Slater & Gordon has agreed to sell their Coffs Harbour family law practice to local lawyers, Benjamin Bryant and Heather McKinnon. Both lawyers were employed by the multinational firm to build the regional practice, which opened ten years ago.
By Sheree Lyons
In late 2017 a consortium of international hedge funds took control of publicly listed Slater & Gordon and by February the company announced plans to downsize. Investment firm KordaMentha was appointed to wind down or divest their succession, criminal and family law divisions, affecting regional practices across Australia.
The good news is an agreement has now been made to divest the Coffs Harbour family law practice back to its principal lawyers, who take over under their new “100% local” banner, whose team is pictured to the left.
For Coffs Harbour it’s the birth of a truly local practice with world-class professionals. For existing family law clients it will be business as usual. The legal team will remain the same, with Benjamin Bryant and Heather McKinnon as the two principal partners, Gemma Rope as Associate Lawyer and Tracy Lee-Smith, the Managing Law Clerk.
The team will continue to work out of the Slater and Gordon offices for the next few weeks and then move to their new premises only a couple of doors down at 35 Gordon Street.
Excited for the future is partner Heather McKinnon, who has built a formidable reputation nationwide as an Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer, during her legal career spanning 34 years.
“It’s a unique situation to come from a country law firm and see what happens after a decade of management by an international, public company,” said Heather. “Our greatest strength is we are all absolutely grounded in the local community but have also had world-class training you wouldn’t normally be exposed to regionally.”
Heather’s belief that the “best way to serve a community is to come from the community” is reflected in her partnership with Benjamin Bryant. Raised in Bellingen, Benjamin has practiced family law locally for almost a decade, and has worked closely with Heather for three years.
“There is nothing like having local insight and connections when working on a family law matter,” said Benjamin. “Considerations like where schools are located and what’s happening in the property market means you can more readily help someone achieve the best outcome.”
Both Benjamin and Associate Gemma are successful examples of younger lawyers choosing to stay in regional areas to study and practice, something unheard of thirty years ago, says Heather.
“It is critical we have good young lawyers come through, as older baby boomers dominate the legal profession regionally,” explains Heather. “It takes time to gain mastery in the law and we have to future-proof Coffs Harbour to help ensure the growth of our city.”
Bryant McKinnon Lawyers plans to continue the sponsorship of local school leadership awards, the Young Actors Studio and the Regional Gallery, a personal passion of Heather’s. While Benjamin will carry on his coaching in school mock trials and student mentoring programs.
Existing clients have been sent a formal letter from Slater and Gordon, outlining the transition in legal terms and an invitation to contact Bryant McKinnon Lawyers with any queries.
All that remains is for the team to move into their new premises in May, proudly sporting their new local banner of Bryant McKinnon Lawyers.
Press Release – April 24, 2018.