Blending the old and the new
Born from the merger of two long-established firms, Culshaw Miller combines a reputation for personalised service with a talent for innovation.
|Established||As Marks & Sands: 1972
As Culshaw Miller: August 2011
Adelaide office: February 2014
|Staff||52, including two legal practice directors and 1 external director plus|
|Practice areas||Family law, commercial, conveyancing, property, employment, estate planning, dispute resolution, litigation|
|Performance||7% annual growth in FY2015
Adelaide office returned $900K revenue in first year
Culshaw Miller came in to being in 2011 through the merger of two long-established firms: Shann Family Lawyers and Marks & Sands. According to Legal Practice Director Jeremy Culshaw, the merger was an opportunity to realise new synergies of scale as one of the three largest family law firms in Perth.
Since 2006, Culshaw Miller has also provided legal expertise for the Commonwealth Attorney General Department's Family Relationships Advice Line, fielding around 2,000 calls a month through a dedicated call centre.
In February 2014, Culshaw Miller opened an Adelaide office as a wholly-owned subsidiary, specialising in family law, estate planning, probate and advocacy.
Culshaw believes clients have become more sophisticated and cost conscious in the way they use legal services — and that law firms need to evolve in response.
"Law firms need to move away from providing a concierge service, from woe to go. We need to be flexible enough to provide a product-based service and act as consultants for clients who want to act on their own behalf," he says.
While there is increasing competition among mid-tier firms, Culshaw says firms who can maintain strong client relationships will continue to thrive. "Firms constantly have to reinvent themselves without losing the relationship with the client. And clients are happy to pay as long as they feel they're getting that service."
Mid-tier firms also continue to benefit from clients looking for a more affordable alternative to their larger peers. "We get a lot of flow down from clients who are dissatisfied with the larger firms. We're able to run more efficiently at a lower hourly rate and offer more flexibility in relation to fixed cost product and value based billing," he says.
And while Culshaw agrees that conditions in Western Australia and South Australia have become more difficult, he says firms that specialise in family law and estate planning are less exposed to economic cycles — even counter-cyclical.
Culshaw says the firm has plans to create a wholly owned subsidiary offering specific products in the family law market — fixed price legal packages for parties who prefer to represent themselves in the family court, providing affordable support in preparing submissions, affidavits and other material.
Meanwhile, the firm uses a range of media to promote its services — including radio, print, digital and social media. Not only does the firm spend around $50,000 a year on search engine optimisation, but it receives around 15 web enquiries a day, with around half of all new clients coming from online enquiries.
Nonetheless, Culshaw believes traditional relationship building is essential for client retention and long-term sustainability. "At the end of the day, you've got to deliver what you promise to deliver. Client communication is the most important aspect of a successful law firm. And a happy client, as we know, refers eight to 10 other clients."