The outgoing managing partner talks what's necessary in developing a great lawyer, head, or firm
At 64, Bruce Humphrys has enjoyed a rich legal career – over 40 years of which have been spent at the firm he has been leading for more than two decades, HopgoodGanim Lawyers. In his time at the helm, Humphrys has weathered various storms with the firm, from personal tragedies to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In October, Humphrys announced his decision to pass the mantle of leadership to fellow partner Luke Mountford, who will officially succeed Humphrys in July 2023. While the decision to step down was a difficult one, Humphrys believes that “it’s time.”
In this exclusive interview, Humphrys talks to Australasian Lawyer about his passion for mentoring young lawyers, the most memorable aspects of his time on top of the firm, and making good rather than fast decisions.
You’ve led HopgoodGanim for more than 20 years – how does it feel to be moving away from a role that you’ve held for so long?
HopgoodGanim has been my home for more than 40 years so moving out of the role of managing partner is obviously something I’ve given a lot of thought to and it hasn’t been an easy decision. But, it’s time. It’s time for me to focus on supporting the firm and my partners in a different way, it’s time for me to have a little more time for my interests outside of the law and it’s time for another HopgoodGanim partner to lead the firm in this next phase of growth.
What led to your decision to hand the reins over to your successor?
John Maxwell is quoted as saying that “a leader’s lasting value is measured by succession”. My partners and I have been discussing succession for some time now and in the last three years, we have invested a lot of time and effort into planning not only my succession but also the development of our practitioners from graduates through to partners. There was no major event that led to this decision but at 64 years of age and following 43-year innings, it is time for me to have a break from the captaincy so to speak and let another partner take on this key leadership role of the firm.
What would you say is the most memorable part of your tenure as managing partner?
There are so many memorable moments, and I know that’s because of the HopgoodGanim culture, which involves a spirited and caring approach and a focus on authenticity. We tell it how it is, we inject a healthy dose of humour into most interactions and care deeply about our colleagues, clients and community.
I have great memories over the last 20 years of celebrating victories such as the firm winning client service awards, succeeding in “unwinnable” disputes for clients, or securing new clients and watching practices flourish. Equally, I recall many tougher times and fondly recall the way we have rallied together in those times of personal tragedy, difficult economic conditions, natural disasters, and most recently, during a global pandemic.
What achievement are you most proud of in your time at the helm?
The achievements of HopgoodGanim during the last 20 years are significant and as a result of the efforts of many. Again, it’s difficult to pinpoint one achievement to focus on but I would say generally that I am incredibly proud of the way the firm has developed our young talent over the years. When I lead a partner meeting these days and I’m sitting beside partners whom I interviewed for graduate roles, I feel very proud of the firm’s development of incredibly talented people.
I’m also very proud of the way HopgoodGanim has been able to retain and develop our culture over the years as we have expanded both geographically and in terms of sheer numbers of people. Maintaining a focus on culture can be very difficult in times of growth and change but it has been a constant focus of mine throughout my time as managing partner.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your time as a leader?
Law is a marathon, not a sprint. This is something I was once told as a young lawyer, and it is a message that I have repeated several times to younger lawyers at HopgoodGanim. To be a great lawyer, great leader or great firm takes time, consistency and incremental change.
As you move into your new advisory role, what aspect of the position are you most excited about?
The chance to mentor our younger talent is something I enjoy and I’m looking forward to having more time to focus on this very important role.
What’s the most important piece of advice you have shared with Luke as the new managing partner thus far?
Luke is a natural leader so I’m not sure he needs any advice from me. But a life-long mentor told me at the start of my journey (knowing that I was a property lawyer) that I should fight against treating management as a “time of the essence” contract. Management will inevitably get done. Make sure that all of your decisions get the consideration they deserve. Make them the best decisions you can, not the quickest decisions you can. Then, always learn from your mistakes because mistakes are why God put erasers on the top of lead pencils.