IN RECENT weeks, Lawyers Weekly has been covering the results of the Chambers Global survey to determine the top performers in 2007 and look at why, exactly, they outpaced the competition.
Australia’s biggest law firms dominated the coverage, which is unsurprising given their sheer size and volume of rankings. But now the hoopla has died down, a review of the results shows that not all the top talent resides in the top tier.
As one top ranked lawyer from Addisons Lawyers put it: “Big law firms have a lot of talent — but they don’t have it all.”
Sydney based Addisons, with a partner pool of just 11, had four of its partners achieve individual outstanding rankings. This means the smaller firm actually out-performed the legal juggernauts on a per capita basis.
The firm’s competition practice, led by Kathryn Edghill and Graham Maher, also received a practice group ranking.
The rankings are an important affirmation of the firm’s ability to compete at the highest level according to Edghill: “What the Chambers Guide proves is that lawyers working in smaller firms can achieve rankings right up there with the biggest firms.”
The Addisons brand has been around for 130 years but the firm has only existed in its current incarnation since September 2004 when Mallesons Stephen Jacques partner of 21 years, Jeff Mansfield, joined the firm as a corporate partner. A number of other ex-top tier lawyers have since joined. Edghill herself moved to the firm after running the national competition practice at Corrs Westgarth Chambers in Sydney.
“It’s small but specialist, and pretty much comes with the same sort of expertise and level of expertise that you’d get in a bigger firms,” she says.
Addisons partner Jamie Nettleton received Australia’s only international ranking for his gaming practice. He credited this to his international reputation rather than any standout transactions.
“I’m known internationally to be someone in Australia who has expertise [in gaming]. It’s partly through the people that Chambers interview knowing me - experts in the area [who] know me and know my expertise. In that sense [the result] is much more because of the peer knowledge rather than the individual transactions,” Nettleton said.
Nettleton said size was irrelevant to his own success and that of the firm: “It’s very easy to say ‘you’re a different animal to the big firm’ - almost ‘why would you work there?’” he said. In answer, Nettleton emphasised the camaraderie of the firm, “it’s a completely different dynamic to a one or two hundred partner firm. We enjoy working here.”
More importantly, Addison’s success in the survey proves that big firms don’t have a monopoly of the quality of work and the quality of people, “and that’s so often overlooked”, Nettleton said.