Two NZ firms sign unique association agreement

by Sophie Schroder26 Sep 2014
Two boutique law firms have signed an association agreement which will facilitate greater collaboration between them while still allowing them to retain their separate identities.

Anderson Creagh Lai Limited (ACL) and Andrew Lewis Law (ALL) have entered into an agreement they say will provide a raft of mutual benefits.

The managing director of ACL, Jeffrey Lai, told NZ Lawyer that unlike traditional law firm associations that operate as networking and referral clubs under a common brand, the association between ACL and ALL is focused on the complementary delivery of shared services to clients with the sharing of some office space and resources to facilitate this.

ACL has been looking to implement something similar for the past couple of years, he says.

“There are a number of drivers. The firm has been trying to virtualise – meaning looking at smarter ways to recreate big firm benefits but without big firm structures or overheards.

“There are a whole bunch of practitioners out there who don’t want to run a team all the time but come from a big firm environment…we thought maybe there is a middle ground where there is an affiliated or associated law firm that can come and share our resources.”

It’s an unusual concept in the New Zealand legal market, says Lai, but collaboration amongst lawyers is becoming more and more of a movement overseas.

Under the ACL and ALL partnership, ACL personnel will be available to provide support to Andrew Lewis, while Lewis’ offshore experience will supplement ACL’s strong local corporate and business practice.

“For single partner firms who may not have access to a team of staff we’d say, ‘look would you like an address or office?’ We run a hot desk system to make use of our facilities,” says Lai. “The benefit for us is that we get to increase our potential revenue base, because [the partner could say] ‘this is too big to do on our own, so let’s work together’.”

ALL is an ideal first partner for this type of agreement because the two firms have worked together in the past and share a similar culture and ideas.

Andrew Lewis, principal of ALL, says the association agreement is a win for everyone, clients included.

“This association allows me to grow my practice and better support my clients without needing to be part of a bigger firm,” he says.

All going well, the concept would be extended to include other like-minded firms, says Lai. It will provide the much-needed bridge between practitioners who want to maintain their independence but also tackle bigger projects.  

“We’re not wanting to create a big referral network out of this, but we’re trying to have the ability to bring together people that can deliver big firm outcomes with smaller firm structure. There’s flexibility there, and the client is paramount,” he says.

“We’re eight years old, we’re getting established now, and we hope things like this give us a point of difference in the market.”