Interview with: James Daniel, Principal & Founder

D&D Law | View firm profile

Founder and Principal James Daniel explains how the firm is adapting to clients’ changing needs

What do you see as the main points that differentiate D&D Law from your competitors?

Contrary to most firms, we are senior lawyer top heavy because there can be no learning on the job. We are a boutique law firm for those clients:

  • who seek either business control, ownership or a cash exit
  • motived by either greed or fear.

We become fully engaged when it comes to contests before and after litigation or matters involving tense life changing negotiations before or during mediations or some other critical point in time, restructuring to preserve value and avoid risk and formally appointing insolvency practitioners and dealing with the aftermath.

Because we are a “category killer”, we deliver outcomes that uniquely reflect our finely tuned depth of experience and innate resolve to prevail and our intelligent, strong, assertive, mature, and commercially effective legal representation.

Over the last 3 decades our legal practice, in various predecessor traditional multi service larger national law firms, has serviced those who own, control or who have exposures to large businesses either company side or stakeholder side. We have handled the initiation or defence of complex litigation, dispute resolution, debt recovery, insolvency, restructuring, investigations, corporate governance, and risk management often in hostile, tense, or crisis circumstances. We have advised boards and senior management at all stages of the business cycle. We have handled many complex insolvencies for insolvency practitioners when a business is irretrievably broken (most notably, the Octaviar Group liquidation).

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

With the Australian Tax Office resuming the enforcement of its unpaid tax debt portfolio across 50,000 companies and the current melt down of Australian building industry through rising input costs resulting in fixed priced contracts being “out of the money”, insolvency work will increase sharply in the next 6-12 months. Furthermore, once this becomes entrenched it is likely the sobering effects of the Hayne Banking Royal Commission will wane, and pressure will mount for banks to resume enforcement action as ATO actions trigger bank actions.

Sophisticated clients will continue the trend on difficult challenging legal matters to use named, experienced and well-regarded legal practitioners rather than gravitate to top tier branded law firms where they find themselves in the hands of lawyers who are unknown functionaries and who report into partners who are not “hands on”.

Conflict free category killer boutique law firms with the right mix of senior legal talent and span of control will continue to rise and gain traction with sophisticated clients who know all the games played by the “Big End of Town”.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

Our practice is realigned, and it has become driven by what drives its clients.

We value, measure and reward tangible and intangible value creation making sure our practice is fit for purpose, robust and sustainable in both the short and long term for all stakeholders including our people and clients.

Accordingly, our people not only have a work life balance but also, when engaged at work, a value creation balance between tangible and intangible value creation enabling them to be fully engaged, market facing, and client focused.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

COVID 19 has had a huge effect across so many areas, but none greater than the productivity gains and workplace enjoyability encapsulated by those law firms like D&D Law that have fully embraced technology at home, in the office and with clients. We have been liberated by the fact that connectivity is now instantaneous anytime and anywhere.

We are a fully digitized paperless practice with world leading software solutions that means we have risen well above the traditional machinery processes of old. By the adoption of the latest technology, our lawyers have been liberated to spend their time developing and implementing bespoke ideas to gain a winning margin on behalf of our clients.

Our practice is designed in a way where, through clever use of technology, working from home and working from office are functionally the same resulting in our happy group of professionals operating and performing as a harmonious team. In that way our lawyers are and feel safe in today’s pandemic environment. They are nimble, fast, and effective in achieving client outcomes.

For example, our new firm has from inception embraced the technology and culture of the working from home revolution which facilitates staff and client engagement and boosts productivity recognising that staff and clients should have flexibility of work and service provider arrangements reflective of their own personal circumstances. Each staff member has been equipped with a duplicate set up for home and in-office work meaning that they only need to travel with their laptop. This means that unexpected occurrences for staff and clients do not necessarily impede a staff members capacity to complete their work and clients’ capacity to interact with us at their convenience.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

Costs have been stripped in a major way using world leading practice management systems that enable what used to take days and cost a lot now takes a few hours and costs a fraction of the traditional amount. As well, speed of delivery has increased dramatically, and quality is amazing.

In a non-monetary sense, a client (Grant Galvin, CEO, Master Builders Queensland) has stated:

“We engaged D&D Law during a very tumultuous time for the Board of a small to medium sized superannuation fund for which MBQ were 50% shareholders. A change in the composition of the Board in late 2021 led to a very swift deterioration in the ability for the Board to operate and discharge its fiduciary duties. D&D Law were engaged to assist MBQ and its Board navigate what had become a complex and acrimonious state of affairs. D&D Law successfully assisted the MBQ Board along with myself as the central point of contact to navigate through this situation. I believe their success in assisting MBQ was largely due to not only their technical skill but because of their pragmatic approach to the application of the law. Very few law firms I have worked with could have managed an outcome in this situation. Although ultimately this case included Federal Court action, a well negotiated outcome prior to any expensive and unnecessary hearings was achieved. From day one of our engagement with D&D Law through both James and Michael, the communication and proactive approach was apparent and the relationship between ourselves developed very quickly. Given the quickly evolving situation, I am quite sure without D&D Law, the outcome would have been considerably worse and potentially disastrous for the 60,000 members of the fund for which the trustee was responsible for. I would happily recommend both James and Michael at D&D Law and I would utilise their pragmatic legal services into the future without hesitation.”

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

Clients are looking at the end not the means to the end; law firms who understand deeply and thoroughly what clients need and deliver what they need will be the winners.

Large cumbersome multiservice law firms will be too slow, clumsy and inwardly focused to compete with nimble energised deeply experienced boutique “category killers”.

D&D Law will be among the winners.