The news comes days after NRF announced it would be closing its doors in Canberra at the end of the year.
NRF managing partner Wayne Spanner told Lawyers Weekly on Monday (29 September) that the closure was prompted by Sharma’s decision to “retire from the firm”. Sharma, a corporate lawyer with a number of Commonwealth clients, was NRF’s only Canberra-based partner.
Today (1 October), Mills Oakley has revealed that Sharma will head up the mid-tier’s new Canberra office with property partner Adam Peppinck, formerly a special counsel in Ashurst’s real estate practice.
Mills Oakley has also recruited special counsel Paul Armarego from DibbsBarker. Armarego was the head of Dibbs’ government services team in Canberra and, prior to that, held roles as a partner at Clayton Utz and special counsel at NRF.
A further 11 legal and support staff have been hired from NRF, Ashurst and Dibbs, bringing the total headcount of Mills Oakley’s Canberra office to 14.
Mills Oakley chief executive John Nerurker (pictured) commented that while the firm is already working with the government sector, a physical office presence would “take the firm to another level”.
“We know that government clients in Canberra like to deal with a team on the ground and we are being responsive to that.”
Nerurker added that the firm had been scoping the Canberra market for some time and had been prepared to wait until it could secure the right legal talent.
Sharma, Peppinck and Armarego said Mills Oakley’s expansion strategy and its impressive overall growth rate were key factors in their decision to join the firm.
Mills Oakley has achieved double-digit growth each year for the past decade and is on track to achieve 30 per cent revenue growth this year, according to Nerurker.
The firm has also increased its national headcount this year: five partners and 30 staff from large and mid-tier firms were recruited to the Sydney office in March; the following month, a real estate partner and workplace relations special counsel from larger rivals joined the Brisbane office.
The Canberra office will open for business on 13 October and provide a full range of domestic legal services to the public and private sectors.
Nerurker said the office would offer value pricing. He added that the decision was based on client feedback that suggested there was unmet demand in Canberra for better value legal services.
Mills Oakley is pre-qualified in all four Commonwealth Government Legal Services Multi User List categories.