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Legacy firm Blake Dawson was set up in Melbourne back in the mists of 1841 by a Scottish immigrant who practised from a tent. The firm grew, moved into more solid premises and in 1988 pulled off a merger with four firms, all based in different cities across Australia - spawning Blake Dawson Waldron.
In 2007 the firm went through an expensive rebranding process which culminated in the firm’s decision to drop “Waldron” and be known simply as Blake Dawson. This may well have saved money on letterhead ink, but it also happened to be the same name as a gay porn star, adding a little extra danger to Google searches for the firm.
Although not for long. In September 2011, the firm announced that it would be merging with UK firm Ashurst and from March 2012 would be operating under the Ashurst brand. Bucking the trend for Anglo-Australian tie ups to be of a relatively loose nature, the two firms have already combined their Asian operations and are expected to be fully merged by 2014.
Legacy firm Blakes was slightly smaller than the rest of the Big Six but it still had a well-developed international footprint, boasting offices in Shanghai, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in addition to its six national offices. It was the first Australian firm to set up shop in Japan, opening up in Tokyo in April 2010. And the Ashurst merger brought further international bulk; the newly-minted firm now straddles four continents.
The GFC inevitably had an impact. Blake Dawson was one of the first firms to react to the recession. Four property lawyers were laid off in 2008 as a reaction to what the firm called “
changes in workflow
”, then in 2009 it made 89 redundancies, losing 23 lawyers and 66 support staff in total. Morale wasn’t helped by rumours that the partnership told redundant workers to inform colleagues that they were going home sick, rather than explain they had been given the elbow.
Revenue declined after the 2007/08 period, when it reached $370m. In 2008/09 Blakes saw a small dip to $368m and in 2009/10 this figure fell again, this time by just under 3%, to $359m.
But the firm seems to be regrouping and has whizzed past the pre-GFC figures with a turnover of $382 posted for 2010/11. And the merger with Ashurst (11th largest UK firm by turnover), which posted revenues of £303m ($446m) in the 2010/11 period and boasts a PEP of £713k ($1.04m) will boost Blake’s coffers. Financial integration is expected to be completed by 2014 and the new firm’s turnover is estimated to be around $810m.
Pay and Conditions
Blake Dawson restructured its remuneration system during the GFC (the classic euphemism for doling out less cash), which meant that no bonuses were paid from 2009. But to give Blakes its due, it was one of the only major firms not to implement any salary freezes. And recent reports suggest that wages are now back on the up, with Sydney graduates reported to have pocketed $77k in 2011, a $7k increase from 2010 figures.
On diversity, Blake Dawson was always keen to trumpet its credentials, winning the Equal Opportunity Women in the Workplace Award for a record ten years and boasting that women make up the majority of its grads as well as three out of the firm’s seven board members. Which is pretty respectable. Still, these impressive figures still don’t seem to be translating into such good stats when it comes to the partnership ranks. Of the 18 partners appointed by the firm in June 2011 (13 internal promotions and five laterals) only three were women.
The firm didn’t perform magnificently in RollOnFriday’s Firm of the Year Survey 2012, finishing in the latter half of the table. Several respondents criticised the firm for being “
” and there was a certain amount of pre-merger concern: “
I am sad all the decisions will now be made in London
But staffers had positive comments too. The firm was praised as “
friendly, close-knit and supportive
” with “
relaxed, approachable partners
” and apparently “
even the inevitable b*stards are more socially inept than actively evil
Legacy Blakes may not have had the most widely recognised brand of the top tier Aussie firms – and the effect of the Ashurst merger is still being worked out (a number of pre-merger partner defections were perhaps inevitable but suggested not all were happy with the firm’s new direction) - but the firm does seem to be stocked with an above average number of normals, with decent work and a friendly atmosphere.
For more information on Ashurst Australia
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