New firm in town lays down challenge for Auckland's “Big Law”

by Sophie Schroder30 Jul 2014
South Island giant Anderson Lloyd announced the opening of its first Auckland office on Monday and the news has been met with keen interest from the legal community.

It's the firm’s first move north since it opened its doors in 1862.

One of the new Auckland partners, Geoff Busch, told NZ Lawyer that this latest move is well-timed and strategic, and has been in the pipelines for most of this year.

“As I understand it the firm had their eye on expanding north but wanted to do it strategically and with the right people and vision,” he says. “I think the South Island market is a mature market and Anderson Lloyd is very highly positioned in it. The firm saw having national coverage as a logical evolutionary step.”

The move is all the more significant because the Auckland market has never seen a firm like Anderson Lloyd, says Busch, adding that while it has the efficiency and attention of a boutique firm, it also comes with the “horsepower” of a full service firm.

“We are a single national firm but the Auckland office and experience will be boutique-like, and we won’t be as leveraged as some of the bigger offices in Auckland. We will give clients more access to more senior partners and lawyers,” he says.

The new office will be led by partners Busch, Chris Bargery and David Holden, along with a team of six solicitors.

All three of the partners have worked offshore and their expertise is recognised in a number of international legal directories.

Busch says the team was attracted to Anderson Lloyd’s highly collaborative culture as well as the expertise it has in certain industries and areas of specialisation that is compatible with theirs.

This includes irrigation, environmental, planning and natural resources, and energy.

“The fact that they have the specialist expertise to back up the transactional work we do up here is very complementary,” he says. “We were also attracted by being able to work in more of a boutique environment – we’ve all been working at big firms before now. For us it’s a really nice change going out into our own office.”

But perhaps the top end of town should watch out – Anderson Lloyd’s Auckland office will provide healthy competition in the legal market place, especially given that its lower cost base in the South Island will allow the firm to provide cost-effective legal services in the big smoke.

“I think we’ll have our own niche. I don’t think there are any other firms like us in the Auckland market. There are the Big Three who are all fantastic quality firms, and then a number of very high quality boutiques but who don’t offer full service and have to link up with other firms for, say, M+A transactions,” says Busch. “We’re like a boutique that can offer full service, on a value for money basis.”

He says such an entrant into Auckland is long overdue, and he’s already had a number of current and prospective Anderson Lloyd clients saying the market is “crying out” for a service offering of this nature.

“We’re in a prime position to fill that gap and provide clients with more choice and [have them] see us as a firm in this market that can meet their needs better. We will be taking advantage of that.”

Busch expects that the new Auckland office will get “somewhat” bigger in the future, but says there are no plans to expand massively into a large office.

He imagines that Anderson Lloyd’s new North Island offering may be a trend-setter, especially in a legal market that’s constantly changing and evolving.

“Certainly this type of development I think could well spur changes that we’re not necessarily aware of now,” he says. “It definitely represents somewhat of a challenge to the traditional “Big Law” model of providing legal services. I think we’re a credible alternative to the top three big firms and high end boutique firms.”