Firm steamrolls into three states after acquisition

An Australian firm has just acquired a boutique commercial firm in move that strengthens its numbers by 13, and has allowed it to expand in three states in just one day

A boutique commercial law firm has joined the Melbourne office of rapidly-growing mid-market firm M+K Lawyers, the ninth acquisition for the firm in just seven or so years.

The acquisition of boutique Blue Rock Law will boost M+K’s numbers by two principals, eight lawyers and three support staff.

As two of the team are based in Perth, this gives M+K its first small presence in WA. On top of the merger, the firm also laterally hired HR, industrial relations and employment law expert Justine Ansell.

Ansell, who joins the firm’s Brisbane office, comes from AI Group & AI Group Legal, where she was a principal adviser. She previously worked at Baker & McKenzie.

Damien Paul, M+K’s national managing director, told Australasian Lawyer that the acquired team from Blue Rock Law are top-class lawyers who fit the culture of their new firm “like a hand in a glove”.

Founding principals George Haros and Alex Ninis - whose practice focuses on IT, workplace relations, property, litigation and commercial law - have done an impressive job in a tough market since founding Blue Rock five years ago, Paul says.

“I first met these guys about 18 months ago,” he says. “Very few law firms in Australia have achieved much if any organic growth in the past four or so years, but in terms of Blue Rock it’s grown around 25-30% a year…organically. It’s a wonderful achievement.”

The acquisition is M+K’s ninth, and it’s all part of the firm’s long-term growth strategy.

There are always two vital ingredients to consider before embarking on such a move, Paul says, the first being a fit with M+K’s very specific national focus on mid-market business, and the second being a cultural fit.

“We’ve got a lot better at identifying which ones will work and which won’t, and we’ve got a lot better at making sure the integration is a success,” he says. “With a successful acquisition what you’re hoping to achieve is 1+1=2.5 at least.”

In the case of Blue Rock, the equation makes sense.

Paul says the firm has a “wonderful” client base, but one that they could only provide limited services to as a small boutique.  However, with the merger, these clients will now benefit from the broader range of services that M+K can offer.

On the other side of the coin, principals Haros and Ninis boast a unique skillset that M+K hasn’t had in the firm, until now.

“It’s trying to marry up skillsets with client bases, going both ways,” Paul says.

Looking to the future, the managing partner says the strategy of growth either through acquisitions, organically or through lateral hires will continue in order to get in a prime position for the predicted upturn in in the market.

“We just want to stick to the mid-market. It’s probably worth one-third to one-half of the legal spend in Australia each year,” he says.

“There are a lot of opportunities in this space so we’ll continue to grow organically and speak to compatible firms who might be interested in joining us. I suspect we’ll have some announcements in the New Year…”

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