The importance and place of commercial practices

Danny Gilbert

(Words by Jerome Doraisamy, photograph by David Field)

Danny Gilbert in front of a triptych commemorating Danny's friend, long-time Catholic parish priest, Father Ted Kennedy, next to St Vincent's Church in Redfern.

Danny Gilbert in front of a triptych commemorating Danny's friend, long-time Catholic parish priest, Father Ted Kennedy, next to St Vincent's Church in Redfern.

The rule of law is an integral cog in the machine that is our society. Upon closer inspection of the commercial context of the world in which we live, it becomes clear how important law firms are in the running and functioning of modern Western democracies and economies such as ours.

 Danny Gilbert, co-founder and managing partner of Gilbert + Tobin, is fully aware of this responsibility.

 “We fundamentally provide services at what’s often called the top end – corporate Australia, government – enabling confidence in societal infrastructure and the capacity for businesses to get things done,” he explained.

 “It is vitally important that lawyers match the ambitions and capabilities of business and provide them with excellence in a highly competitive world - that’s what Gilbert + Tobin does.”

 But this is not the only duty of such firms. Danny, who grew up in country New South Wales, is passionate about addressing social justice issues, particularly those facing the First Australians – something he continues to this day as Co-chair of Cape York Partnership.

 “I’ve been pleased to have made the choice, 30 years ago, to be involved with Indigenous Australians working to advance their interests and empowerment.” he said.

 “If you look at the history of our country, and you think about Indigenous Australians, and how they were treated over the first 200 years – and still in many ways are on the fringes of this country – it seems to me that they do not occupy their proper place in this land.”

 “To be a small agent of change has been very important to me.”

 Danny’s motivation to address injustice has, he said, informed how he runs his firm, including the largest pro bono practice of any major law firm.

 “To do work to assist the community more broadly, with Indigenous people in particular, is the right thing to do. I’ve always tried to run Gilbert + Tobin on the basis of doing the right thing by clients and everyone in the firm.”

 “In that vein, I like to create an environment where people can be the very best lawyers that they can be and give them the freedom to do the work and build their practices consistently with our strategy to be the best corporate law firm in Australia.” he said.

 He describes himself as a leader who likes “operating at a high level”, but retains a fierce determination to see G+T people be able to do their work with energy and determination.

 “I want them to manifest to their colleagues and to their clients that they’re doing work they love doing, and doing it at the highest level of excellence,” he explained.

 “I want them to take real pleasure out of their work and for Gilbert + Tobin more generally to have meaning for them.”

 Looking toward the future of firms within the legal profession, Danny said ‘new law’ firms will face different challenges to those confronted by the established firms, as they look to employ modern media and technology to produce legal services and products in disruptive ways.

 “They’ll have impacts, and some will be successful,” he predicted.

 “Technology is going to change the way in which legal services are provided by all law firms and the new firms will probably be at the forefront of these changes.”

 Such emerging firms are products of the current sociocultural, technological and even political environments. But despite evolution in the social and professional workspace, firms like Gilbert & Tobin will, Danny said, remain principally the same for the immediate future. However all firms will need to adapt quite radically if they are to meet the challenges of technological change, competition and the ever increasing expectations of clients.

 “You have to be a firm that can adjust to the changing economic and regulatory environment,” he concluded.

 “We have to make sure that we provide the best opportunity for businesses to achieve what they want to achieve, within a highly competitive and regulated world. You have to be a firm that clients can be proud to be associated with – both because of the importance of our brand as a quality law firm and our brand as an outstanding corporate citizen”.


Copyright Doraisamy, Field and Standish 2016-2017