How the CEO of Australia’s largest law firm put paid to her CEO position?
MinterEllison is Australia’s largest law firm and CEO Annett Kimmitt has become embroiled in a controversy about ethics and the modern workplace that has seen her labelled a ‘dead CEO walking’.
The scandal involves an email Kimmitt sent to the firm’s 2000-odd employees advising that the firm was acting for Australian Attorney General Christian Porter, accused of a 1988 rape offence that has created headlines in Australia over the past week, including unwelcome negative publicity for MinterEllison.
Attorney-General Christian Porter is not expected to return to parliament next week as he has taken indefinate leave, while denying the allegations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison today said he had spoken with Porter, who last week confirmed he was the Cabinet minister at the centre of the allegations.
“I know that for many of you it’s a tough day and I want to apologise for the pain you may be experiencing,” Kimmitt wrote in her email to staff which had been checked through the “lens of our Purposes and our Values” process and the firm’s ‘approvals process’.
The ‘confidential’ email set off the storm of publicity for Kimmitt and her firm, an acknowledgement that firm partner Peter Bartlett, a near-half century veteran at MinterEllison and its longest-serving lawyer and two-time chairman, who was at the centre of the representation claim.
The legal profession anywhere is a leaking pipe of scandal and intrigue, particularly when it comes to major issues of this nature. Kimmitt’s email was reportedly circulating among law firms in Australia within minutes of being sent by the CEO.
The Australian Financial Review described the reaction to the email as seismic.
“. . this was the leader of a law firm that generates about $700 million in annual revenue and does more work for the Australian government than any other private law firm. And she was talking about her apparent shame and regret that the firm was acting for the first law officer of the Commonwealth in a private matter,” the AFR reported.
Will Kimmitt survive? Some at least don’t think so.
The high profile CEO who has had a highly successful career spoke recently to LawyersWeekly about the firm’s reaction to the pandemic and their new, agile approach to providing top level legal services.
As the AFR report, Kimmitt has a five-year contract but very few observers – inside the firm and looking on – think she will survive. “Dead CEO walking,” said a partner at a competitor firm. “People are playing CEO lotto – and no one is giving her more than 10 days.”
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