Partners quit Sydney firm in MDP row

Australian law firm Middletons Moore & Bevins has lost a quarter of its Sydney-based partners – after turning down a merger approach from a big accountancy firm.

The 73-partner practice is one of Australia's top 10 firms but the recent upheavals have seen seven of the Sydney office's 29 partners move to other firms.

All those leaving are well known in the Sydney market and Middletons may struggle to recover from the loss.

It is not clear which accountancy firm Middletons was considering a merger with, although the firm's Sydney chief executive Danny Casey, a non-lawyer, has worked for Ernst & Young in the past. Casey is reported to have pushed for the firm to become part of a multidisciplinary practice.

“This episode goes to show that while those who are in financial control of a firm may believe that becoming an MDP is a good idea, it is more difficult to convince the lawyers,” says a source close to the Australian market.

“Also, unusually for an Australian firm, Middletons' Melbourne office had become much larger that the Sydney one, through recent mergers, which threw out the balance in the firm,” the source adds.

Middletons was unavailable for comment.