‘Growth opportunity’ coaxes Bakers boss into renewing term

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Baker & McKenzie’s managing partner Chris Freeland has confirmed that his term as head of the firm’s Australian practice will be renewed until 2017, following a decision by the firm’s management committee.

Freeland told Australasian Lawyer that he was happy to stay on as managing partner because he sees opportunities in the Australian legal market that other firms are not spotting, making the position an “exciting place to be”.

“I’ve been pleased to be part of it all,” Freeland said. “It’s a fun job, but it’s also a tough gig. I’ve been managing partner for four years now and I believe the firm is in a good place. I was pleased to extend my term because things are going well.”

Freeland added that the firm has been outperforming the majority of the legal market based on some measures, but there is an understanding among Bakers leadership that there is no room for the firm to become complacent. This has encouraged the firm to roll out new initiatives to help build the Australian practice.

“We can’t rest on our laurels,” he said. “The legal market is changing. The firms that will succeed in the next five years are those that will be the most flexible and nimble. I think that the firms that can’t do that are going to struggle.”

A desire to continue evolving has prompted Bakers-Australia to pursue new clients, especially in Asia, and Freeland hinted of new Australian lateral appointments to come in the immediate future. The firm is also reviewing the way it engages its clients through a project aimed at improving the client experience.

Recent appointments have seen women make up close to 70% of senior associates who have joined the firm over the past year, and Freeland said encouraging diversity is a major priority for the firm.

This quest to keep improving on what is already a strong legal brand is one of the points that Freeland feels differentiates Bakers from many other firms.

“I think you get a lot of firms that aren’t adapting well to the current legal market because they are bogged down by size. It’s hard to steer the Titanic. They also, perhaps, cling to their historic legacy. There’s a satisfaction with past achievements and they cling to an old way of doing things without realising that the game has changed.”

Freeland added that firms that are clear on their value proposition will fare better than those that are not clear on where they operate or what they will or won’t do.

“It’s hard to differentiate what many Australian firms stand for. Because they are not clear on their value proposition, the market doesn’t know the difference between them and the competition.” 
  • Shirley on 15/05/2014 11:14:14 AM

    Are there any plans to open an office in Perth?

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