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New firm cuts time pressures

New firm cuts time pressures

A 30-year veteran of a Melbourne-based boutique firm has established a new firm to escape time recording pressures.Geoff Rees, a former partner at Brian Ward and Partners (BWP), has joined…

A 30-year veteran of a Melbourne-based boutique firm has established a new firm to escape time recording pressures.

Geoff Rees, a former partner at Brian Ward and Partners (BWP), has joined forces with four former BWP employees, including former national Blake Dawson chairman Campbell Johnston, to launch The JRT Partnership (JRT).

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Rees cited unfair charging and "irrelevant" time recording requirements as factors behind the creation of JRT and its mission.

"The better lawyers I had were sick of being told to write more time and being viewed just in terms of time," said Rees. "They [also] saw a lot of transactional infrastructure that wasn't required for corporate advisory."

JRT has adopted a model which splits its fees evenly between fixed-fee and hourly rates, and Rees is adamant the firm will not "drag all its lawyers off their work when the first transaction comes along" and "won't simply look to up-sell them from their core work".

"We've taken the pressure off them for their time. It's a bit irrelevant, their recording of time, actually," he said, adding that he sees time recording as "more a costing tool ... than a charging tool".

The firm has taken on Rees' former executive assistant Sarah Simmonds as a practice manager/executive assistant as well as Scott Wilson as its youngest director.

Luke Torpey also resumes a director position at JRT. Torpey was articled to Rees around 11 years ago while Wilson also worked with Rees when he commenced his legal career at BWP seven years ago.

Luke Mercurio, who recently left BWP for a short stint at Piper Alderman in his home town of Adelaide, has also joined JRT as a senior associate.

Campbell Johnston, who worked at Blake Dawson for 30 years between 1977 and 2007, and was later the executive counsel of AWB Limited, met Rees in the early 1970s. The pair rowed together overseas and, in 1974, won gold for Australia at the World Rowing Championships.

Rees said he brought across "between five and 10" major retainer clients from BWP, and plans to focus on and add to them with similar clients, including private family groups, large not-for-profits, hospitals, universities, university offshoots and small listed companies.

"If you balance your team across experienced lawyers that know those clients well and look after their monthly requirements, it's challenging work but ... it's pretty low maintenance and there are good opportunities," said Rees, who believes that assessing individual lawyers based "just on time ... and bills" is unfair on both lawyers and clients.

"Government departments are getting beaten up by management by having over-budget expense months, while we as lawyers are congratulating ourselves on good budget revenue months - but it's short lived," he said.

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