Peter Kennedy, former managing partner of Blake Dawson Waldron in Brisbane, will join the finance team at expanding Queensland firm McCullough Robertson.
Kennedy has more than 20 years’ experience in banking and finance law, acting on behalf of clients in banking, oil and property. He will join partners Peter Stewart, Peter Kennedy and Deborah Bean in the team. After a three year stint as Blakes’ managing partner, Kennedy stepped down on 1 February. His completion date with Blakes and starting date at McCullough Robertson is currently “under negotiation”.
The high profile move comes at a time when the finance area in Queensland is relatively settled, said Peter Stewart, head of the finance practice area at McCullough Robertson. “It’s a vigorous market, and some firms are doing really well — including us. Others are treading water.”
McCullough Robertson has seen significant growth in the last five years, and to attract someone like Kennedy gives the firm a further depth, said Stewart, by facilitating contact with financier clients interstate, and more “intellectual horsepower”, which “elevates [the firm] to the top of the pile”.
Kennedy and the McCullough Robertson team were professional rivals, but Stewart and Kennedy had run CLE seminars together at the Queensland Law Society. “We have been competitors but I have a good deal of respect for him and always liked him,” said Stewart. “I think the relationship will fit pretty well.”
For Kennedy, the move was a personal decision, made after reaching the zenith of what he believed he could achieve at Blakes. “I have a sense of completion and achievement,” he said. “As well as managing partner, I’d also served two terms on the national board. Having then returned to practice I started to reflect: what’s next? Then I had the offer from Mc Cullough Robertson.” Kennedy also added that he thought Blakes was “a great firm with great people”.
“I see this as a fresh start, a different environment and people, different clients, and a different model and focus,” said Kennedy. McCullough Robertson is more focused on the Queensland and Brisbane markets, while Blakes, as a first tier national firm, looks for constancy of approach. “But being Queensland-oriented is important to me.”
“We’re sorry to see [Kennedy] go. He played a major role in the firm’s position and in the growth of the Brisbane market,” said Jonathan Shaw, current managing partner at Blakes. The firm had hoped that Kennedy would take back responsibility for the banking practice and reinvigorate it. “But there were the challenges of moving back into practice, and for personal reasons the opportunities at McCullough Robertson were what’s for him,” said Shaw. “It’s a new and exciting opportunity for him in his career.”
Special counsel Michael Fitzgerald, who had stepped in to lead Blakes’ finance practice while Kennedy was in management, will take more of a leadership role. Although eventually Blakes intends to make the section a partner-led practice area, said Shaw. “It’s a very important part of our business in Brisbane, and it’s certainly our intent to continue it that way.”