World-Class Law Expertise
Tony Britten-Jones, Managing Partner at Piper Alderman, tells us about his company’s agile approach to law in Australia
Writer: Sean Galea-Pace | Project Manager: Ben Weaver
“We are a firm that prides itself on our ability to evolve and innovate.”
This is Tony Britten-Jones, Managing Partner at Piper Alderman.
His company is a premier commercial law firm in Australia, with offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Today, Piper Alderman has eight main speciality areas – commercial litigation, corporate and commercial, property and development, projects, infrastructure and construction, employment relations, restructuring and insolvency, financial services and fintech and intellectual property and technology.
Having first joined Piper Alderman in 2003, Britten-Jones stepped into his current role in January 2015. With over two decades of experience, he is quite clear about Piper Alderman’s competitive advantage.
“We compete at the highest levels in our niche areas of practice, but have managed to retain our independence and a personal relationships focused approach to our clients as well as avoiding the ‘Big Law’ characteristics of the majority of other firms providing corporate and commercial law services at a national level across Australia. We are known for our pragmatism, our ability to get deals done as well as successfully conducting ground-breaking litigation in a number of areas.
“We have a diverse range of clients within our areas of practice,” discusses Britten-Jones. “A particular concentration with our sweet spots being midcap public and larger private entities that operate at a national or semi national level, entrepreneurs whose businesses are in growth mode, select public sector, education and not for profit institutions and overseas based companies operating or investing in Australia.”
Piper Alderman has a strong commitment to its community service. The organisation has created a robust culture which prioritises ethical choice and social responsibility. This means its people are passionate about helping others both inside and beyond the firm.
The organisation believes in access to justice for everyone. As such, Piper Alderman’s team is dedicated to the provision of pro bono legal services across all levels of the firm. Piper Alderman actively supports organisations with limited access to legal services including schools and educational institutions, charities and community legal centres.
Its Corporate and Social Responsibility Committee, led by a partner, oversees a range of charity events including initiatives designed to reduce its ecological footprint and tackle climate change. The Piper Alderman team country-wide supports many great causes both locally and in wider communities.
Piper Alderman is committed to the continuous improvement of its environmental footprint. The organisation is continuously seeking ways to lessen its impact on the environment through more efficient business practices including reduced paper use, recycling and minimising energy consumption.
In April 2021, it was announced that 51 of Piper Alderman’s lawyers have been recognised across 42 areas of law in The Best Lawyers® in Australia, 2022 edition.
“Recognised in their respective fields as experts in their area of practice, the 50 percent increase in our number of recognised lawyers since the 2017 edition is indicative of the firm’s growth and journey over the last six years,” comments Britten-Jones.
A History of Piper Alderman
Piper Alderman is a long-established law firm tracing its roots back to Adelaide in 1846. In 1988, renowned Adelaide law firms Aldermans and Piper Bakewell & Piper merged to become Piper Alderman and formed one of the leading law companies in Adelaide. The company has evolved from a one-city entity to a national name with total staff of approximately 350 across its Australian offices.
• 1840s – William Bakewell began the practice of Bartley & Bakewell.
• 1892 – Arthur William Piper joined Bartley & Bakewell, forming Piper Bakewell & Piper. The firm acted for families and private clients as well as representing commercial interests in steelmaking, manufacturing, banking, insurance, primary production and retailing.
• 1928 – Aldermans was founded by Sir Harry Alderman in 1928. By 1988, Aldermans employed 70 percent, including nine partners and focused on insurance and commercial law.
• 1988 – Piper Alderman was formed under its current name upon the merge of Aldermans and Piper Bakewell & Piper.
• 1998 – The organisation established an office in Sydney in order to best meet the needs of its clients operating in the eastern states.
• 2000 – Piper Alderman established an office in Melbourne.
• 2004 – Four years later, the company expanded further and formed an office in Brisbane.
• 2016 – Piper Alderman merged with Adelaide-based boutique corporate law firm Watsons Lawyers, boosting the energy and resources practice.
• 2017 – On 1 November 2017, Piper Alderman merged with Melbourne-based boutique corporate and commercial firm Norton Gledhill.
• 2018 – The company celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Aldermans and Piper Bakewell & Piper merge, as well as 20 years of national expansion into Sydney.
Meeting COVID’s challenge head-on
COVID-19 has impacted most industries either directly or indirectly. In order to mitigate disruption amidst the pandemic, Piper Alderman assembled a COVID-19 response team that was quick to adapt to the changing landscape. Its policy directives help to protect against the spread of the virus, while at the same time ensuring that service delivery is maintained and the company’s customer-centric approach isn’t compromised during challenging times.
“As we move forward and hopefully beyond COVID, business activity and consequential demand for legal services in Australia are increasingly buoyant,” explains Britten-Jones. “Obviously, it’s been harder for some businesses to adapt than others, but those that are adapting are facing a very exciting period.”
Targeting Future Growth
With reference to Piper Alderman’s most influential projects, Britten-Jones points to the success achieved in representing the interests of boutique and the many new players in the gas and energy space.
“We are leaders in the fintech and emerging non-mainstream financial services sectors,” he explains. “We have successfully transacted a wide range of significant agribusiness investments, frequently representing the interests of offshore investors and we have an exceptionally innovative ‘claims origination team’ who have identified and successfully implemented a number of recovery strategies for aggrieved investors and minority shareholders.”
Over the past few years, Piper Alderman has achieved exponential growth. As such, the firm’s annual revenue has increased from $50 million to $85 million during the last five years. “It has come from an even blend of organic growth, lateral hires and smaller merger and acquisition actions,” discusses Britten-Jones. “We have avoided opportunities for large scale mergers because of the difficulties such mergers present in terms of retaining the culture and nimbleness that has led to our success.”
Piper Alderman believes in the value of its staff and operates with a mantra of ‘attract, train and retain.’ “We create an environment where individuals can flourish but are supported,” explains Britten-Jones. “As Managing Partner, I say yes far more frequently than no.”
Moving forward, Piper Alderman is set to continue its growth as a national firm through responsiveness to clients and an innovative approach. “Developing our internal IT will be crucial to achieve and manage that growth so that will certainly be a key focus,” he explains.