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Back in 1988, two venerable fixtures of the Adelaide legal scene, Piper Bakewell & Piper and Aldermans, merged to become larger fixture Piper Alderman. In the last 15 years Piper Alderman has spread its wings, albeit at a moderate rather than spectacular pace. Today, the firm has a 20 partner practice in Sydney, a smaller office in Melbourne and a four-partner outpost in Brisbane.
While the firm has expanded, Adelaide remains its second biggest office and retains, some suggest, a disproportionate amount of sway over the firm. Today Piper Alderman has 52 partners and a total of circa 160 lawyers.
For the moment Piper Alderman appears to be content operating as a national firm acting solely for clients with business in Australia, rather than growing a capacity to advise in markets beyond Aussie shores. Nor has it demonstrated a desire to merge with a global firm who might be looking for a ready-made network in the country.
That's not to say Piper Alderman hasn't sought to take advantage of the spate of law firm mergers and acquisitions which have reshaped the Aussie legal landscape in the last few years. Like a seagull following a trawler, Piper Alderman has picked up a number of lateral hires seeking refuge from newly-absorbed native firms. Managing partner Tony Phelps explained that “
the global mergers we have witnessed in the Australian legal market have resulted in many senior lawyers finding their client’s needs are no longer the focus of their firm.
Piper Alderman has taken in more than couple of these refugees.
Growth has been steady rather than spectacular. The addition of a Brisbane practice in 2004 was the last major step. It demonstrates a firm either admirably sticking to its guns as an Aussie firm for the Aussie market, or a slightly parochial worldview.
Piper Alderman markets itself as a full service firm. While the bigger firms take a lot of the more glamourous work, it does have well-regarded mid-tier corporate and property practices and the litigation practice, especially, has punched above its weight in recent times. In November 2011 it enjoyed a big win against Standard & Poor and ABN Amro, acting on behalf of several Aussie councils who claimed that they were missold the financial products whose collapse brought down Lehman Brothers.
Pay and Conditions
Pay is on a par with the top Australian firms. And it scored very positively in RollOnFriday's Firm of the Year Survey 2012. There were grumbles concerning the lack of rotation between seats, with one trainee saying there was "
no rotation at all for graduates
." But generally respondents were positive, highlighting good career prospects and a very healthy work-life balance. There is "
not much pressure on the billable hours requirement
" said one associate. Which perhaps explains why another associate prayed that "
I hope the firm doesn't grow too big and become like the other firms
It remains to be seen whether Piper Alderman will be able to continue occupying its sweet spot - a national outfit with family values - in the face of growing competition from a slew of newly arrived, aggressive international firms. But for the time being, at least, it looks like a pleasant place to work, and a firm with its feet on the ground.
Salary (Salaried partner):
Typical bonus as % of salary
Grant for GDL:
Grant for LPC:
Training places per year:
% of trainees retained:
RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores
Firm of the year overall score:
24 hour photocopying support:
24 hour secretarial support:
Explanation and source of figures
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