find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Legal market top-heavy as mid-tiers gather momentum

Legal market top-heavy as mid-tiers gather momentum


The past year has seen several mid-sized law firms expand, creating a crowded market at the top and leaving a “void” in the middle, according to one consultant.

Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, legal consultant Philip Gleed said there were two elements at play in the Australian legal market in 2015.

Firstly, an increasing number of global law firms have set their sights on Australia, with UK giant Pinsent Masons launching in July and Dentons announcing a planned merger with Gadens in November.

Secondly, mid-tier firms have been under pressure to expand their geographical footprint, he said.

“There is this constant push at the level below to become a national firm,” said Mr Gleed. “We've seen so many examples of that: Colin Biggers & Paisley, Mills Oakley, Hall & Wilcox, Moray and Agnew …”

Mr Gleed said much of this growth was client-driven: “The insurers have said to them, you must have an office in every state to continue to do our work."

Mills Oakley partner Katherine Ruschen recently told Lawyers Weekly that insurance law firms, in particular, are feeling the pressure to expand into every state.

This movement has seen Hall & Wilcox, Mills Oakley, Wotton + Kearney and Nexus Law Group all open in Perth this year.

Firms have also grown their partner ranks with Colin Biggers & Paisley snatching three new partners from Norton Rose Fulbright, Minter Ellison and a boutique in October, and Mills Oakley taking a dozen staff, including six lawyers, from DLA Piper in April.

The growth of the mid-tiers is further supported by The Australian’s end-of-year partnership survey, which showed that Mills Oakley had the highest recruitment of legal staff and Hall & Wilcox came first for partner recruitment.

Middle market vacuum

Ambitious mid-sized law firms have left a gap in the market through their expansion, according to Mr Gleed.

“What I see is the disappearance of the 10-30 partner firm by reason of what is happening in that national mid-tier space,” he said. “There's a void.”

“And then there’s the development of a whole new class of boutique practices of 10 partners and under with highly-skilled practitioners with amazing client bases,” he continued.

“We've got the emergence of the global, the rise of the national mid-tiers, the rise of the boutiques and then the other firms that are sort of lost in the middle.”

Mr Gleed said the middle firms have traditionally been a ”very big employer of young lawyers” and their disappearance could cause recruitment problems down the track.

“If these firms that are on the rise don't keep their graduate programs to a certain level, […] in five or 10 years we will be seeing [a shortage of lawyers],” he said.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Legal market top-heavy as mid-tiers gather momentum
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...