Last week, Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO at Acritas, interviewed Tony Harrington AM, Chief Executive at MinterEllison about the firm's impressive rise in the 2016 Acritas Asia Pacific Law Firm Brand Index. She also took the opportunity to find out a little more about the firm's growth strategy and the challenges it faces in such a culturally diverse region.
Lisa Hart Shepherd (LHS): Great news about your rise to ninth in this year's Index. How do you feel about the achievement?
Tony Harrington (TH): It's fantastic. I think it's a representation of the implementation of our strategy and of the team effort across the whole firm over the last 18 months. We've restructured the firm on an industry basis and our overall strategy has been very much client centric. Our overall ambition is to be our clients’ best partner – putting the client and solutions at the center of all we do.
LHS: Is that what you would describe as your firm’s differentiator, or is there something else as well?
TH: I think our strategy is a differentiator. You'll also have noticed that we changed our brand, not that changing the brand is an immediate driver of a great deal. But we consciously removed the word 'lawyers' from the brand – so now it's just MinterEllison. As a consequence that's enabled us to think more broadly about how we can be more solution-oriented in helping our clients. One example is our launch of ‘Flex’, which allows us to work with clients in a non-traditional way – providing legal support around projects or particular needs that clients may have from a pool of people, some of whom might come from within our firm but that the majority of whom come from our alumni.
LHS: Have there been any changes to your firm’s investment in the region that you would attribute to your brand success?
TH: Depending on what you call ‘investment’, there have been changes. We've taken the view that the main form of investment that you can make in a firm like ours is to invest in our talent. We have substantially grown our head count over the last 18 months but we have also substantially fast-tracked our partner admissions. So we're creating a growth environment and investing in new partners. Our admissions last July was a record for any firm in Australia. We admitted 17 new partners and were close to a 50/50 female/male ratio.
LHS: How important is the broader Asia Pacific opportunity?
TH: It's significant for us. Obviously our main goal is to grow in our home market. I take the view that if you're not strong at home then you're going to struggle to grow the practice internationally.
LHS: What do you see as the challenge in sustaining success and building growth across the region?
TH: I think the biggest challenge is being prepared to change and making sure that change has a real client centricity to it. The markets are tough, as we all know, post GFC the waters are choppy out there, and therefore if you're going to succeed anywhere, particularly in this region which is very competitive, you really do need to have that client centric focus – ensuring the client experience is right, understanding what client needs are, building the skill base internally.
LHS: Do you find different approaches work better in different markets?
TH: Differences by market are obviously cultural. But also important is where a particular country is at in its cycle of investment – is it primarily focused on investment in its own country or is it starting to think about investment offshore and how it might deal with that? So, no matter which territory you're in, I think if you can understand the particular needs and aspirations of the clients that you're dealing with you will always be successful.