Australian legal industry Partner movements update | FY23 Q1

Autor Alexandra Starke
November 28, 2022

Partner Perspectives Series – FY23 Q1

Taylor Root is pleased to present our insights into the latest Partner moves across Australia for the first quarter of the 2023 financial year, July 2022 to September 2022, via our interactive web-based format, Taylor Root Partner Perspectives.

The below analysis covers most of the movements in the market of lateral Partners and teams in Q1 of the financial year. There were approximately 53 Partner moves for the start of the 2023 financial year. This is slightly down on the rolling 5-year average of 59 for the same quarter.

Although we have seen the demand and interest in lateral Partners remain strong across a mix of practice groups, many firms have a cautious eye on the market conditions. The legal industry was not immune to dramatic increases in fixed costs and this may lead to some tightening and potentially a push factor for some Partners to find a more compatible firm for their practice.

Partner movements in Q1 FY23

As mentioned above, there were approximately 53 lateral Partner moves during the first quarter of the financial year. The interactive diagram below tracks the Partner movements between firms. Use your mouse to explore the data.

The Melbourne market had the most movement with 16 lateral Partners shifting firms, 14 in Sydney, Brisbane with 8, Canberra with 6 (after the opening of new offices for Johnson Winter & Slattery and Wotton + Kearney), and 5 in Perth. There was limited activity in other locations, Adelaide with 2, Cairns had 1 (with the opening of a new office for Moray & Agnew), and Darwin also with 1.

Breakdown of lateral Partner moves by practice groups in Q1 of FY23

The chart below shows the Partner movements by practice groups throughout the first quarter of the financial year. The most active practice areas were insurance, property and real estate. These were followed by employment, corporate/commercial, and government/regulatory practice groups. There is potentially some easing of the activity we saw last financial year in banking and finance, mergers and acquisitions, and litigation although it’s too early to indicate any real trend given the length of time it takes for Partner movements. The property and real estate activity was driven by Dentons in Melbourne picking up the team from Colin Biggers & Paisley. The Insurance movements were mainly in Sydney across the mid-tier and predominantly lateral elevation appointments. The lateral movements in the corporate/commercial practices were spread across Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. The employment practice group moves were mainly in Melbourne, with Dentons and Norton Rose Fulbright as the beneficiaries.

Australian firms attracting the most lateral moves in Q1 FY23

The two standouts for firms attracting the most were Dentons with 7 Partners joining and 4 for Mills Oakley. The activity for Denton’s was driven by the arrival of a team from Colin Biggers & Paisley in Melbourne and new Partners joining in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide. Mills Oakley added to its teams in Melbourne and Sydney across various practice groups.

DLA Piper added 2 Partners to its project finance team in Perth and a tax specialist in Melbourne. Keypoint Law continued its growth with new Partners joining in Canberra, Sydney, and Brisbane.

Australian firms with the most lateral departures through Q1 FY23

Colin Biggers & Paisley and Norton Rose Fulbright both had 4 Partners leave during Q1. As mentioned above, Collin Biggers & Paisley were raided by Dentons in Melbourne and one Partner to Moray & Agnew. The departures from Norton Rose Fulbright were all from different practice groups for a mix of firms, most in Melbourne and 1 in Sydney.

The next firms on the list were Clayton Utz losing 2 Partners to Mills Oakley in Melbourne and 1 to McCullough Robertson in Brisban, and HWL Ebsworth losing Special Counsels for elevation moves in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.

Partner moves by practice type

Here you can see in more detail, an interactive map of Partners that have moved, along with their corresponding practice areas. Hover over, click and drag the discs in the diagram below for more information.

Team acquisitions

The movement of teams in Q1 FY23 (9 Partners) was steady and reasonably subdued compared with Q1 FY22 (15 Partners).   

There remains plenty of appetite in the market on both sides for larger group moves, with the usual key drivers being better client synergy, remuneration, and better firm profile fit.

Partner moves by gender

It was a pretty good start to the financial year in terms of gender split. It is also likely to have been one the most ‘equal’ quarters with a 54% / 45% split. These figures are consistent with the efforts from most firms to target better gender diversity at the Partner level.

Practice diversification

The visualisation shows the Partner movements by practice area over Q1. As mentioned above, the most active practice areas were insurance, and property and real estate. These were followed by corporate/commercial, government/regulatory, and employment practice groups. As mentioned above, there is potentially some easing of the activity we saw last financial year in banking and finance, mergers and acquisitions, and litigation although it’s too early to indicate any real trend given the length of time it takes for Partner movements.

There continues to be challenges on the horizon given the significant global factors that remain in play, but in the short term, most firms remain very optimistic about workflow and profitability. Whilst there has been some softening of workflow through Asia, that is unlikely to impact the majority of firms in Australia. The message is that firms will remain alert to the deteriorating conditions in some sectors but will continue to focus on areas of strategic growth and opportunity.

Conclusion

With more than 35 years of experience, the Taylor Root Partners team has long been established as a global market leader. Our recruiters have developed trusted and long-standing relationships with the world’s leading law firms, as well as top talent from around the globe. So, whether you are a firm seeking to grow, or a partner looking for your next role, the team at Taylor Root will be able to lead you through the delicate, and often a complex process.

For more details on the recent Partner moves or to discuss your firm’s lateral hiring program, please contact Alexandra Starke for a confidential discussion.

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