Our Story: How CIE Legal became the firm we are today

In 2008 a group of lawyers at a large national law firm spotted the gap in the market for smaller, boutique firms to provide a more focused service to major organisations. “I’d always wanted to set-up my own firm” says partner Andrew Maher, “and in 2009, that became reality when we started a small law firm in an old converted bank in Malvern. Our idea was that, by combining the skills of big firm lawyers in a smaller organisation, we would be able to offer the same quality of advice as the major players, but deliver it in a more focused, bespoke way.”

The firm quickly expanded to offer a full corporate/commercial service when it became the sole legal service provider to Nissan in Australia, providing an in-house style service using CIE Legal’s flexible resources and support. “That was a great feeling” recalls Andrew, “working with such a respected, significant business to handle all of their legal issues across the board.”

Daniel Marks joined as the founding corporate and commercial partner from a major national practice to establish and lead that ground-breaking relationship with Nissan. “I was very proud to lead the consolidation of over 2O different legal service providers into one firm” says Daniel. As the relationship grew, Mark Waters joined as the dispute resolution partner followed by Raph Goldenberg who joined as partner from his senior in-house role at Toyota, and immediately went to work at Nissan as its seconded General Counsel. Lionel Appelboom joined soon after as a partner to provide additional support in the commercial and dispute resolution practice areas.

Photos show CIE Legal’s first offices in a converted bank in Malvern, Melbourne.
Photos show CIE Legal’s first offices in a converted bank in Malvern, Melbourne.

“What we learned through this period” says Mark, “is that big organisations really saw the benefit in receiving legal advice from our smaller firm, because they liked the combination of small-firm service and big-firm expertise”.

As CIE Legal grew, the firm became a trusted adviser to consumer product businesses of all types, from manufacturers, to franchisors, to retailers. Raph puts it well when he says “we found that our collective experience and understanding of how consumer product businesses work really gave us the edge when advising them. We understood where our advice fitted in their business cycle and so could be more commercial in the way we worked with them.”

It was the firm’s lawyers, the quality of the work and its client base that attracted Peter George, a former Minter Ellison partner, to join CIE Legal, becoming Managing Partner in 2016. Peter was excited by the idea of leading a firm with a clear shared vision.

“CIE Legal really does have a unique culture” says Peter. “We’re a bunch of people who want to be part of a firm that clients enjoy using and colleagues enjoy being part of. So, we put decency at the heart of everything we do. It really does make a difference to the way we feel and the quality of our work”.

There’s no standing still at CIE Legal and it is constantly finding new and innovative ways to deliver its services. “We’re working with clients to implement a variety of approaches to working more effectively and efficiently with technology and automation as the heart of these initiatives” says Peter. The legal industry is changing. We’re changing with it and we’re up for the challenge”.

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Level 11 Como Office Tower
644 Chapel Street
South Yarra VIC 3141
+61 3 9948 2470