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Aussie Firms

Clayton Utz

Introduction

Clayton Utz is one of the biggest firms in Australia, boasting eight national offices. In 2010, the firm announced it would be dipping its toe into international waters by setting up an office in Hong Kong, focusing on construction and litigation. But traditionally it has resisted the urge to expand internationally unlike the majority of its rivals, which have offices throughout Asia. Clayton Utz has chosen instead to foster “best friends” relationships through two international legal networks: Lex Mundi and the Pacific Rim Advisory Council. And there are rumours suggesting that UK firm Slaughter and May could be added to this best mates list.

Clayton Utz may not have much of a physical presence internationally, but it certainly talks up its multi-jurisdictional work in the UK, USA, China, Indonesia and Japan. And it can make the unusual boast of providing gainful employ for the only qualified Japanese bengoshi practising in Australia. So there you go.

The firm has had a bit of a tough old time of it recently, having to cope with a series of blows including partner defections, a high workforce turnover and the recent sexual harassment litigation brought against it by an ex-employee claiming that the firm is a “hostile place” for women.

Performance

The GFC inevitably had an effect on the firm. Revenue in 2009/10 fell by 9.7%, in contrast to many of its rivals which saw increases. But the financials have steadily been picking up since. Turnover rose 0.5% to $445m in 2010/11 and by 2% to $455.4m in 2011/12. And that most recent result makes Clayton Utz Australia's second largest law firm by revenue, which is certainly not to sniffed at.

Clutz has been affected by staff woes. It suffered a blow in February 2010, when partner Grant Fuzi led a defection of 12 lawyers to new-comer to the Australian market, Allen & Overy. Litigation swiftly followed as it was rumoured that Fuzi had left Clayton Utz with a six-figure golden goodbye, conditional upon not working for a rival. The case was settled in 2011 after Fuzi (maintaining he had done nothing wrong) agreed to pay back the sum in full.

The firm tried to regroup by quickly announcing the promotion of seven senior associates to partner. It also promoted 47 associates to senior associates – although it was suggested that some of these were suspiciously un-senior, at just two years’ qualified. And Clutz managed something of a PR coup by snaring ex-Allens’ high roller Andrew Jinks, widely regarded as one of the best securitisations lawyers in the market, helping to boost the firm’s finance and banking group, hit hard by the A&O defections. 

Pay and conditions

Clayton Utz froze salaries in 2009 but pay was reviewed in 2010 with rumours of a 10% rise (at least for graduates) in salaries from July 2010. But staffers still don’t seem too pleased with their pay,  with many criticising the “average” salaries and “laughable bonus scheme.”

Despite the firm having no redundancy programme, between 2009 and 2010 it lost 13.4% of its total staff – a pretty high turnover even taking into account the A&O defections.  Rumours of stealth redundancies abounded but the firm insisted it was just “natural attrition”. Which may be so, but it’s not helped stifle rumours that Clutz is not such a happy ship. Nor has the recent loss of 12 more partners, all jumping in favour of mid-tier firms such as Herbert Geer and Sparke Helmore (each picking up three Clutz partners apiece).

Problems hit again when the firm was slapped with a sexual discrimination claim from a junior female lawyer. The case came to court in 2011, showering Clutz with all the wrong kind of press attention. It was eventually settled but not before various damaging allegations had emerged.

Clutz performed poorly in RollOnFriday’s Firm of the Year 2011 survey, coming in third from last. Lawyers criticised the “ordinary pay” and the “large turnover of staff with few staff being hired to replace them”. But it’s obviously made efforts to pull its socks up as it came in a fairly decent eighth place in the 2012 survey. Whilst there were still complaints about “stodgy, tight-fisted” partners and stingy wages, there was praise for the “AMAZING” new offices in Sydney (which apparently have “the coolest outdoor CBD entertaining/BBQ deck in law firm history”) and the "decent hours, good reputation and good resources".

Conclusion

It’s been a bit rocky road for Clayton Utz especially in the media and various niggles certainly remain, not least in relatiion to wages. But the firm seems to be on the way up, revenue's increased and there's a general consensus that it's a decent place work. According to one respondent, “Clayton Utz really isn't as bad as the street makes it out to be”.

For more information on Clayton Utz click here

Salary

Salary (Graduate): $60,000
Salary (NQ): $62,000
Salary (1PQE): $65,000
Salary (2PQE): $70,000
Salary (3PQE): $87,000
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

Bonus scheme: No
Typical bonus as % of salary
- NQ: %
- 1PQE: %
- 2PQE: %
- 3PQE: %
- 4PQE: %
- 5PQE: %
- Partner: %

Training

Grant for GDL:
Grant for LPC:
Training places per year:
% of trainees retained: %

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 43%
Development: 55%
Work/Life: 49%
Openness: 51%
Biscuits: 74%
Toilets: 58%
Social: 63%
Firm of the year overall score: 51%

Benefits

Holiday allowance: Unknown
Flexi holiday:
Pension: Unknown
Healthcare:
Maternity policy: Unknown
Target hours: Unknown
Childcare vouchers:
Gym: Unknown
Restaurant: Unknown
24 hour photocopying support:
24 hour secretarial support:
Other: Unknown

  

News Stories

Clayton Utz pulls out of Hong Kong
Latest firm to give up on Asia ... read more >
Clayton Utz tops the pro bono leader boards
Contributed an average of 57 pro bono hours per lawyer ... read more >
Work life balance more important than pay
Survey reveals only 17% of lawyers will leave a position for a pay rise ... read more >
Exclusive: Redundancies at Clayton Utz
The firm blames a slump in the Australian market ... read more >
Aussie Firm of the Year results pouring in
Clear early leader in the race for cruddiest office ... read more > (1 comment)
Departing Clayton Utz partner slates global law firm model
Philip Kapp reckons the big law firms just don't work ... read more > (2 comments)
Clayton Utz partner denies that the firm is sexist
Despite harassment claims and misogyny awards ... read more >
  

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