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M+K takes on Sydney’s middle market

M+K takes on Sydney’s middle market

VICTORIAN COMMERCIAL law firm, Macpherson+Kelley Lawyers has acquired Sydney firm Peter Kemp Solicitors (PKS).PKS’s three-person team, headed by Peter Kemp, turned over $1.5 million last year,…

VICTORIAN COMMERCIAL law firm, Macpherson+Kelley Lawyers has acquired Sydney firm Peter Kemp Solicitors (PKS).

PKS’s three-person team, headed by Peter Kemp, turned over $1.5 million last year, according to M+K managing director Damian Paul. From 1 February 2008 the Sydney office will be called Macpherson+Kelley Lawyers.

“We’ve entered into a contract to acquire the Peter Kemp practice, and it’s due to settle on the first week of February,” Paul confirmed.

The acquisition is part of a national expansion plan for M+K, and takes the firm’s staff numbers to 22 principals and 70 other lawyers, with offices in Melbourne, Dandenong and Sydney.

The firm’s market strategy is that it shuns institutional and government clients in favour of midmarket businesses. Paul believes his firm can give larger firms a run for their money when it comes to servicing mid-size companies, including public companies, subsidiaries of multinationals, privately-owned businesses and local authorities.

“They would be other mid-sized firms in Victoria. Firms like Maddocks, Gadens, firms of that ilk, but none of them exclusively focus on the middle market. I’d say they’re off chasing other sorts of work as well, government contracts or whatever.”

Aside from targeting the gap in the market for midmarket business services, the firm identified a wider need for businesses seeking national representation.

“We got to that point where we were growing here in Victoria, growing both organically and through lateral hires and acquisitions. We’ve got a pretty good management team in place, and we started to think about whether there might not be a gap nationally,” Paul said. “[We asked] was any law firm nationally … actually selling that niche as being the national law firm for middle-market businesses, and we couldn’t find one.”

The M+K managing director told Lawyers Weekly that the firm is currently in advanced discussions with several law firms across Australia regarding potential acquisitions. “It’s likealy that we will — I would say within the next 24—36 months — be in a situation where we have an office in each of the major capital cities. So realistically we’re talking about eight to ten firms,” he predicted.

Rather than go the private equity group route, the firm has looked to its own partners to obtain finance for the rapid spate of acquisitions. “We’re doing it [making acquisitions] with funding. This has been raised from within the practice, from the principals and senior employees of the practice of Macpherson+Kelly,” Paul said.

“If we need any external [funding] down the track we will look at that, but at this stage there isn’t a need for that, we have enough to do what we can do in the short-term.”

A national profile is also part of the firm’s retention strategy to “attract and keep top-quality talent”, Paul said. Paul is well placed to talk about retention, having been with M+K since he started in the law as an articled clerk in 1988.

“The other thing that we’re looking to do as part of the process is to make sure that lawyers within the law firms that we become involved with have the opportunity to acquire shares in the company too,” Paul said. “That’s something that most law firms aren’t doing at this stage, so that will give a bit of competitive advantage in terms of attracting and keeping staff.”

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