Colin Biggers & Paisley (CBP) is set to open a second office in Melbourne next year.
CBP has been a Sydney-based firm for over 100 years, having started in 1900. Its planned move to Melbourne would come via a merger with local insurance boutique Monahan + Rowell.
"The moment you start expanding locally, let alone interstate, there are challenges to culture at all levels, and because we have valued that culture so highly, we have resisted the interstate move until now," CBP managing partner Dunstan de Souza told Lawyers Weekly. "We have a longstanding formal alliance in the insurance space with Monahan + Rowell and have developed a huge amount of confidence in them as individuals and Monahan + Rowell as a law firm."
CBP and Monahan + Rowell have had a strategic alliance for seven years, with specific merger negotiations beginning earlier this year. The prospective new office would trade under the CBP name.
"Due to a push from clients to open an interstate office, we decided to investigate responding to that push," said de Souza.
Both firms operate in similar areas, with CBP targeting insurance, construction, property and dispute resolution as its core areas. Monahan + Rowell also has capabilities in transport.
de Souza said it was Monahan + Rowell's strong insurance practice in particular that made a full-blown merger attractive to CBP.
Although the proposed merger has not yet been finalised, de Souza said he hopes the new Melbourne office will be open by the middle of next year.
He also said that while not looking to become a large national firm, CBP would consider opening offices in additional cities if there was client demand for further expansion.
"If it is successful and comes off, we would look at other things."
CBP has 28 partners and an additional 107 lawyers and paralegals on its books. Monahan + Rowell has eight partners and approximately 20 lawyers.
de Souza said the Melbourne office would look to go to the market to appoint construction, property and dispute resolution specialists shortly after opening.