WHEN FOUR partners left Nicol Robinson Halletts (NRH) recently, the firm made the best of a tricky situation — that of too much office space. By signing a deal which brought their own chartered accountants under the same roof, the firm finds itself enjoying the benefits of a multidisciplinary practice, without constraints and audit-independence issues.
A co-location with NRH’s accountants, Hayes Knight, sprung out of some empty seats in the firm’s Brisbane office. The end of a lease for the accounting firm was just good timing and, both on the market at the same time, the two firms saw an opportunity to co-inhabit.
Business opportunities are the best part of the new arrangement, according to NRH managing partner Robert Gallagher. The move has increased practicality and immediacy, he said.
“We can see clients together. The accountants might say, ‘Fred is here now, bring in the lawyer’, and we can be there.
“Being under the same roof will make it more compelling to do work together. We can work together in insolvency, family law, consulting from them to us, and taxation,” he said.
But the new arrangement does not represent a merger between the firms, Gallagher said. Both firms will refer work to each other, “but there is no exclusive relationship”.
Pressed as to whether he would recommend such a close relationship to other law firms, Gallagher said “a lot of people have toyed with the idea over the years, a few MDPs have sprung up, for example”. But he said he did not think firms would rush in to develop similar situations. “You would have to have a very comfortable working relationship.”
“You wouldn’t want to do it as an MDP, after recent events. You would want to stand alone, but wheel the other one in when you wanted to.” Being in the same office was sufficient, he said.
The move was only one step forward, and did not symbolise a step towards an MDP, Gallagher stressed. “I would never be an advocate of merging the businesses.” In their current situation, “you have the convenience and ability to work together out of the desire to do it rather than a binding obligation”.
The move will take place at the beginning of May.