01 Jun Q&A: Maddocks
Glenn Johnston, Montgomery’s UK Associate Director, caught up with Maddocks Partners Danielle Funston & Andy McNee for a short Q&A discussion around what Maddocks looks like in the “post-pandemic” world. Here’s what they had to say…
Transactional & advisory practice groups have been booming in top law firms recently. Have you noticed any particular challenges or opportunities arising in the Australian market against the backdrop of COVID-19 (and the post-pandemic world)?
The market in Australia has been extremely buoyant throughout the pandemic. Overseas investors see Australia as politically and economically a safe bet, so we have seen no slowdown in M&A activity.
At Maddocks around 22% of our deals are in the Technology Sector, followed by Professional Services, Health, and Manufacturing.
We recently were awarded the Australian mid-market deal of the year for a transaction in the Professional Services sector, that involved the acquisition of a fund administrator. That market segment is definitely seeing some real growth in buy-outs.
It is no surprise that our trend in these sectors reflects the whole of the market. We’ve seen a slight decline in construction and agriculture compared to previous years. Investment in education also slowed during COVID with the lack of international students coming into Australia, but borders have now re-opened, we could expect this area to return to positive growth soon.
What is keeping your respective teams busy at the moment? Do you have growth plans for any particular sectors/subsectors?
At the moment we are seeing the most activity in the mid-market space.
There have been good opportunities in technology for start-ups to be consolidated or folded into larger companies. Companies that have been started and grown by a few individuals in the technology sector are seeing this as a good time to exit and we have been helping a number of these clients realise the benefits of their businesses in the last 2 years.
This activity is keeping us busy at the moment and is an area we are famous for. We see continued growth in this subsector and also potential growth from US investors into health and manufacturing in the market.
What type of exposure could a prospective new associate or senior associate expect if they were to join the firm in 2022/23?
Maddocks is highly regarded for its strong culture – or as we like to call it, “a great place to do great work”. We see strong benefits of having our legal staff at all levels dealing directly with clients.
It allows them an opportunity not only to grow but to also gain a direct understanding of the priorities and risk appetites of our clients. We’ve also seen the results from this approach where many of our lawyers are promoted alongside their counterparts at clients. It is often a good outcome when those relationships have been formed early and grow as their mutual careers develop over many years.
What are the “best bits” about working at Maddocks that potential lateral hires should be aware of?
A few things stand out as the “best bits”:
- The culture. 89% of our staff acknowledge that Maddocks is a great place to work. This is from a staff-wide survey and puts us some 15% ahead of our competitors. You don’t get those results overnight, there is clearly something about the culture and emphasis on allowing our teams to be involved in cutting-edge deals that is working for us. We are really proud of these results and it drives us to keep improving all the time.
- The ability to be creative. Maddocks has a great entrepreneurial spirit. We are not governed by global parents, so the expectation is that our teams will have the flexibility to be creative and nimble in their approach to legal services. We are seeing some great results with this model, with over 90% of clients saying we are reliable, 99% of clients saying we understand their business…and 94% of clients saying we are friendly. Again, the results speak for themselves and we are focussed on learning from what we are doing right and ensuring we get consistency in our approach across our practice teams.
- Investment in infrastructure. Over the past year, we have been re-investing in the firm. Our technology function has been bolstered by enhanced systems, plus a dedicated legal process manager. We have invested heavily in hybrid working, definitely one of the ‘best bits’ is having great systems where teams are working online from any location. We don’t have the frustrations of systems that are aged, and when things don’t go to plan, we have a team of real people on our IT helpdesk who are there to support us around the clock. Plus we have a team of market leaders across our functions such as People and Culture; Business Development; Finance; Facilities. Plus we have an offshore processing unit for everything from eDiscovery through to file opening.
You’ve had success in the past in hiring from overseas (particularly the UK). Is there anything, in particular, you feel that these team members have been able to add to the group?
We see success as having a diverse group of people from a range of backgrounds and experiences. Overseas lawyers tend to fit in easily with Australian law firms, and we see large numbers (pre-COVID) of lawyers arriving in Australia and many staying a lifetime.
Attracting lawyers and support staff who have had experiences working with clients who may be multinational or transformational just adds to the depth and quality of support we can provide to our clients here in Australia.
Similarly, what do you feel would be the key challenges an internationally qualified lawyer might face when joining the firm?
Honestly, the challenges are minimal. There are the nuances about different tiers of legislation (eg federal v’s different states) and some understanding of the large Australian corporates. However, in terms of systems and processes of a law firm, Maddocks like most Australian firms have market-leading technology and processes similar (and dare I say better) than many global or international firms.
For most non-Australian qualified lawyers there may be a re-qualification process which Maddocks supports through our study policy.
Where would you like the firm to be in 2 years’ time?
We are currently reviewing our firm strategy. We had settled on our last strategic review 7 years ago and carefully executed against it. It has been a success story and we have grown in size, revenue, and clients.
So it is exciting to think about what the next 7 years look like for Maddocks.
However, in 2 years’ time, I would like to think that we have maintained our staff and client engagement scores. That we have continued to be recognised in the market as “a great place to do great work”.
Winning awards like the mid-market deal of the year is also pretty cool, so would be great to see this continuing for us.
Andrew – you’ve been with Maddocks for over a decade, what is behind this longevity? Danielle – what attracted you to the firm having previously practised at international law firms in Sydney?
I am very proud to work at Maddocks. We have interesting clients, creative license and most of all, a bit of fun. There is always plenty going on in the firm and over 10 years I have seen us mature and develop into a place where people just want to stay.
Danielle, likewise. I’ve attracted some of the biggest matters in the market. We work hard and get some great results. We have a fantastic support team so there is no worrying over systems – Maddocks makes it all about getting out and supporting your client to the best of your ability.