By Adrian Dommisse
Niche commercial law practice Dommisse Attorneys is marking the end of its fourth year in business by taking on new employees, moving to larger premises – and reflecting on its mission as a relationship-based practice.
Founder Adrian Dommisse, who started the practice after several years with various large national law firms, says the initial impetus came from “being starved of client relationships” – and that forging strong personal ties with clients continues to be a strong element of Dommisse Attorneys’ vision.
“When you’re working in a very large firm, the client relationships feel quite distant, held by the most senior attorneys who instruct their juniors in what needs to be done,” explains Dommisse. “Having little interaction with the client makes it harder to deliver what’s needed. Combine that frustration with extremely challenging fee targets, and it’s hard to hold onto your passion. Starting my own practice has enabled me to maintain the inspiration that keeps me going.”
Dommisse, who credits his unique perspective as a commercial laywer partly to seven years in overseas investment banking, says he and partner Jody Doyle intend to maintain the firm’s status as a highly-skilled provider of niche corporate finance and strategic services. Third partner Jana van Zyl joined early in 2013 to round out the consumer law and compliance offerings.
“Many of our clients tend to be relatively early-stage companies in growth phases – just like us,” says Dommisse. “We understand the issues they’re grappling with not only as lawyers, but also from personal experience. Knowing the Companies Act is just the start of being able to offer great advice – we believe you also need insight into what people are really facing and what they need.”
Dommisse says the lower overheads of a smaller firm also enable him and his colleagues to invest more in their client relationships. “Basically, it means I have the luxury of investing time with prospective clients, demonstrating our commitment and skill, without being forced to bill them,” he explains. “It’s professionally more rewarding – and if you consider the 20-year revenue stream from one loyal client, it’s ultimately financially rewarding as well.”
The firm recently hired corporate lawyer Tracy Hockly to work alongside Dommisse, and is currently finalising its engagement of another corporate lawyer to bring the firm’s total to five lawyers.
“We’re acutely aware of the need to make sure our ethic survives the growth of the firm,” says Dommissee. “Our clients can rest assured we will never become a mega-practice with fees to match.”