arrangement came after Hunt & Hunt parted ways with firm Coopers Grace Ward, which had been trading under Hunt & Hunt’s name between 1993 and March 2006.
“We had never financially integrated, which therefore made it easier to make the transition. But we just felt that we would prefer to be under our own brand name here in Queensland. It really reflects what is happening in the Queensland market to a large extent,” managing partner Chris Ward said.
“It is a sensible move for [Hunt & Hunt] to get back into the Brisbane marketplace, but it doesn’t cause us any concerns,” Ward said.
With 17 partners and around 180 staff, Coopers Grace Ward has been going well since March, Ward said, for it’s “public knowledge that the Queensland marketplace, and the Western Australian marketplace are on fire.
“What we have found, within reason, is that you can do your business around Australia very easily these days without being directly hooked up with anyone,” he said.