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Darwin’s DLA evolution sees Weber take hot seat

Former Minter Ellison leader John Weber will replace Andrew Darwin as the domestic head of DLA Piper.

user iconJustin Whealing 15 September 2014 The Bar
Darwin’s DLA evolution sees Weber take hot seat
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Weber (pictured top right) will take the reins on 1 November.

“Our Australian business has made significant progress over the past couple of years, as we have more closely aligned our local practice with the global firm,” said Darwin on his successor, whom he described as a “great fit” for DLA Piper.

While DLA Piper has grown substantially on the global stage over the past two years, its Australian arm has shrunk considerably.


In 2013, it’s the percentage of Australian fee earners fell by around 15 per cent, with the firm’s Melbourne office seeing its partnership almost halved from 43 partners in June 2012 to 23 presently.

In an interview with Lawyers Weekly late last year, Darwin signalled that there would be departures from the firm as DLA moved away from legacy firm Phillips Fox’s traditional strengths of insurance, workers compensation and government work.

“On a personal level it is a tough thing to do,” said Darwin when asked how he feels when he tells people they no longer have a future at the firm.

Sources intimate with the DLA Piper partnership have told Lawyers Weekly that Australian legacy firm Phillips Fox was a strange partner for DLA Piper in Australia, given the global firm’s focus in corporate areas such as M&A and banking and finance work.

Darwin (pictured bottome left) is standing down from his Australian role slightly ahead of schedule.

In March 2013 he commenced what was a two year appointment in Australia.

Darwin will continue to be the firm’s global chief operating officer and will return to the United Kingdom in 2015.


Weber back in the kitchen

John Weber announced he was standing down as the chief executive partner of Minters in November last year, with his five years in charge of the national firm formally ending in late June this year.

Minters experienced mixed results under Weber’s stewardship.

Unlike other firms, Minters did not roll-out large scale redundancies or pay freezes during the GFC.

The firm also opened an office in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia in 2012.

However, the Perth office of the firm was decimated in 2011 when 14 of the firm’s partners and around 80 lawyers, approximately three quarters of Minters' Western Australian headcount, defected to Squire Sanders (now Squire Patton Boggs) to launch the global firm’s Australian practice.

Despite previous talks to financially link the Perth office with Minter’s eastern seaboard network, financial integration of the WA practice only happened after the mass defection to Squires.

Weber also had to deal with the fallout from the Craig Raneberg saga.

Raneberg was the firm’s former South Australian and Northern Territory chief financial officer, who was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in jail for stealing almost $2.7 million from his former firm between 2004 and 2011.

The SA and NT offices of the firm remain separate from Minters national network.

Tony Harrington replaced Weber as Minters chief executive partner.

Harrington was the senior partner and chief executive of PwC in Australia from 2000 to 2008.

A spokesperson from DLA Piper told Lawyers Weekly that Darwin and Weber were not available for interviews prior to publication.

DLA Piper reported global revenue of $US2.44 billion for the financial year ending 30 April, ranking it just ahead of Baker & McKenzie as the world’s highest-grossing law firm.

DLA Piper has more than 4000 lawyers globally.

The Australia arm of the firm, which has more than 350 lawyers, generated $204 million in revenue for the 2012-13 domestic financial year.

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