Fifteen years at one firm is the exception rather than the rule these days but despite his long tenure at Freehills lawyer Rob Franklyn might be able to argue that he’s seen more changes in the workplace than many who have moved around.
Stepping out to form his own practice, Franklyn Legal, Mr Franklyn has worked through the merger with former independent Perth firm Parker & Parker, as well as the national integration of Freehills.
For almost half that time he was the leading partner in Freehills’ WA mergers and acquisitions (M&A) team as it grew from around four people to the current numbers of about 20 legal staff.
During that time Mr Franklyn has worked on the inside of some of the State’s most significant deals, including the restructuring of Wesfarmers (Franked Income Fund and the last links to its cooperative origins), Wesfarmers’ takeover of Howard Smith, and the pre-float reorganisation of Multiplex.
On top of that he has seen the mid-cap corporate market in Perth dwindle as the big companies have become bigger, mainly only leaving room for small competitors.
While it’s an experience he would never trade, Mr Franklyn is keen to try his own thing after a decade and a half inside one of Australia’s biggest legal groups.
“There were tremendous opportunities at Freehills and now I am looking for new challenges,” Mr Franklyn said.
“You can make your own calls and live with them.”
Franklyn Legal will officially open in January in new digs in the BGC Centre, specialising in M&A, equity capital markets, and general listed corporate advice.
“There is an opportunity there to provide big firm quality advice from a boutique environment,” Mr Franklyn said.
Starting afresh to grow a new practice won’t be a completely new experience for Mr Franklyn.
He had been a partner of Freehills for only 18 months when he took over the Perth M&A practice, required to fill the huge void left by the return of Al Donald to the Sydney office and Michael Ashforth to join merchant banking firm Gresham Partners.
Mr Franklyn doesn’t underestimate the value of the experience he gained at Freehills, including the local merger and then national integration guided by Perth managing partner Peter Mansell.
“As someone who gives advice on acquisitions and mergers all the time it is interesting to be involved in some of them,” he said.
“You learn how important transitioning culture is to the success of a merger.”
Mr Franklyn said his parting with Freehills had been amicable and he would continue working with the national firm to service certain clients.
In the meantime he will be providing some advice to a handful of clients as he sets up the “infrastructure” of his new firm.
Mr Franklyn’s departure leaves Justin Mannolini as the most senior M&A partner at Freehills.
Mr Mannolini said it would be business as usual for the team, which was likely to become “fully integrated” with the firm’s general corporate operations. He said Freehills particularly wanted to leverage off the strength of its energy and resources practice.