Finding success in client and sector focus

Gilchrist Connell triples its size in a decade

Finding success in client and sector focus

“We only exist to assist them,” Richard Wood says. “Our expansion over the last decade has been client-driven.”

The Gilchrist Connell managing principal tells Australasian Lawyer that apart from the firm’s contributions to the wider community, it isn’t that much interested in what the legal community expects from the firm. Gilchrist Connell would much rather focus it energy on its clients and its sector of focus.

“We’re very concerned with what our clients expect from us and spend all our time focusing on them and their businesses – precisely what they need from us now and in future,” he says.

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And the strategy has made the national firm successful. Gilchrist Connell, celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, reports that it has tripled in size since its inception.

With building a custom-built business model to deliver better insurance law in mind, the firm was launched in 2008. It has become the first and only law firm solely focused on insurance, with offices in every mainland state.

Wood says it has been an incredible journey that has exceeded the group’s wildest expectations, especially given the firm’s growth amid fierce competition.

Not that the firm is in any rush to force growth by aggressively opening offices left and right.

“We’re happy with our five sites at the moment. We service the NT from Adelaide, ACT from Sydney, and Tas from Melbourne,” Wood says. “We will focus on growing our newer offices – Melbourne and Brisbane – while consolidating our traditional engine-rooms in Adelaide, Sydney, and Perth.”

In terms of practice-area growth, the firm is also sticking to its tried-and-tested strategy – look to what the sector needs.

“We do what our major clients want in that regard, bearing in mind we specialise in defendant-side litigation, mainly for insurers, as well as some recovery actions for insurers,” Wood says.

The firm has built a sizeable employer-side employment and workplace practice over the last three years, areas it expects to continue to grow nationally. 

“We are also finding that bigger self-insured corporate clients are increasingly using our skill set in general commercial litigation in preference to larger litigation firms. Cyber is also an increasing area for us,” Wood says.

The firm’s growth strategy is focused on fast-growing new practice areas and building its international presence. In May, the firm also became the only Australian member firm of the invite-only Harmonie Group, which is a network of more than 100 law firms across the Americas, the UK, Europe, and Asia.

The tie-up was driven by its focus, and because the marketplace is increasingly global rather than regional, Wood says. Being a part of an international group helps the firm in servicing cross-border clients and acting on cross-border matters.

“That makes sense to us as an increasing flow of work in our area is driven by entities based offshore,” he says.

Gilchrist Connell has hundreds of clients, including some of the world’s largest insurers and Australia’s largest businesses.  It now has 17 principals and 32 senior associates. The firm recently promoted six lawyers to senior posts across all of its five offices.


Related stories:
National insurance firm makes senior promotions
Australian firm joins invite-only global law firm network


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