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Deacons keeps ringing the changes

MID-LEVEL law firm Deacons is undergoing major changes as part of its bid to reach the top of Perth’s second-tier operators.

Lee Verios has been named Perth chairman, the title deliberately chosen to reflect a leadership role rather than a management one.

Staff numbers at Deacons are likely to double within the next two years and the firm will be making a concerted push to reach an annual $20 million turnover.

Former managing partner John Groppoli, who held the role for three and a half years, will be concentrating on legal matters and his directorship interests.

Micro-management issues will be devolved to Deacons’ national management team.

Mr Verios wants to double the size of Deacons’ staff within two years to 150 people and increase the number of partners from 12 to 18.

“We need to have around the $20 million turnover mark for comfort,” he said.

“At that sort of size we’ll be able to attract good younger people. That’s the secret – attracting good lawyers and keeping them.

“Lawyers traditionally haven’t been good at keeping people.”

Mr Verios said the firm was keen to hear from anyone in commercial law looking for a new job.

He said the firm would not be competing with the top-tier firms such as Freehills, Clayton Utz or Minter Ellison on price.

“We’re operating at a 25 per cent price differential to the top-tier firms, but believe we offer a comparable quality of service,” Mr Verios said.

He believes the firm’s jewel in the crown is its Asian network. Deacons is actually a 118-year-old Hong Kong law firm that holds three licences to practice in mainland China.

The Australian arm of the firm is an amalgam of seven Australian firms.

“The ultimate aim of the game is to be a major Asia-Pacific player,” Mr Verios said.

“But while we have a real network out there, we have to deliver here. The Perth market is a little different because it is so reliant on local clients. International clients are thin on the ground here.”

Mr Verios has enjoyed a stellar career within Perth’s legal community.

His two-man partnership with fellow lawyer Ted Sharp was merged into the (then) large Perth-grown law firm Parker and Parker in the late 1970s.

He became Parker and Parker’s first full-time managing partner in 1985, a role he held until 1990.

During that time the firm’s turnover quadrupled and its staff numbers doubled to 300.

Mr Verios also helped establish the Australian Legal Group, thought to be the first federation of legal firms in Australia.

That federation boasted Parker and Parker, Allens and Allens in Sydney, Arthur Robinson and Hedderwicks in Melbourne, Feez Ruthning in Queensland and Finlaysons in Adelaide.

Twelve years on, Parker and Parker has been swallowed by Freehills and Allens, and Allens merged first with Feez Ruthning and then Arthur Robinson Hedderwicks to become Allens Arthur Robinson. Finlaysons remains Finlaysons.

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