HWL Ebsworth Lawyers
Being different through low-costs and low salaries
Widely known for its low-cost approach, its large number of partners (which has now been overtaken by Minters) and of course, their mercurial and seemingly autocratic leader, Juan Martinez, HWLE is your standard mid-tier Australian law firm giving its competitors a run for its money. What you can do for fees, HWLE can do better, and in an increasingly competitive legal market, the clients appreciate that. The part they are missing though is that clients will cough up extortionate amounts of money for their most challenging problems, and so by its nature, HWLE does miss out on this valuable part of the pie. Back to Juan, we find it quite funny that he has gone a bit quiet in the media since his failed attempt in 2020 at a $1.2bn IPO – rest be assured, we think he will rear his head in the press sooner or later though.
HWLE’s model lends itself to doing mostly a lot of mid-market work, and its main stratagem is to reduce costs to maximise profits. So much so that we have heard HWLE lawyers use their own laptops at home (still on Citrix?) and require permission to print colour documents at work (please do tell us if this has since changed). Simple luxuries that are enjoyed by lawyers at competitor firms, but not an HWLE lawyer it seems. If you can get past the lack of these “nice-to-haves” and the fact that HWLE was one of the last stubborn firms to send their lawyers home for COVID, the firm can provide a relatively decent work-life balance at times to enable you to enjoy the better things in life. Yes, you may not be doing the mega deals here, but at least you won’t be getting as crushed as your counterparts at top-tier firms.
Given its focus on costs, it goes without saying that you will be compensated accordingly, especially at the junior levels. This changes at the more senior and partner levels, but a brutal and ruthless “eat what you kill” culture is the trade-off for partner packages that compete with the Big 6, a mighty feat for a mid-tier firm like HWLE. As a budding lawyer, you will get decent training here, both on the job and formal training, and some practice areas at the firm are noteworthy. In particularly, HWLE has a strong insurance practice, so if this is your cup of tea, and you can handle HWLE’s shortcomings, this is something that the firm offers more broadly (and where the Big 6 may only have a niche team for).