Exclusive: New CEO says firms must think globally or lose clients

by Hannah Norton01 Apr 2015
Law firms who aren’t thinking globally are behind the curve, the new chief executive of a New Zealand-based practice of an international law firm says.

Kevin Hall has just been appointed the new chief executive of DLA Piper New Zealand, after a month-long hand-over with the outgoing chief executive Hugh Caughley.

Hall has returned from New Zealand after a seven year stint as the chief operating officer of Dubai-based law firm Al Tamimi & Co, which he led through significant growth and development to become the largest law firm in the Middle East.

Speaking to NZLawyer, Hall said he was happy to be taking up a great role in an excellent New Zealand firm.

“The move allows me to continue to grow, Al Tamimi is the biggest firm in the Middle East, highly professional; very successful, a fantastic organisation – I loved my time there and learned a huge amount which I believe will serve me well in this new role.

“DLA Piper is a different scale again, one of the biggest firms on this planet. So for a professional in this industry this role presents the benefit of returning to NZ, joining a top flight firm and applying my experience, together with another opportunity to learn – and to participate in an industry global player.

"Certainly for me - this is an extremely interesting and exciting opportunity. I know this is something the team here are equally excited about – the future of the organisation is positive.”

He brings with him a wealth of international experience, something that is likely to prove invaluable given the growing globalisation of legal services.

“If anything, the world is teaching us that New Zealand isn’t isolated and it’s very cliché, but the world is getting smaller and smaller, and I think, in terms of the way we operate, anybody who isn’t thinking globally is behind the curve,” he said.

“In the last week I’ve had engagement with the Middle East, I’ve had engagement with Singapore, London and Australia. The law is a global business now. Our clients are global clients. So if the firm isn’t equipped to handle that efficiently and professionally, then the client will look elsewhere, and quite rightly should.”

Some similarities between the legal spaces in Dubai and New Zealand include the legal structures and operating processes in the firms, he said.

“DLA Piper share many business tools that were deployed in al Tamimi. That familiarity is helpful.”

But there are also a number of vast differences.

“The legal space in the Middle East is professional, competitively aggressive and demanding of high performance… characterised by working with multinationals and complex regional conglomerates with all of the major international firms as our competitors.

“Coming back to New Zealand, it's very early to say anything definite but I'm sensing that while the scale of things is different, the competitive pressures and the demands for quality are there in this market, and more pronounced than when I left. Perhaps we won't be opening multiple offices but there will be equally positive pressures here at DLA Piper.”

Hall said he and the partners this year foresee growth for DLA Piper New Zealand.

“We want to increase our footprint in the New Zealand market, and we believe the firm is positioned to achieve just that. We have clear competitive differences (we believe advantages) to other firms in the New Zealand market and we will be looking to leverage those differences to the benefit of our clients.

"We believe our competitive offering will be of interest to organisations that have an international perspective, as well as of course continuing to meet and exceed all the requirements of our NZ focused clients.”