Down under the cosh

For those who thought life in Australia was all surfing, barbies and VB tinnies at the Coogee Bay Hotel, some distressing news has emerged from down under. It seems Aussie law firms are looking more and more like boot camps than the legal paradise envisioned by many a City associate.

The situation kicked off last month when Tom Poulton, managing partner of leading Australian firm Allens Arthur Robinson, shocked the country in an interview with business magazine BRW. “We don’t run this as a holiday camp. We expect our people to treat the client as if they were God and to put themselves out for clients,” Poulton railed. “You don’t say, ‘Sorry, I can’t do it, I’m playing cricket this weekend.’ You don’t have a right to any free time.”

Earlier this year, Poulton sparked a near-riot among staff who had invested in special ‘business thongs’ (flip-flops) by abolishing casual Fridays.

The tough talk has other Aussie managing partners scrambling to come up with all-new and novel ways of showing commitment to clients. Michael Bradley, managing partner of Gadens, has heeded Poulton’s call to arms and indicated to staff that he will go several radical steps further. In an email last month to all the firm’s Sydney solicitors, Bradley suggests abolishing casual clothing and personal lives, and suggests taking client care to the next level: banning sex in the firestairs and paddlepops (an Australian ice-cream).

Bradley was unavailable for comment, but Tulkinghorn is sure that, in the spirit of client care, saucy fumbling between Gadens staff and clients in the firestairs will be allowed to continue. Now that’s what Tulkinghorn considers client service.