Permanent CEO confirmed for leading law firm

A top 20 Australian law firm has revealed who has been formally appointed to the role of CEO. Australasian Lawyer asks the person about their plans for the firm going forward

Leading national law firm Maddocks has just announced that its interim CEO Michelle Dixon has been formally appointed to the role.
Dixon assumed the interim role at the beginning of 2014, but following a partner vote she has now been appointed permanently.
This announcement follows a vibrant year for the firm, with Maddocks promoting three lawyers to partner, being recognised as an Employer of Choice (firms > 500 employees) by Australasian Lawyer; and most recently receiving citation as Employer of Choice for Equality by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), making this the 11th straight year of recognition.
In an interview with Australasian Lawyer, Dixon, who has been at Maddocks for almost 20 years, says she feels privileged to be in a role that brings together the firm’s board, partnership and people to deliver its strategic direction.
“I saw the progression into an interim CEO role at the start of the year as a real challenge and opportunity,” she says.
“I was welcomed warmly by the partnership and staff into the role, and, while a little reluctant to step away from a large part of my practice as a litigation partner, I’m delighted to have been formally appointed, and to have the opportunity to lead the firm on its upward trajectory.”
There have been a number of highlights for Dixon this year, with one of the main ones being the firm’s efforts to bring the item of progression of females into leadership positions to the fore.
She says the board and partners identified areas of opportunity and focus that were needed to continue the march towards equality and support for females in their path to partnership.
And the push is obviously paying off: Maddocks now has a board comprised of 50% women and 50% men.
“The more junior lawyers at Maddocks see our partnership acting with the intent to leave the practice in a better position than when they started – this gives me great confidence for the future,” Dixon says.
But the CEO admits that she’s definitely had her fair share of challenges as acting CEO.
She loves being a litigation lawyer, and says it’s been tough moving away from full time practice in order to manage the responsibilities that come with heading a firm.
Dixon’s husband and kids would also probably like to her put down the iPad and be in Melbourne a bit more, but she says on the whole, the family has managed to find a happy balance.
Looking to the year ahead, she is expecting things to get busy.
“I am very positive about the next 12 months. We have had a period of consolidation and all of our teams now very busy. Government work will always be an important focus for us and all levels of Government in Australia are continuing to invest in the community and infrastructure projects, although competition for this work is increasing and all levels of government are applying high levels of discipline and scrutiny in purchasing decisions,” she says.
Work driven by utilities/infrastructure operators, health, transport infrastructure, urban renewal and IT/Telcos/technology is also heating up.
Urban renewal is one of the most exciting trends in Australia at the moment Dixon says, particularly in the property market.
This is because both the public and private sectors are embracing the re-purposing of under-utilised public land and out-dated office and industrial buildings to create residential, retail, tourism and public recreation space in order to rejuvenate urban areas and create spaces that reflect the way people want to live today.
“Sydney Olympic Park and Barangaroo are great examples of the public and private sectors working together on urban renewal in Sydney, as is Victoria Harbour in Melbourne and the RNA Showgrounds in Brisbane. These types of projects are great for the community and the economy and provide a huge range of interesting and challenging work for commercial property lawyers.”
Looking to the legal market in 2015, Dixon expects to see a continued focus on keeping costs down, hand-in-hand with stronger interest in innovative pricing structures.
Secondment requests will also be a feature, with agencies and departments increasingly looking to resource their needs given the downsizing of teams and the reluctance to engage additional employees.
In addition to these traditional secondments, virtual secondments are also becoming more common in both the private and public sectors, she says.
And with the recent election result in Victoria and the upcoming state election in NSW there are sure to be even more changes in the legal space to come.
While there is no doubt Dixon has much exciting and challenging work ahead of her, for now she’s enjoying the thrill of her permanent appointment as CEO.
“I’m heartened on a daily basis by the collective passion of our people - from this post it’s great to see such a diverse group of professionals come together under the core values that we hold close.”


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