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Boutique law firms with a specialist focus are an emerging trend in Australia. According to the Australia: State of the Legal Market white paper, published by Melbourne Law School and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor in 2016, while many major law firms are facing multiple challenges including rising costs and uneven profitability, boutique law firms concentrating on a particular client industry or sector have been quietly thriving.
Boutique firms are not necessarily small but possess deep expertise in particular areas of the law, can be more innovative and agile, with their business structures allowing for tailored approaches to meeting clients’ needs.
Nicholson Ryan Lawyers, based in Collins Street, has a strong corporate and commercial focus, providing legal services to a diverse client base that includes ASX 300 companies and SMEs.
‘‘Clients today increasingly want to connect with their lawyers and advisers in more open and authentic ways; a more client-centric and intimate approach in a comfortable environment,’’ says founding principal Shannon Ryan. ‘‘A boutique-style practice encourages that connection.’’
Nicholson Ryan Lawyers was established more than 10 years ago. All principals were previously partners of larger national firms.
‘‘The boutique firm environment supports clients’ expectations of direct partner access and a better approach to understanding clients’ needs and meeting their expectations,’’ says Ryan.
‘‘In terms of fee structures, as a boutique firm we are better able to manage overheads and not merely rely on scale to generate fees. As the business owners, we have the flexibility to create fees structures that provide cost-effective legal solutions for our clients.’’
Leath Nicholson, managing partner, adds: ‘‘In our experience, the small to mid-size corporation is often torn between high external legal costs or a dedicated in-house counsel.
‘‘The alternative to in-house is to engage a firm such as ours on a retainer with an agreed cost structure but with the additional benefit of being supported by the knowledge, expertise and resources of the firm. Where required, lawyers work on the clients’ premises to ensure hands-on service delivery and client-specific needs are met.’’
For example, compliance services for financial services licensees is a retainer service that is provided.
‘‘As a boutique firm, we are dedicated to supporting clients achieve their commercial goals, advising both publicly listed and privately held companies on complex and strategic transactions and other commercial arrangements,’’ says Nicholson.
‘‘Our team regularly advises on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), capital raisings, Corporations Act advice, financial services, corporate governance, business structures (companies, trusts, partnerships and joint ventures) and corporate reconstructions.’’
‘The boutique environment supports clients’ expectations of direct partner access.’