Alternative fee arrangements and a reinvigorated legal business model will be at the heart of the merger between commercial firms ClarkeKann Lawyers and Gray & Perkins.
The merger, announced today (6 October) and due to take effect on 1 November, will see the Brisbane and Sydney based ClarkeKann merge with the solely Sydney based Gray & Perkins to form a new mid-tier firm of around 90 professional staff across two offices.
With ClarkeKann Lawyers retaining its name, the merged entity will focus predominantly on the corporate and SME market while also seeking to encourage alternative billing mechanisms with clients, according to Patrick Gallagher, ClarkeKann Lawyers chairman.
"Our starting point is a clean sheet with clients. We have flexibility to tailor the way our lawyers deliver services," Gallagher told Lawyers Weekly, noting that the new business would continue conversations regarding alternative pricing that the existing ClarkeKann firm has already started with clients.
Partners at both firms voted unanimously to support the merger, confirmed Gallagher, with staff informed this week of the decision.
Gray & Perkins senior partners Miles Anderson and John Gray will assume board and senior management roles respectively, with the remaining Gray & Perkins partners all merging their practices into the new business.
According to Gallagher, the merged entity will take advantage of opportunities presented by the GFC to take high-end work from top-tier firms and to explore with clients "a new way of doing business".
He added that by presenting alternatives to billable hours, the firm can build off the momentum of high-end clients looking to move away from time-based billing
"There will be opportunities to grow our revenue and our profitability off the back of this refreshing and more realistic way of doing business," he said.
Such a new way of business does not mean becoming a discount firm or significantly cutting costs, insisted Gallagher. It's about ensuring the client is brought into conversations regarding fees.
"We're not cheap. This is still a business. It's just how we have that conversation with the client," he said.
"The message that I'm delivering here is the world has changed post the GFC. There is a real opportunity for a deliberately mid-tier firm to go back to the market with a better value proposition."
And in order to ensure the firm carries the skills to meet such a proposition, Gallagher said the firm will run regular financial acumen programs internally to equip lawyers with the skills required to have conversations about pricing.
"Traditionally, lawyers don't spend time on those bits," said Gallagher. "They turn up and turn on their timesheets and go for it. In order to pull this off, we need to be able to ensure there's consistency amongst our people."