EAST COAST firm Herbert Geer & Rundle (HGR) and Brisbane firm Nicol Robinson Halletts (NRH) have announced that they will merge in an effort to strengthen the firms’ presence on Australia’s east coast.
HGR, which was traditionally based in Melbourne, now has about 150 staff in its Melbourne office and 20 in each of its Brisbane and Sydney offices.
The firm’s managing partner, Bill Fazio, said that the firm has been trying to boost its position in Sydney and Brisbane for some time now, and the merger was viewed as the most efficient means of doing so.
“We felt it was taking too long to bring that strategy to fruition. Trying to do individual recruits takes a long time and we felt that a better strategy was to look for teams or firms,” he said.
“Queensland is such an exciting state in terms of being a dynamic growth economy, and it’s nice to be represented [there] in a significant way.”
For NRH, which has close to 80 staff, the motivation for the merger was gaining a foothold in the prestigious Sydney and Melbourne markets.
“One of the major things was to look for a link with a firm that had offices in Melbourne and Sydney,” said the firm’s CEO, Greg Meek, “because it’s becoming apparently obvious that to fully service your clients and to really capture the business, you need to have an eastern seaboard presence.
“So, from our point of view, we wanted to be able to expand interstate and have an east coast presence.”
According to Fazio and Meek, the firms have strengths in different practice areas which will complement each other well. HGR, for example, has strong banking and finance and tax practices, while NRH is strong in franchising and has a niche family law practice.
Both firms also have established property practices as well as environmental law practices which they hope to be able to develop further.
“We’ve got our [environment and sustainability] practice spread between Melbourne and Sydney, and [NRH] do some work there too, so together we’ll be quite a force in that area,” Fazio said. “I think that will be a focus for us — something that we’ll push forward,” he said.
According to Meek, the news of the merger has been well received by NRH’s clients.
“The feedback from clients has been pretty good because I think they could see before that it was a bit of an anomaly that we had no southern offices. So it fits in nicely for them because they know now that we’ve got a wider range and more depth to us than we had before,” he said.
Overall, the reaction from staff has also been positive, Fazio said. “The [staff at NRH] are apprehensive about some of the change … but I think, overall, they’re genuinely excited — they see this as a true step forward for them,” he said.
“For our people it’s probably a confirmation of the strategy we’ve already had.
“In terms of being an organisation which is clear about where it wants to go and is steadily heading towards that, I think it makes people feel good that the organisation is doing what it wants — rather than letting the market happen to [it].”
Fazio and Meek estimate that the combined firm will be able to boost its revenue by at least 60 per cent, which Feek said amounts to around $50 million in revenue.