Australian Law’s $6 Million Man

Corrs CEO

At a time when the legal business is booming across the globe, running a major law firm becomes a really big business too. And with revenues of $265 million the top of the largest, independent Australian law firm comes with a hefty price tag.

For Corrs Chambers Westgarth CEO Gavin McLaren it means he is also the top paid legal CEO in the country, at $6 million a year.

But having just jettisoned the Catholic Church, a major fee generator, it is understood some partners are less than happy with the loss of a major client.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney has already taken $3 million in fees away from the law firm in response to their dumping, saying Corrs would no longer handle the church’s child abuse cases. The work has gone to Dentons.

Last June MacLaren was reappointed Senior Partner and CEO for a second term, to 30 June 2028. The initial appointment was due to end on 30 June 2023 but the term extension was brought forward.

At that time, Chairman Stephen Price commented: “The firm moved to reappoint Gavin for an additional term, ahead of the scheduled renewal process. The seven year extension reflects Corrs’ success under Gavin’s leadership. Over the past three years we have seen an improvement in our market position in a number of key areas, with a significant expansion of the firm’s client base, enhanced recruitment outcomes, positive cultural change, considerable growth in market share and profitability.”

The AFR report is that MacLaren’s pay is just short of the $6 million for the 2020-21 year and projected to increase to $7 million in the next financial year.

The firm’s revenues have certainly grown massively – at 75 per cent over the past four years – as well as growing partner numbers in areas like banking, corporate, mining and energy. Partnership growth has been over 20 per cent in the same period with a group of Allen & Overy partners moving to the firm this year alone.

The clear focus for MacLaren is for him to become the leading firm in Australia.

The firm handled the pandemic better than many with MacLaren telling Lawyers Weekly that it had already developed a flexible working model and was able to adjust to the changes that came with lockdowns and business and social dislocation.

“Firms need to focus on culture and connection. In many markets, lawyers across all areas of the profession are suffering from the aftereffects of two years of uncertainty, increased demands and heightened stress levels,” he said.

“There must be a renewed focus on employee wellbeing and on creating opportunities for bringing fun and social engagement back into the workplace.”

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