Clayton Utz has announced a number of key leadership replacements, and declared it will continue to promote and rehire - just 48 hours since its chairman took a call from a partner at Allen & Overy who revealed 14 partners would be tendering their resignation.
The 14 partners leaving Clayton Utz will join three others - including a former Clayton Utz partner, a Freehills partner, and a JP Morgan employee - in founding Allen & Overy's Australian offices in Sydney and Perth.
David Fagan, Clayton Utz's chief executive partner, told Lawyers Weekly Wednesday that the firm was seeing the exodus as an opportunity, and put Allen & Overy's targetting of Clayton Utz partners down to the "depth of talent" residing in his firm.
Fagan confirmed that the partners leaving have given their intention to retire on 8 May. He also confirmed that some replacements have already been made - including Paul Fitzpatrick, who will replace Geoff Simpson as the Perth managing partner.
He added that the departures also offered the firm a chance to revisit their key offerings. "It also gives an opportunity to critically review different areas - it makes sense for us to restructure in those areas."
Fagan confirmed that as yet, no lawyers and senior associates have officially handed in their resignations to follow their partners to Allen & Overy. While he does expect some to do so in the following weeks, he is confident the firm can work to retain its talent where needed.
Fagan also said he knows no more about the Allen & Overy announcement other than what has been reported in the media, and that the market will be the ultimate decider of the success of their Australian ambitions. "Their proposition will be tested through their ability to secure good quality work," he said.
Clayton Utz will emerge better and stronger from the departures, added Fagan. "Fourteen partners - it's a reasonable number, but it's only about 6 per cent of the partnership spread over a number of offices. It's how we adapt to that that's important. The events have occurred, but we're still working it."
- Angela Priestley