The first special achievement award winner in an Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers report has the hallmarks of an innovative leader: ambition, continual improvement and the ability to see opportunities that others miss.
In 1988 Danny Gilbert left a leading Australian law partnership to set up on his own with fellow lawyer Tony Tobin. From the outset Gilbert+Tobin had a prescient focus on the technology, communications and media industries and quickly built its brand, working with businesses involved in the technology boom that accompanied the growth of the internet. “We became knmown as a maverick firm, willing to take chances, and aggressive in recruiting talent and clients,” says Mr Gilbert.
In 2002, the firm changed strategy to focus on high-end corporate work and has established itself in the top tier of corporate law firms in Australia.
More recently, lawyers have seen co-working spaces spring up across the world to cater for T-shirt wearing freelancers, tech start-ups and workers in the creative sectors. But seeing that G+T could similarly benefit from collaborative workspaces, Mr Gilbert relocated its headquarters to open-plan offices in Barangaroo, Sydney.
The move fits G+T’s identity as a technology- and innovation-led law firm. The firm’s clients’ commendations to researchers for the Innovative Lawyers report included as many for technology and process experts as for the expertise of the firm’s lawyers.
G+T believes success comes from attracting the right people. When it comes to recruitment, Mr Gilbert’s approach is decisive rather than democratic. “I make decisions on who I want to bring into partnership without the complex process of getting the partners on board.”
This has meant taking risks on lateral hires and setting a high bar for performance and cultural fit, which means that many lawyers do not stay. Without using quotas, the firm has the highest proportion of female partners of any leading corporate law firm in Australia.
Mr Gilbert has a strong commitment to social justice, relating in particular to indigenous Australians. On Australia’s bicentenary of colonial settlement, and the weekend before opening the G+T office nearly 30 years ago, Mr Gilbert marched in the Australia Day protest to help draw attention to indigenous rights. Since then he has offered support and services to indigenous peoples. He has also continued to lend time and finances to a range of organisations, scholarships and initiatives.