Canberra key to Russell Kennedy growth plans

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Russell Kennedy managing partner Paul Gleeson has told Australasian Lawyer its burgeoning Canberra presence is just a first step in larger national growth plans.

Following the dissolution of the Kennedy Strang Legal Group last year and the end of joint branding rights among the former alliance’s member firms in February, Russell Kennedy expects new growth to come from full-time roots in the ACT.

In late February, the firm’s first full-time lawyer began in Canberra, with former Clayton Utz state and federal government specialist Andrew Klein joining to headline the practice.

Until February, Melbourne-based Victor Harcourt was managing the firm’s Canberra efforts on a fly-in fly-out basis. However, with Klein in place and a spot on the Commonwealth Government’s Legal Services Multi-Use List, Gleeson expects growth in 2014.

“We have developed to the point where we know and we are confident that we can grow, but to do that we need someone on the ground with a physical presence there,” he says.

Russell Kennedy expects to have more Canberra lawyers by the end of the year, either from organic growth, as a result of increasing instructions from the government, or further recruitment of talent into its Canberra office.

Gleeson has also flagged medium to longer term firm growth ambitions.

“One of the reasons for Canberra is that, if we want to grow a national presence, Canberra is the closest market to Melbourne in which we feel we can quickly set up a practice.”

“That’s not to say we wouldn’t do the same thing in Sydney; but by starting with Canberra, with the Government connections that we have, we are confident we can achieve that.”

“We are not sure what a Sydney office would look like, whether we would build it organically or via a small merger; we are open to possibilities. But there are only so many things you can focus on at once, and this calendar year our primary focus is Canberra.”

Gleeson says the firm is also open to the possibility of a merger with a larger firm, though it is not out in the market looking for it. “Ultimately, it would have to benefit our people and clients.”

Public sector experience is one of Russell Kennedy’s core practice areas in Victoria, where it has a history of acting for the Victorian state government and other public sector authorities.

Gleeson says this specialty has taken 10-15 years to grow, and it expects the ACT practice will also take a significant amount of investment in terms of both time and resources.

Russell Kennedy's public sector practice sits alongside other areas of focus, namely property development, health, aged care and retirement, insurance and banking and the not-for-profit sector.

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