A new firm, Chang, Pistilli & Simmons, has been formed by lawyers breaking away from Atanaskovic Hartnell (AH), taking half the firm’s lawyers with it. Three equity partners and seven solicitors of AH left the firm at the end of June, and joined with partner Jane Ann Gray, formerly of Middletons, but before that also of AH. Five administrative support staff also left to join the new firm.
The members of the new firm are partners Diana Chang, Danny Simmons, and Mark Pistilli, and solicitors Justine Cameron, Nyssa Cherry, Joni Henry, Amelia Kelly, Fiona Lovell, Jason Mendens and Lance Sacks.
“We are aiming to create a more inclusive and egalitarian firm where the lawyers operate more in a team environment,” said firm spokesman, partner Mark Pistilli. “We wanted to give opportunities to young lawyers to be promoted, which wasn’t happening at AH. We believe the future of the firm should be in the interests as much of the associates as of the partners.”
Atanaskovic Hartnell meanwhile appointed two partners internally, in addition to an earlier lateral hire to replace a partner who left for an investment bank. The firm’s John Atanaskovic said that the firm probably wouldn’t replace the solicitors who had gone to Chang Pistilli & Simmons. “We tend to get involved in difficult and challenging matters, rather than things that require lots of low level people,” he said. The firm’s recent work had included acting for large media like CPH and PBL and for James Hardie regarding the Jackson commission, and notably took the Takeovers Panel to the High and Federal Courts where it won twice on behalf of Glencore International. “But you get your younger partners who want to pursue a different sort of work, and they have moved on. The firm has always been 7 partners with a partner to solicitor ratio of 1 to 1, and that’s what it remains — it has never been a firm that sought size for the things we do.”
However, the breakaway firm feels it has left Atanaskovic Hartnell in a weaker position. Chang Pistilli Simmons brought a “blue chip client base” with them, including Babcock & Brown, Australian Pipeline Trust, Sumitomo Corp, Optus, and Stark Investments. “I can see why AH would have been putting it like that, but I don’t agree,” said Pistilli. “That distinction between the older and younger partners we think doesn’t exist, and the kind of work we are doing is much the same as they are doing now, and the same as what we were doing when we were with them.”
Both Atanaskovic and Pistilli commented that they wished the other firm “all the best” in the future.