Boasting one of the longest track records of consistent growth in the Australian market, Mills Oakley has grown without entering into any mergers or opening new offices. FY16 is the 12th consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth for the firm, with growth up by 37% and 32% in FY15 and FY14 respectively. Mills Oakley crossed the $100m revenue threshold in 2015 and has still managed to achieve the high growth of a start-up firm, but a mature one.
CEO John Nerurker says the firm’s growth from 75 partners in 2015 to 84 in 2016 has been in response to client demand. Over half the partnership growth this year was in the construction, planning and environment, and projects and infrastructure practice areas.
“In the case of construction, more work from existing clients and the addition of new clients has warranted further capacity,” Nerurker says.
“The latter two areas are new practices where we have identified an opportunity to offer additional services to existing clients of the firm.”
The Melbourne corporate team has had one of its busiest years, 25% ahead of last year. Inbound M&A has been particularly active.
“There has been a preponderance of buyers from the US and Europe in particular, and the agribusiness and retail sectors are particularly hot,” Nerurker says.
A reflection of the continuing popularity of property investment compared to shares, Nerurker says the property team has had a busy year. Low interest rates and low unemployment have been contributing factors, along with media coverage of capital growth.
“We are assisting a number of overseas developers, particularly Chinese, Malaysian and Singaporean entrants, to undertake their first projects in Australia,” he says. “We believe we have also improved our market share in the property space owing to Australian ASX-listed property trusts and developers embracing the ‘flight to value’ away from international and large national firms, who are not always as agile and have a tendency to overservice clients.”
In 2017 the firm will look to expand in the corporate, disputes and insurance practice areas.
But it’s not all about the strongest practice areas; Nerurker says the firm has a two-pronged strategy for revenue growth.
“The first involves demonstrating consistent value to clients as a platform for long-term relationships; essentially, our work with our clients grows over the years as their businesses grow,” he says.
“Secondly, we actively acquire leading partner talent who bring to the firm new clients and capabilities.
“This strategy has delivered consistent, double-digit revenue growth for Mills Oakley over the last 12 years, and we are on track to hold this record going forward.”
The firm has prioritised strategies to deliver a more flexible and diverse workplace, recognising the link between organisational performance and high retention rates.
“We recognise that staff retention is core to a consistent service experience for clients, and so we have pursued initiatives that will give us one of the lowest turnover rates in the Australian legal sector,” Nerurker says.
A flexible working policy, formalising a commitment to work-life balance, the upgrading of the parental leave policy and an equitable briefing policy have all been achieved in the last 12 months.
The firm has established a gender diversity committee reporting to the CEO and board. In the interests of transparency, the committee also reports to its key clients and the firm has undertaken to continue external reporting on a quarterly basis.
“We believe we have also improved our market share in the property space owing to Australian ASX-listed property trusts and developers embracing the ‘flight to value’ away from international and large national firms, who are not always as agile and have a tendency to overservice clients”