In 2008 a group of lawyers at a large national law firm spotted the gap in the market for smaller, boutique firms to advise 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 up in an old, converted bank in Malvern, just outside Melbourne. Our idea was that, by combining the skills of big firm lawyers in a smaller organisation, we could offer the same quality of advice as the major players, but deliver it in a more 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.”
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.
“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”.
The firm recently implemented a major change programme, engaging CXINLAW to help the firm re-engineer its service delivery to put exceptional customer experience at the heart of everything. Three project teams revolutionized the firm’s approach to onboarding, the service journey and aftercare. “The CX project really helped us understand what we do from the client’s perspective” says Senior Associate, Kaye Ho. “It was great to work with people at all levels across the firm with the common goal of questioning and improving how we deliver our service to clients.” The firm also initiated a Client Advisory Board, comprising several major clients, which meets regularly to provide feedback on CIE Legal’s service.
“We’ve grown steadily” says Peter George “and throughout that, we’ve always focused on how we can do things better, by listening to our clients and our people. The legal industry is changing, and we’re excited by the opportunities this creates for our clients and us”.
February 2023 saw the next stage in CIE Legal’s development when the firm moved offices from the COMO Centre in South Yarra, to Southbank. The team are already enjoying their new home – a light, bright open plan office, with great views (not to mention wonderful coffee shops nearby) is proving to be an inspiring place to meet and collaborate.