Matt Gorman
09 August 2017

Getting straight to the point (with craft beer): How NZ firm Gallaway Cook Allan does law differently

Published on 09 August 2017

Otago-based law firm Gallaway Cook Allan prides itself on doing things differently. For CEO Matt Gorman, this is more than a trite truism; the firm is driven by a straight-talking, collaborative approach that has seen it grow and thrive. Insights spoke to Gorman on Gallaway Cook Allan’s “fun, unstuffy” approach to law, going paperless and open-plan, and how the firm came to have its own craft beer. 

“Getting straight to the point is one of the firm’s organising principles,” said Gorman. “It underpins everything we do. Delivering on it means we have to understand our clients’ businesses, understand what they want to achieve and give them straightforward advice about how to get there.” 

What makes Gallaway Cook Allan so distinctive comes down to several factors. “It’s never one single thing that makes the difference,” observed Gorman. “Differentiation is a combination of firm attributes that, taken together, provide value to clients in a way that is hard for other firms to copy. For us, it is a combination of giving concise, practical advice together with an open, no-nonsense style.”

“From the perspective of our firm culture it drives who we recruit, what we look for in our people, and how we expect them to work together." 

Such pragmatism also flows through to how the firm works – paperless and open plan.

“Open plan arose out of frustration in our old building. We were spread over several floors, so silos and subcultures within the firm started to emerge. Open plan enables us to communicate and collaborate more easily and it helps our younger lawyers to learn by observing how their more senior colleagues deal with clients and matters.

“Paperless is (or should be) a no-brainer for any modern law firm,” said Gorman. “We had the burning platform of limited storage space in our new building and that has helped us to really focus on how to go paperless!”

Another claim few other firms could enjoy – Gallaway Cook Allan has its own craft beer.

“We considered a microbrewery, but realised the mess, smell and consent process might cause some difficulties. Instead, we worked with a very talented local craft brewer, Bart Acres from Stacpooles, to brew a Gallaway Cook Allan ale that we feel reflects the brand. We involved quite a lot of our staff in the process and enjoyed several sessions gradually getting closer and closer to the final product. Bart brews 300 litres at a time and we always have a 50 litre keg on tap in our Wintergarden. Staff and clients have free access to it and make full use of it after business hours (Thursday and Friday late afternoons seem to be suddenly busy with client meetings). We’re not selling the beer; we plan to be a law firm for the foreseeable future, but who knows, we may need to change our business model when the robots take over!”

It is apparent how much Gorman delights in his role at helm of Gallaway Cook Allan.

“As the CEO, I love that we just get on with it and get stuff done,” said Gorman. “Having spent most of my career in global firms, the chance to work with a mid-sized firm has been a revelation in terms of the ability to bring about change. We have a real can-do attitude and have taken huge strides over the last few years to create a modern, fun, unstuffy and forward-thinking firm. We have a partner team open to change and willing to invest. That makes my job easier – and enjoyable! Our office space is a joy in which to work. It gives me a real buzz to see how our staff have taken to the space and a new style of working.”