Minter Ellison plots global onslaught in strategy rejig

Minter Ellison partners are hammering out details of a global expansion plan aimed at doubling the firm’s international office revenue from A$50.8 (£18m) A$115m (£40.7m) a year.
The plan, which will go before the firm’s partnership board later this year, recommends that Minters sets up a legal network spanning three Asian hubs, as well as boosting staff numbers in the existing London and New York offices. Minters is also considering establishing a second US operation on the country’s West Coast.
Hub one will include the firm’s Hong Kong and China offices, plus North East Asia, Taiwan and Korea, while the second group will cover operations in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as the associated firm in Jakarta, Makarim & Taira S. Hub three will be made up of Indochina and India, along with the firm’s existing Bangkok office, Minter Ellison Matzger MacGregor.
Minters has been implementing an operational merger of its Bangkok practice since 1 September and plans to review some form of financial integration in the coming months.
Global management structure has yet to be finalised, but the appointment of an international managing partner is imminent. It is likely that the appointee will join the firm’s partnership board.
Partner Robert Hanley, who recently returned to Australia from London, believes the advent of globalisation has forced firms to reconsider their strategies. Looking outside Australia, he said, is now necessary.
“A number of large Australian companies are already going offshore, and it’s quite conceivable that in the next five years some major Australian listed companies will relocate their head offices to places outside this country,” said Hanley. “That obviously carries a risk that they’ll change their major legal service provider.
“A number of our major clients have operations throughout the world, and of those a very large proportion now have operations throughout the Asia Pacific region. It’s no longer good enough just to be in Australia.”
The firm is keen to hold on to high-profile domestic clients such as Qantas, SingTel Optus and AMP, and wants to secure ongoing instructions from Asian corporates such as SingPower, as well as true multinationals such as Shell. The firm plans to target US and UK practices which lack a presence in the Asian region, pitching on the back of Australia’s low chargeout rates as well as the firm’s knowledge and experience of the local market.
The firm this year reported an annual revenue of A$348m (£123.2m), and the projected gain from the international expansion will lift its fee generation figure to well above that of local competitors.
At present, Minters has around 30 lawyers working outside Australia and New Zealand, many of whom are dual qualified – that figure will be quadrupled if the new strategy is passed.
The plan, which aims to establish Minters as the pre-eminent Australian law firm in Asia, outlines links with local lawyers, either through merger or affiliation, and encourages the cherry-picking of star players in some jurisdictions.
“We’ve had a number of approaches recently from firms in different countries, and they’re all offering different things,” said Hanley. “Some are alliances, some are full financial integration and some of them are looking for us to second Australian partners there.
“We’re not kidding ourselves and thinking that we’re going to come in and take Asia by storm. It’s a very tough marketplace, but we see that there are opportunities for us to take our place in it.”