Thanks in part to a deep-rooted relationship that has spanned the country for more than two decades, Australia’s newest legal network now has a presence in Perth.
Just weeks after its formation, WA insolvency specialist Christensen Vaughan (CV) joined fellow state-based mid-tiers Russell Kennedy (Vic), Kemp Strang (NSW), Thynne & Macartney (QLD) and Lynch Meyer (SA) as members of the Kennedy Strang legal group, which itself was only established in February this year.
Daren Armstrong, a partner with Kemp Strang, said the group always intended to maintain a fully national coverage. However, when the opportunity to launch the alliance with the founding four firms arose, no suitable partner on the western seaboard had been found.
“At the time, the deal was ready to be done, so we thought it was best to go with that and then move onto the next front,” Armstrong said.
But they didn’t have to search too hard. In July, long term associate Lee Christensen, who had already been approached to fly the group’s flag in Perth, split from Tottle Christensen to set up his own practice with three fee earning workmates.
Soon after, John Vaughan, with whom Christensen had previously worked with at Phillips Fox in the late 1990s, joined them from Deacons to finalise the birth of Christensen Vaughan on 1 September.
Sandwiched somewhere in between the comings and goings, Christensen and Kemp Strang, after decades of referring work to one another, began to talk seriously about formally aligning their interests.
“I knew the group had been formed and my association with Kemp Strang — I was very good mates with Peter Kemp — brought me within the loop,” he explained.
That strong relationship, Christensen continued, gave his firm — despite its infancy — “first bite at the cherry at convincing them we should be the Perth arm”.
Christensen maintains his break with Tottles had nothing to do with ending up a member of the Kennedy Strang group today, but concedes it did allow him the freedom to commence negotiations. Similarly, Vaughan stresses his decision to quit Deacons did not hinge on whether or not the new firm was accepted into the network.
“I’d had enough of working for large firms. Working in a boutique allows you to do more lawyering, rather than minding. There’s a relief from administrative burdens,” Vaughan said. “Here I can be the master of my own destiny.”
With Christensen and Vaughan respectively voted the state’s first and third best insolvency lawyers in a peer review conducted by WA Business News recently, the attraction was obvious to Kemp Strang, which itself draws on strong insolvency roots.
“The Perth market is quite shallow for good insolvency lawyers,” Armstrong said. “Lee and John have a good following. I think sometimes people get overly focused on firms, rather than movement of clients following individuals. They’ve worked well in combination [at Phillips Fox] before and we’re glad they’ve found one another again.”
Quizzed on further expansion plans for Kennedy Strang, Armstrong refused to rule out the possibility.
“We’ll see what comes up. All national networks need to cast their mind to other jurisdictions and consider the opportunities when they arise,” he said.