It’s a big ask. Right now he says that corporate and finance work combine to account for roughly 30% of the firm’s local work. To grow these functions he adds that the firm will have to give particular focus to growing its corporate practice. The magic number is to make corporate work account for 25% of the practice three years from now.
“Talking to a lot of other firms, we recognise that they [also] have that at the top of their priorities. It’s a long-term play.”
The way DLA Piper
plans to accomplish this is by growing its own internal people, supported by selective lateral hiring. Another growth driver will be leveraging off of its global network.
“We’ve got to encourage other key markets to actually open up their clients to the Australian practice. You can actually build a pretty good commercial practice on the back of your existing clients.”
In a similar way, Darwin says that DLA Piper will be looking to take advantage of its size and larger budget to make inroads into markets. In this regard, he says the firm has the benefit of being bigger than its rivals, but not so big that it makes the firm cumbersome and slow footed.
“We are large in legal terms, but we are still quite small relative to the size of big accounting firms, for example. We are still pretty agile, but the one thing bigger scale gives us is the ability to make changes and investments. We’ve got the budget and the balance sheet to take some risks.”
Considering that Darwin’s tenure as managing partner in Australia was never going to be a permanent basing and that the plan had always been to eventually pass MP duties to a home grown successor, he says that there will be a lot of things he will miss about working in Aussie law.
He points out that there are a lot of similarities in the British and Australian legal markets, but he also believes Australia is at a critical point, one where a new order is being set. He says it has been exciting being at the front line of this evolution.
“There used to be an old pecking order in Australia and it has been shaken up. That’s good for us because we are trying to establish a different and stronger brand in the market and there is an opportunity to do that.”