In an exclusive interview with NZ Lawyer, Chen Palmer founding partner, Mai Chen, has revealed that the firm will soon restructure to accommodate other equity partners – and she’s not ruling out lateral appointments
The public law firm turns 20 this November and Chen has been at the helm, exclusively, since Geoffrey Palmer’s departure 12 years ago.
“It is time for me to open up the equity of the firm to other partners,” Chen tells NZ Lawyer. “For eight years of the firm’s life, Chen and Palmer held the firm equally and for the last 12, I have held the firm by myself… It’s time for some changes. I want to manage less; I want to focus on law more. I’m litigating more than I have ever done and I need to concentrate and not be constantly distracted.”
The new equity partners will be by invitation only and Chen says she has already begun contacting those she has in mind.
“The button has been pushed…I am implementing my decision now,” she says. “After 20 years, I am in a very good space. The completion of the Auckland office has happened far sooner than I thought. We’ve got a good senior team up here, we’re getting good work up here, we’ve got 12 lawyers up here. It’s time.”
When asked if the invitations would be issued to lawyers working outside of Chen Palmer, Chen says she’s not ruling out lateral appointments.
“I have a good senior team in-house, but I am always open,” she says. “At the end of the day, what matters to me is that the legacy of public law that we have pioneered is maintained by those who love it and who are top public law practitioners.”
However, far from seeing this as an opportunity to relax in the traditional sense, Chen says the restructure will allow her to focus more keenly on her cases.
“If retirement is to do what you want, when you want, in the amounts you want, I think this will allow me to do what I most want,” she says. “I love the law and I’m in my 28th year and I love it more than I ever did. But I want the time to be able to concentrate; I have been distracted in the last 20 years. The firm has been busy – it has always been busy. It’s the turn of others now to manage. I will always be part of the leadership at the firm. The Chen Palmer brand is very strong in the market and I understand I am a part of that brand.
“It’s really exciting for me – I’m looking forward to this next period. But, most importantly, I’ve had my go and I’m looking forward to the skills and the leadership that others can bring.”