As a new recruit to the Farrar Gesini Dunn Melbourne office, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the different cultures in law firms and the way they operate. Lots of questions spring to mind. What type of culture am I drawn to and what type turns me off? Why choose Farrar Gesini Dunn over other firms? Are the things I look for as a place to develop my career similar to the things clients look for in their lawyer?
Firms that practice family law come in all shapes and sizes, from sole practitioners to large multinational commercial firms, and everything in between. Do I want to work in the CBD, the suburbs, or the country? In a specialist family law firm or general practice? Do I enjoy working as part of a team or on my own? Do I prefer complex property disputes or more straightforward parenting cases? (or vice-versa). Do I want to be handed work from above or build my own referral base?
One thing I was certain on was to avoid firms with a reputation as a “bush-fire” practice, namely where lawyers simply jump from one problem to the next without an underlying strategic plan or direction i.e. understanding the bigger picture and how best to get there.
Like any good lawyer, I did my due diligence on Farrar Gesini Dunn by speaking to peers within the community and trying to learn as much as possible about them. The unanimous verdict was a reputation for being excellent lawyers, a young & energetic environment, national leaders within family law, and for being somewhat “different”.
Different how? In short, being a genuinely modern law-firm – something that remains an oxymoron within the profession at large. For example, the firm has a large Collaborative Law Practice where clients and not just the lawyers dictate the agenda. It offers clients alternative options to the traditional “billable hour” and the dreaded 6-minute units, and it understands the importance of good technology.
We also have an open-plan set-up and paperless office, something I admit I found a scary concept because I’ve always enjoyed my own office (and heavy physical files) since beginning my career as Trainee Solicitor at an Oxford practice 10 years ago. However this just seems to work and I suspect in a few weeks I’ll wonder how I ever worked otherwise.
In coming to Farrar Gesini Dunn I’ve gone through one of those big “sliding doors” moments where life goes off in a certain direction – and I’m thrilled with the choice I made.