NICK NICHOLA TALKS BRISBANE LEGAL
Written on the 21 July 2014 by Laura Daquino
The global K&L Gates brand is new to Australia, having only commenced operations here in 2013. However, its managing partner Nick Nichola is an established legal ace, climbing his way up the legal ladder for a number of years. He talks to Brisbane Legal about the merger of Middletons and K&L Gates, the competitive Brisbane legal market, and the next growth areas for the market.
How long has K&L Gates been operating in Queensland?
The K&L Gates brand may be new having commenced in Australia on 1 January 2013, but the reality is that most major law firms are the product of mergers over an extended period and we are no exception. K&L Gates, through its predecessor firms, has actually been in the Queensland market since the early 1800s, but the immediate predecessor firm Middletons entered the market by merger in 2012.
How long have you been at K&L Gates?
I started out my professional life as a solicitor with a small suburban practice which merged with the Melbourne firm of Molomby and Molomby which in 1998 merged with Middletons and in 2013 with K&L Gates, so you might say I am a "lifer". I became a partner in 1988 and I have held the role of managing partner since 2005.
What’s one of the most memorable projects you have worked on?
I would have to say the merger with K&L Gates mainly because of the way it came about. Middletons has always valued the notion of stewardship. Each of us is part of the firm for a defined period, but it is our role to ensure the firm is left in a better state as a result of our time as partners. The logical extension of that value is to ensure the firm is positioned so that it remains relevant for the next 30 and 40 years and beyond. Relevant for its clients, relevant for its partners and relevant for its staff.
We analysed the changes we saw in the legal profession - the entry of international firms, the increasing competition for work, the trend of larger in-house legal teams - and developed a strategy to deal with what we saw as game-changing and irreversible changes. We determined that there would be firms at each end of the spectrum who would be successful – the global firms and the domestic niche players. In between, there would be a plethora of other very successful law firm models, too many to describe. The rest, in our view, would be caught in what we termed the "undifferentiated middle", characterised by intense competition, commoditised work and ever decreasing returns. We wanted to ensure that we did not become one of those firms. Our strategy, therefore, was to position ourselves to explore an international merger.
So we pursued that strategy and delivered what I believe was a stunning outcome for legacy Middletons and K&L Gates.