has lost another cluster of partners, only a week after entering the Australian market through a merger with DLA Phillips Fox
. Six out of eight partners in Canberra have resigned from the partnership, moving across to HWL Ebsworth
's new Canberra office.
“These partners have indicated that while they agree that integration with DLA Piper was the best course of action for the Australian firm, they themselves do not wish to be part of a global business law firm,” said a statement from the firm. Departing partners include Richard Garnett, Lex Holcombe, Stuart Imrie, George Marques, Melanie McKean and Michael Will; Caroline Atkins will remain.
Despite losing more than 15 partners in the merger, DLA Piper is keen to push ahead with realising the market’s global potential. According to managing director, Asia Pacific, Alastair Da Costa, Australia has become integral to any Asian strategy: “You haven’t got a complete Asian strategy without an Australian presence,” he told ALB. Andrew Darwin, managing director, groups and services added that as major businesses in Australia are engaged or looking at engagement in trade in Asia, Europe and the rest of the world, lawyers should align themselves with clients in that way.
However, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the international firm, which opened on the same day in Sydney and Perth as fellow new arrival Clifford Chance. “We would expect more international firms to come into the Australian market,” said Darwin. “We may see the same as in some European jurisdictions, such as Germany and France, where international firms come to dominate the market. We know a number of other firms that have looked at Australia – it is a sign of good healthy competition.”
Da Costa added: “It will take a few years but international firms will come to dominate. I can see in five to 10 years time the international firms will rank in the top 10 in a way they haven’t in the past.”
DLA Piper had been thinking for some time about how they could connect Australia with Asia, but also how the region connects with the rest of the world, said Da Costa. Darwin is also quick to point out that the merger is not a one-way street. “Quite a lot the Australian practice will contribute to the rest of the firm. Already we have a very active working relationship with colleagues in Africa and London in developing, for example, mining practice in Africa,” he said. “One thing I hope we will see is a lot of collaboration to demonstrate to existing clients that that stability makes a difference,” he added.
In response to the pre-merger departures by 19 partners, managing partner Australia, Tony Holland, said each partner had to make their own decision. “A number of partners chose not to go on this journey – we respect that,” he stated. “The firm is looking for people who are committed, who see the vision and will graft for it, will push for it.”
Despite losing a substantial amount of its workforce in Brisbane to Thomson Lawyers the firm is pushing ahead there and has high hopes for the market. “We see great opportunities in the Brisbane market, we have a very focused team who are looking at that [replacements],” he said. No appointments have been made yet.
The departure of the Canberra based partners takes the total partner headcount for DLA Piper Australia to 106.
Keen and able: DLA and Clifford Chance get down to business 2 May 2011
Nine partners walk out of DLA Phillips Fox 14 March 2011