The aggressive move stands as a warning to rival firms that Phillips Fox aims to make significant headway in the corporate and commercial market over the coming years.
“We’re incredibly pleased about the fact that we’ve been able to pull off this move. I think it doubles the size of our team in that area in Sydney, and creates a terrific base upon which we can further build over the next two to three years,” chief executive Tony Crawford said.
“Our intention is to continue to grow our corporate team in Sydney and we expect to add another four to five partners in the short to medium term, through both organic growth and lateral hires,” he added.
Previous Middletons colleagues Alec Christie, David Morris, Michael Reed and Adrian Smith are Phillips Fox’s new partners. The appointments are, in part, a response to the firm’s recently established exclusive alliance with DLA Piper, one of the biggest legal services organisations globally, and known for its corporate and commercial expertise worldwide.
“We have entered into an agreement to exclusively refer work to each other; to participate in co-branding of initiatives,” Crawford said of the alliance.
“Our brand will undergo a makeover in late September to align with DLA Piper. Significantly, it also means we will be participating in joint client development activities,” he said.
Crawford said Phillips Fox was very fortunate in being able to attract such a large portion of key staff from a rival firm. “A major advantage of recruiting a small team in this way is that they already have a strong working relationship and sense of collaboration,” he said.
Phillips Fox had not previously acquired as many as eight new staff at once, according to Crawford, but he hopes that this occasion will not be the last. Asked whether competing firms should be concerned over the acquisitions, he said, “I think they already are. We’ve made very good ground in this area across all of our offices, particularly on the east coast of Australia, and this move will accelerate that trend”.
New partner, David Morris, found the opportunity to work for Phillips Fox irresistible. “We were all very much attracted by Phillips Fox’s national presence, and importantly, the international capabilities they now have through their exclusive alliance with DLA,” Morris said.
Each of the four new partners comes with extensive overseas experience. Morris has worked in Australia and the UK for 17 years, Christie for the same period in the Netherlands, Hong Kong and South East Asia, Reed worked for 27 years in Australia and Hong Kong, and Smith for 10 years in Australia, London and Kazakhstan. The group has also been previously employed at Baker & McKenzie’s Sydney office.
“Each of us has come from an international background, and as a result our client base is very much internationally focused, and our skills are very much internationally focused as well. Phillips Fox allows us to utilise those skills and to really service our client base,” Morris said.
Although the firm will continue to focus on insurance, which makes up about a third of its work nationally, the current move into corporate and commercial law made good sense to newcomer Morris.
“Phillips Fox is often regarded as an insurance powerhouse. But when you look at the work and the clients they act for, they represent a much wider client base, both nationally and internationally,” Morris said.
Crawford said that the move was strategically vital for the firm.