After snagging nine of the DLA Phillips Fox partners who voted "no" to the DLA Piper integration, Thomsons Lawyers is one step closer to meeting its long-term ambitions. Angela Priestley reports
Thomsons Lawyers' announcement this week that it would be opening a fourth office in Brisbane was all part of a long-term strategy for the firm to go national.
But the timing of this particular aspect of the strategy was fortuitous. With DLA Phillips Fox announcing it would take a formal tie-up with international friend DLA Piper, it was always a possibility that a number of partners would say "no" when it was put to a vote.
A number of partners did just that, nine of whom happen to be based in Brisbane. Crossing a broad range of practice groups, these partners have now declared they will leave DLA Phillips Fox prior to the formal integration to form the Brisbane base of Thomsons Lawyers.
According to DLA Phillip Fox, the partners will leave amicably and as "friends" of the firm. In a written statement provided to Lawyers Weekly on Monday, the firm said the partners chose not to be a part of a global law firm.
The new home for these partners is much smaller than DLA Phillips Fox and not even technically national just yet, but Thomsons Lawyers is chasing some significant growth in the future.
Chief executive partner Adrian Tembel told Lawyers Weekly that the three existing offices - Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney hover around the $73 to $75 million revenue mark. With the addition of Brisbane, the firm is now hoping to break the $100 million revenue mark.
"This [the Brisbane office] wont quite get us to $100 million [this fiscal year] but it will be pretty close and we have a number of other advanced lateral hire discussions going on that will get us there next year."
The firm also boasts 47 partners and a partnership that has not lost a single equity partner in the last two years. The DLA partners will bring that number of to 56, with 415 staff across four offices.
Tembel added that the existing practice groups, especially in the corporate, property and banking space, will benefit from the firm being able to reach into the Brisbane space and to better meet their needs along the Eastern Seaboard.
He said the Brisbane office will be full service from day one, with the firm looking to build up resources depending on need. "We think what we've got there at the partner level is about right. We'll now focus on getting the proper level of support for them to get the office off to a good start in May."
The move follows a succession of mid-tier law firms entering the Brisbane market, including Johnson Winter & Slattery, Mills Oakley and Macpherson + Kelley, with such market saturation stifling previous ideas by Thomsons to explore merger opportunities. "We had to think a little more creatively," said Tembel.
Tembel sees Thomsons as part of the second wave of the legal services market seeking national maturity. The first wave includes the "top-tier" or "tier one" firms that once primarily had offices in Sydney and Melbourne and underwent their national expansions through the 1990s,
And while Tembel believes that not all of the mid-tier firms currently chasing nationalisation will be successful in their plans, he does believe Thomsons has the correct strategy for making it a reality.
"It's about getting the quality right. You have to have the systems and the recruitment right," he said. "And you have to have scale."