VICTORIAN FINANCIAL services practice Partners has branched out into the legal market, recently launching its new legal arm — Partners Legal.
Taking up the position of Partners Legal’s managing partner is Peter Gandolfo, a former president of the Law Institute of Victoria and former chairman of the Legal Aid Commission of Victoria. Gandolfo’s former firm, Gandolfo Commercialist Lawyers, has been incorporated into Partners Legal.
Partners provides specialist non-accounting financial services assistance to small and medium-sized accounting firms across south-eastern Australia, and Gandolfo explained that the primary role of Partners Legal will be to provide legal support for these services.
Partners Legal will operate alongside Partners’ three other divisions; mortgage and lending, investments and retirement planning and superannuation.
Partners’ structure appears to fit somewhere in between a multidisciplinary practice model and a joint venture. Martin Murden, head of the superannuation arm, explained that while the practice’s four arms form a single business with common shareholders, to maintain independence, each arm operates as a distinct legal body.
“The first point to make is that our four arms are run under four separate legal entities,” he said. “We also run them with ‘Chinese walls’ in place. People who work in the legal arm — other than clerical staff who may work across the board — will only work in Partners Legal, just as the mortgage services people will only work in the mortgage arm of the business.”
Gandolfo believes that the addition of the new legal arm will provide significant benefits for clients.
“Obviously the client would have to approve this first, but once a financial planner, or someone else in the organisation has obtained important client information, it can be freely shared,” Gandolfo said.
“Then you’ve got the ability to identify the precise requirements for that client which doesn’t normally happen when you have a number of separate service providers who don’t speak to each other.”
He believes this will be particularly advantageous in what he sees as an emerging area for the practice —assisting clients to navigate recent legislative amendments allowing superannuation funds to make geared investments through instalments warrants.
“As with any [new legislation], it’s not straight forward and there are a variety of theories about how the legislation should be applied,” he said.
“The advantage Partners offers by having the advisory services in super and legal together, as well as financial planners, is that we can provide a one-stop-shop solution which sources funding for super funds wanting to gear and acquire property, rather than somebody having to go to a financial planner, then having to go to a lawyer and then having to go to a banker.”