One week after formal integration DLA Piper has lost six of its eight Canberra partners.
In a major blow for the firm, the future of its Canberra office is in serious doubt after partners with a client portfolio that includes the Australian Federal Police, Department of Finance and Deregulation, Housing Industry Association, Medicare Australia, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the Australian Taxation Office, announced they will be leaving the firm.
Key Department of Defence contact Gary Rumble remains with DLA Piper, but that client is also in danger of moving elsewhere, with Melanie McKean leaving the firm. Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced last month that Rumble and McKean would act for the Department as it investigates claims of abuse in the wake of the skype sex scandal.
In a press release issued late Monday (9 May), DLA Piper announced that the partners agreed that integration was the best course of action for DLA Phillips Fox, but that they did not want to be part of a global business law firm.
"We're also collaborating with the departing partners to ensure that clients will continue to receive the high quality legal support they have come to depend on," said DLA Piper Australia managing partner Tony Holland. "We will also do everything we can to support our Canberra-based staff."
The firm added that more than 50 per cent of its work for the Australian Government is done in offices outside of Canberra.
Prior to the formal integration of DLA Phillips Fox into the DLA Piper network, nine Brisbane based DLA Phillips Fox lawyers left the firm in March to establish a Brisbane office for Thomsons Lawyers.
While the departure dates of the defecting six partners has yet to be confirmed, they are all joining HWL Ebsworth.
HWL Ebsworth managing partner Juan Martinez said theses six partners will establish an office for the firm in Canberra, starting from 1 August.
"It was a strategic imperative for the firm to leverage these attributes [achieving outcomes for clients] in the Canberra market where quality, gravitas and value are key touchstones for government clients," Martinez said.
In addition to McKean, Richard Garnett, Lex Holcombe, George Marques, Michael Will and Stuart Imrie will be joining HWL Ebsworth in Canberra.
The firm's Canberra office will join existing operations in Sydney, Norwest, Melbourne and Brisbane.
DLA Piper now has 106 partners in Australia.