Despite its youthful culture, Gadens Lawyers did not set out to find someone young for the vacant post of managing partner. But younger-than-the-norm Michael Bradley, former staff partner, was promoted to the position last week.
The concept of young lawyers with fresh ideas has been the cornerstone of Gadens’ strategy and is the key to its success, according to Jon Denovan, whom Bradley replaces. The appointment brings about a succession plan based on the philosophy of “young people running a young firm”, Denovan said.
Lawyers Weekly and Australian law students saw evidence of this youthful culture earlier this year when Gadens responded to questions about what the firm would offer students at the Sydney Law Careers Fair at Darling Harbour. Bradley’s response (see below) as staff partner was unusual, and most of it was apparently tongue in cheek.
The “careers fair thing” was only evidence of “an environment that enables people to express their personalities in the workplace — part of this is humour”, Bradley said. “Other firms would be scared of the consequences”.
“Law is a serious business but I don’t think it’s inconsistent with having a life inside the workplace,” he said.
Although determined to stick to its youthful image, Bradley told Lawyers Weekly that it was not the case that the firm set out to find someone young for the role. It was “not a PR idea”, he said.
“But the fact is, the partners were prepared to appoint someone younger to the role and this is reflective of the firm’s culture,” Bradley said. “It’s an egalitarian partnership and it’s an example of the firm being different.”
Bradley is, in fact, highly qualified for the top job at this young firm, he said in an interview with Lawyers Weekly. He has been heavily involved in the management of the firm for seven years as staff partner and, more broadly, has been assisting the managing partner in what he termed “a bit of an apprenticeship”.
He has always been interested in management and appreciates this is a big business he is taking on. Understanding how to run a business makes it easier to understand the clients, he said, which adds another “fascinating” dimension beyond the practice of law.
Bradley realises his new role will require a lot of stamina and he said he expected his day would be longer. “The level of responsibility will go up exponentially along with the volume of work.”
“But, if I can manage the workload as well as [Denovan], I’ll be very happy,” he said.
Bradley is not proposing radical change for the firm, which he said is going very well. “The dynamic and progressive culture for which we are known will not change, nor will our significant investment in the latest technological advancements to underpin our services,” he said.
The firm has been growing at over 20 per cent every year for the last six years in terms of people and profits, which Bradley has attributed to the “solid client service”.
“There are some things we plan on doing, including pressing hard on building our profile in our target industries,” he said.
“But we are happy with our position in the market and we think the prospects of the firm are excellent.”
Denovan will now devote his time to his banking and finance practice, and he remains a board member of the International Network of law firms, of which Gadens is the only Australian member. He will also continue to head the firm’s banking compliance regulatory group.
Denovan also remains a director of the firm’s National Mortgage Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gadens, which in 2003-04 settled over 82,000 transactions.