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‘You start to see the bigger firms in a very different light’

Moving from BigLaw to start his own boutique firm has taught this principal solicitor a lot about what he doesn’t want to do.

user iconLauren Croft 21 July 2022 SME Law
Keith Redenbach
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Keith Redenbach is the principal solicitor of Redenbach Legal, as well as a finalist in three categories for our upcoming Partner of the Year Awards. Speaking recently on the Boutique Lawyer Show, Mr Redenbach revealed what he’s learnt from working at BigLaw firms — and what not to do in his own firm.

Before starting his own boutique firm seven years ago, Mr Redenbach worked in BigLaw for over 20 years; at firms including MinterEllison, Norton Rose Fulbright and Maddocks — and said that leaving that BigLaw environment was a “huge thing” for him.

“Looking back, I can see the courage that it took me to make that decision, but they do also say that the decisions that are the best ones are made when the pain of the same thing is too great. And so, I think the pain of working in the larger firm started to be outweighed by the advantages. I had a practice; at one point, I think I was the highest individual biller in the entire practice. And for me, that was great. I thrived on that,” he said.


“I really loved the work, and I loved the idea that I was contributing the most in the large firm that I was in. The downside was the politics; I hate to say it, but the more success you get in a larger firm, sometimes you get a bit of a target on your back. So, I decided that rather than spending what was about 60 per cent of my time fending off crazy politics, that I would actually just stop that; I would cut that off altogether. And I would make what turned out to be a very smart decision and unleash what has become an amazing career decision — one which I’m so glad I took, and seven years later, I can say, honestly, it’s the happiest I’ve ever been in law.”

Being able to put his mark on Redenbach Legal and make the important decisions has meant Mr Redenbach has been able to truly make a difference.

“I’d encourage anyone who feels like they’ve reached the peak of their tolerance, the peak of the way they are happy to be as a person. And then as a professional to make the decision and to just back yourself, and I wouldn’t encourage reckless decision making,” he urged.

“And I think having to spend some time doing hard yards. I did a lot of hard yards in discovery rooms. I moved documents; I’ve stamped documents. I’ve had a document stamper and put thousands of numbers on pieces of paper. That’s a character-building exercise. Unfortunately, you’re not told that in law school.”

Furthermore, Mr Redenbach has been able to use his firm and his senior position within it to be able to mentor young lawyers — and he said he wants to be better than what he experienced as a younger lawyer coming through the ranks.

“I wish someone had told me this when I was a young lawyer, I say that regularly. And I give thoughts and lessons that I’ve learned over the years, which as I say to the young staff members, you’d be better off learning from my mistakes than making them yourself. My mistakes have been to not understand the subterranean element of politics that work in law firms. To understand that some organisations make decisions, not on logic, not on what’s best for even the client, but rather best for existing cohorts,” he added.

“And sometimes cabals of operatives. That’s not to say that every firm operates like that. It’s just to say that sometimes you can find yourself in situations where you’re not actually judged on what should happen, the fair outcome, the just outcome, the client’s best outcome, but rather on existing interests.”

Therefore, firm staff need to be treated with “dignity and respect at all times”, according to Mr Redenbach — who concluded that he was excited about the rise of smaller, more independent law firms across the country.

“That doesn’t mean that if somebody isn’t performing or if they’d made a mistake, they shouldn’t be given some counselling or lessons in terms of improving their position. It just means that you have to give people a fair go. I really do think that’s been a significant aspect. I always say that it’s not so much the great things that I learned in the big firms that have helped me; it’s actually the bad things, because I know that those things won’t make their way into my firm.

“I’ve had a number of very senior general counsel people who I used to work with in the bigger firms who’ve made decisions to get out of that environment themselves. They are now seeing the advantage in having a very flexible, very nimble firm. It actually puts, I guess, that word boutique in a very significant position because we’ve got the ability to mix it by scaling up and scaling down through the use of technology,” he said.

“The end result is that if I was legal counsel, I would be literally saying, well, this firm’s better, more flexible and frankly, cheaper than operating in that old-firm environment; to the point where you start to see the bigger firms in a very different light. You start to see them actually as a bit of a dinosaur really in relative terms. So, I’m looking forward to that challenge. I like the idea of becoming the leading independent brand in the Australian legal market. That’s very exciting to me. And I think I’m very well on the pathway to that. And continuing that definitely gets me out of bed, I can assure you.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Keith Redenbach, click below: