Slater & Gordon has announced the Gunnedah-based Long Howland Lawyers & Advisors as the latest law firm to join its recent spate of regional acquisitions as the firm expands into rural Australia.
Peter Long, principal of Long Howland, said the move would provide additional resources to help families, farmers and small businesses in regional Australia cope with increasingly complicated legal issues.
"Over many years we have built a practice dedicated to serving country people. In partnership with Slater & Gordon, we will now find it easier to meet the legal needs of rural Australia," he said.
The move forms part of an overall strategy for Slater & Gordon involving the acquisition of smaller law firms to broaden the reach of the firm, while at the same time also opening completely new sites across regional areas.
It's a strategy that Andrew Grech, Slater & Gordon executive director told Lawyers Weekly is working.
"We've rocketed up the charts [from] seventeenth to the seventh largest law firm in a year, so that's exciting for us," he said.
"But as always it's really not just the growth, it's about becoming a better business and being able to serve our clients better and being able to create better opportunities for our staff."
Long already has a national reputation, having won a multi-million dollar compensation class action for members of the beef industry against the international petrochemical conglomerate ICI, now Orica.
The case followed the quarantining of millions of cattle across NSW and Queensland after residues from the cotton chemical Helix were found to have been leaked by ICI in the mid-1990s - costing cattle produces millions of dollars.
On the back of this case, Grech labeled Peter Long the Erin Brockovich story of Australia.
"From a small country practice in Gunnedah, Peter ran a case that went for years and ultimately brought ICI to task, forcing it to pay compensation to thousands of farming families," he said. "During the six week hearing of the case in Sydney, Peter slept in the basement of his barrister's home in Pennant Hills while ICI's legal team stayed in the Sheraton."
Long's fellow lawyer Alice Weinthal, as well as licensed conveyancer Stacey Thibault and a support team of eight will also join Slater & Gordon.