THE GLOBAL alliance between DLA Piper and DLA Phillips Fox is living up to its name for young lawyers at the firm with a hunger for overseas opportunities. Nine solicitors and a senior associate of DLA Phillips Fox have been placed in overseas DLA Piper offices in the past six months.
The DLA Phillips Fox overseas contingent is about to be bolstered by the addition of Michelle Monteleone, a solicitor from the Sydney Corporate team. This week she departs to DLA Piper London on a two-year placement commencing in August. During this time, DLA Piper will place a corporate lawyer from their team with the team in Australia. This exchange is the first of its kind between the Sydney and London offices since DLA Phillips Fox and DLA Piper entered an alliance.
Monteleone was already giving serious consideration to an overseas stint when DLA Phillips Fox joined the exclusive DLA Piper alliance two years ago, and the timing coincided neatly with her decision to change firms.
Initially, she admits, she had some reservations about the hype surrounding the alliance: “At first, I was concerned that maybe it was just going to be all talk.
“When I decided to properly get the ball rolling, I had a look at our global opportunities policy, but was still thinking: ‘That’s the policy, but I wonder what they actually mean by it?’ ”
Now, busily packing for her placement, Montelone can attest to the real opportunities on offer through the much touted alliance. After raising the possibility of an overseas placement with her supervising partner, she soon found herself on the fast track to a placement in London, and, after consulting with the firm’s HR department confirmed a two-year placement with the corporate team in London.
Montelone says she will be exposed to transactions carried out on a far greater scale in the European market: “Another motivation for me to go is that when you work overseas you have exposure to very different types of work and larger-scale transactions which … obviously encompass complex, cross-border issues. So that’s … an aspect that, maybe, in Australia we don’t get quite as often as we might like. An overseas stint really ticks that box,” she said.
The secondments program also ticks important boxes for DLA Phillips Fox, assisting it to compete in the market for talented lawyers at the second and third-year levels. Lawyers at this point in their careers often change firms, in search of a greater variety of work, higher salary or simply a change of scenery.
Senka Coulton, HR Manager, says that retention is a “without question” part of the firm’s rationale for the Global Opportunities program. “It just ensures that we can make those sorts of overseas opportunities a reality for our people. It is most definitely a retention tool,” she said.
The flow of talent is moving both ways, and the alliance has also seen DLA Piper lawyers join DLA Phillips Fox on a permanent basis. In the last few months, senior associates Richard Smith and Cheryl Dickson moved back to Sydney after working at DLA Piper London.
The risk of losing staff to the big city charms of London or New York is always a possibility, Coulton admits, even with the fixed-term nature of the secondment agreements,
“Look … the nature of strategic secondment is that that there is a fixed term assigned to the staff member’s posting with overseas. So the intention is, and I guess only time will tell what happens, but ultimately our hope is that people will have a rich experience overseas and come back and that it will benefit not only their careers but our business here in Australia.”
Montelone has signed up for two years in London and doesn’t anticipate a longer stay — although she says she hasn’t ruled out the possibility.
“To be honest, I haven’t explored that aspect because I’m fairly sure that I will be coming back, but I do know quite a few people that have gone over and their stay has been somewhat extended beyond the initial placement period,” she said.