DESPITE EXPERIENCING tough times in Thailand recently, Minter Ellison is setting itself up to be amongst the leading legal advisers in Asia. Its weapon is a new managing partner, whose experience in that region reveals a great deal about the firm’s priorities and plans for the future.
Phil Clark, the man who has led law firm Minter Ellison as both managing partner and CEO during a 10 year stint, will retire in June this year. His replacement, who this month took up his new post, intends to help establish the firm as a “clear leader” in the Asia Pacific market.
Guy Templeton will sit alongside Clark in the upcoming months to learn the ropes of his new role before Clark leaves the firm.
Chairman of partners at Minter Ellison, Peter Bartlett, announced the appointment last week, and said Templeton’s strengths are in developing and implementing strategies for growth in the Asia Pacific region. His credentials in both Australia and Asia would be an excellent asset for the firm, Bartlett said. Templeton said yesterday that Minter Ellison is “poised to become a clear leader in the Asia Pacific legal market”.
His appointment follows some rough times for the firm in Thailand recently, which have led to the establishment of a new operating company in Bangkok, entitled Siam Minter Ellison, and the closure of the old office. After rumours in the major press about three former Thai partners in the Bangkok office planning shareholder action against the firm over a dispute, said to be the cause of the closure of the old office, the firm is now working on a “business as usual” strategy.
In an email to Minter Ellison staff recently, according to an Australian Financial Review report, Phil Clark said the firm was not pulling out of Bangkok and confirmed it had established this new operating company.
Templeton’s experience in Asia will no doubt hold him in good stead, then, and he told Lawyers Weekly that “an Asian strategy that doesn’t predict some bumps is not a strategy”. There is “tremendous opportunity in Asia”, according to Templeton, suggesting also that the firm was well placed to be a significant presence in the region.
Templeton comes from PA Consulting Group, where he was one of ten global managing partners. He was also recently Australia Country Head and Chairman Asia Pacific Regional Development. Bartlett said the firm would benefit from Templeton’s “track record of building profitable professional practices in the [Asia Pacific] region”.
The firm is seeing very healthy paybacks in Asia in areas that have been strong, said Templeton. As Australian companies look towards Asia, the firm is well placed to help them, he said. “There is an empathy with the clients when you’re going through the same stresses and strains of going through Asia that they are.”
Although Asia is an area of opportunity for the firm, said Templeton, Australia does still offer some areas of growth. While Clark told Lawyers Weekly last year that the Australian market is mature and that firms would do well to recognise this and expand internationally, as Mallesons Stephen Jaques was doing by merging its Hong Kong office with Kwok & Yih, Templeton said last week that despite this maturity, the firm is finding areas of growth.
“We are finding areas of growth in many of the larger clients and in the high growth sectors. When I was in the consulting industry I saw that cementing your position within the top 100 clients gives benefit to the firm. This way you work on the best work, which appeals to your professional staff,” he said.
The new Minters man was based in Hong Kong from 1995 to early 2003. In that time, he ran PA Consulting Group’s global telecommunications and media practice.
Having worked in more than 20 countries, Templeton has had responsibility for project delivery in telecommunications, utilities, government sectors, media, travel, information services, financial services and transport. As well, he has overseen the growth of successful practices in Europe, Asia and North America.
Bartlett acknowledged the contribution Clark had made to the firm, lifting its profile and performance dramatically over the past 10 years. As managing partner and CEO this contribution has been “pivotal”.