Big firm duo step out to set up new practice

A partner and a senior associate have left the big firm life behind to fulfil a dream of starting up their own practice in Wellington

A former DLA Phillips Fox partner and senior associate have just set up a new Wellington-based practice, and aim to apply new law practices like fixed fee arrangements to their offering.

Former DLA partner Matt Hay and senior associate Michelle Williams have launched their firm Succeed Legal, and are advising family owned businesses, trustees, private individuals and not-for-profit organisations on a range of business, trust and property law matters.

They have also welcomed former DLA legal executive Tessa Amey to the team.

Succeed Legal commenced practice on July 1, after Hay and Williams finished up at their former firm on June 30.

Hay says the decision to open his own practice is the next logical step in his career.

“Increasingly I wanted to focus more on private client work and I thought it was easier to do that in a smaller, more flexible environment,” he told NZ Lawyer. “I’ve always thought that at some point in my career I’d have my own business, and it felt like the time was right. It’s something you don’t want to leave too late in your career because it doesn’t leave you the lead time to build up the business.”

Hay and Williams are supported by DLA Phillips Fox in their decision to go solo, and they plan to continue to work with the firm on client referrals for matters that are more suited to one or the other.

Hay started out at DLA as a graduate and worked there for 17 years, including three years as a partner.

He and Williams worked together at the firm for the past six years.

“I employed her there – she’s excellent with clients in this space, she’s got great empathy with clients, and we have complementary skills,” he says.

Part of Succeed Legal’s culture will be based around fee transparency and use of technology to streamline practice efficiency and reduce the typical traditional firm legacy of paper waste.

A fixed fee arrangement is the firm’s default position as opposed to time in attendance, Hay says.

“[Time in attendance] can actually interfere with your ability to do a good job for clients…and I think it can get in the way of building a good relationship,” he says. “We’re trying to bring a fresh look and feel to the practice of law and keep a down-to-earth approach in the way we deal with our clients.”

The team managed to secure offices in a prime Wellington location at Featherstone House, which is on the corner of Featherstone and Waring Taylor Streets.

The surrounding area is laden with other professional service businesses.

Hay says they were lucky that Succeed Legal’s new offices were previously occupied by barristers Port Nicholson Chambers (who have since moved down the hall) and were already fitted out for legal professionals.

DAC Beachcroft is another legal business that has offices in the building.

“It’s nice to have some professional colleagues about who do different things.”

So far and things are going well, says Hay, although setting up the new practice and all that it entails while still fulfilling his obligations as a partner at DLA Phillips Fox was an initial challenge.

“The other big challenge is the unknown – whether or not your clients will come with you and [the business] will be supported. But it’s been great, it feels good. We’re really happy with the way things have been going,” he says. “We don’t want to create an empire, but I’d certainly like to see it a bit bigger than it is now. We need to see how it goes; we’re taking a cautious approach.”

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