DLA Piper has vowed to rebuild its Canberra office in the wake of three quarters of its partners announcing their intention to leave.
Asia Pacific managing practice director Alastair Da Costa visited Canberra last week in the wake of the recent announcement that six of the firm's eight Canberra partners would leave the firm to join HWL Ebsworth as it prepares to open an office in Canberra on 1 August.
"Our strong team in Canberra, led by office managing partner Caroline Atkins and Australian group head of the intellectual property and technology practice Anthony Willis, continues to deliver exceptional legal support as the departing partners transition out of the firm," Da Costa said. "They are also supported by a highly experienced team of special counsel and consultants."
When the six partners joining HWL Ebsworth leave the firm within the next two months, DLA Piper will be left with two partners, six special counsel and one consultant in its Canberra office.
In announcing the defection of the six partners earlier this month, DLA Piper attempted to downplay the impact it would have on the firm's government practice by issuing a release stating that over 50 per centof the firm's Australian Government work is sourced from outside Canberra. The firm said that its Australian Government team includes around 15 partners and nearly 50 staff.
While HWL Ebsworth raided DLA Piper in an attempt to gain a seat on the panels of Federal Government departments, lawyers on the ground in the nation's capital have warned that, unlike other practice areas, government clients cannot just easily move across with a partner to a new firm.
"DLA had a significant government practice; a practice that would be based on very formal panel arrangements that are underwritten by large contracts," said Mallesons M&A partner David Briggs in a previous interview with Lawyers Weekly. "Quite how those contracts will be dealt with and whether or not Ebsworth can just step into them is a big question."
Clients up for grabs?
The departing DLA Piper Canberra partners have the following Federal Government agencies as clients:
- Department of Defence
- Department of Finance and Deregulation
- Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
- Medicare Australia
- Australian Taxation Office
- Australian Federal Police