THE INK HAS dried on an agreement between Melbourne-based Abbott Stillman & Wilson and Dibbs Barker Gosling, making the merger of the two firms official.
The newly created Dibbs Abbott Stillman will be in full swing by 1 July after 18 months of discussions.
Where traditionally firms looking to forge such partnerships hire consultants to aid their search, this recent match originated from a suggestion by a mutual client.
Both Dibbs and Abbot Stillman & Wilson were looking for a suitable merger and in hindsight they were clearly “looking for each other”, according to Dibbs’ managing partner Scott Sloan.
However, the process was a “nice, slow courtship” that worked through the issues of whether or not the merger would work, whether it would add value to both firms and how it would benefit the partnership and staff. This included an interchange of work and secondments, and the reaction from both staff and clients has been very positive.
“We realised there was an opportunity that we really wanted to explore and test out, and that ended up with a heads of agreement in December to commit to moving towards a new group,” Abbott Stillman & Wilson chief executive officer Chris Arnold said.
Dibbs wanted someone to add weight to the firm’s team in Melbourne, while Abbott Stillman & Wilson wanted a national firm to provide increased resources for their national clients, which had increased after five years of significant growth. The fact that the firms already shared a number of clients and that there was virtually no conflict between the two was a big advantage.
Arnold said the merger was not about “growth for growth’s sake” but was about providing “premium service” to clients. The continuity of “good work for tremendous clients” would also add greatly to the experience of the lawyers at the firm.
Dibbs Abbott Stillman will have a national board to oversee the national business, but Arnold said it would not be telling the local firms how they should operate on a day-to-day basis.
Dibbs’ entire Melbourne team was offered positions in the Abbott Stillman & Wilson office, and all but one accepted. Dibbs Abbott Stillman will have a combined team of 165 people in Melbourne and more than 500 nationally.