Small is beautiful in legal split

THE law firm headed by high-profile Cottesloe mayor John Hammond is being split almost down the middle following the failure of an 18-month merger experiment.

Three of the firm’s six partners will cease to be part of the business tomorrow, with all of them going their separate ways, several months after those involved knew the writing was on the wall.

John Fiocco and Richard Wilenski, who joined as the remnants of Fiocco Hopkins Nash, and Joanne Matich, who will return to being a sole practitioner at her existing office, have decided to quit.

John Hammond will remain with partners Carol Bahemia and Heather Nicols, along with a little more than half the firm’s other lawyers and support staff that totalled over 30 before the split was agreed.

Mr Hammond painted the picture of an amicable parting but confirmed there had been clear differences of opinion among some of the partners for about six months.

“The feeling of the partners who are staying, and the ones who are leaving, is small is beautiful,” he said.

“It is fair to say that we have known for some time that there is going to be a parting of the ways.

Mr Fiocco, the deputy chairman of WA film body Screenwest, will stay on at Hammond Worthington’s Pier Street offices for several weeks while a refurbishment takes place at office space provided to him by big union client the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association.

Mr Fiocco, who specialises in film and television, industrial relations and personal injuries compensation law, said his clients had

found it more difficult to get access to him in the larger firm.

“Some clients just wanted to be able to walk into my office and see the boss,” he said.

Mr Wilenski is joining Tottle Christensen to continue working on litigation and corporate matters in the construction industry, as well as intellectual property related work in the technology field.

He said the merger failed because the partners had different clients and different views.

Ms Matich will operate as Joanne Matich & Associates, a name she has maintained as a telephone listing for her Nedlands base despite the merger.

She focuses on commercial and property law.

Among those remaining at Pier Street, Mr Hammond specialises in local government, industrial relations and commercial litigation, Ms Nicols has a family law practice and former legal aid commissioner Ms Bahemia also specialises in industrial relations and commercial litigation.

The firm already had recruited some new faces below partner lever in the wake of the split.

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