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09 November 2020

CGW celebrates 40 years of legal excellence

Founding partners, Peter Cooper, David Grace and Chris Ward met in the early 70s while partners working at a local Brisbane firm. They noticed a gap in the market and decided to band together and on 22 December 1980, launched Cooper Grace Ward as a new firm with a fresh approach.

Cooper Grace Ward is celebrating 40 years of providing legal services.

From its inception in 1980, Cooper Grace Ward has gone from strength to strength and has become one of the largest independent Queensland-based firms, serving clients across Australia and internationally.

The firm’s managing partner, Chris Ward reflected on the milestone.

“As a firm, we’re incredibly grateful to our clients and our wonderful team whose contribution and many achievements have made CGW what it is today. When I think back to our humble beginnings in 1980, it’s been quite the ride but it’s been our relationships with our people, our clients, our suppliers and even our competitors, that have carried us through the good times and the more challenging ones.”

Taking a risk

Founding partners, Peter Cooper, David Grace and Chris Ward met in the early 70s while partners working at a local Brisbane firm. They noticed a gap in the market and decided to band together and on 22 December 1980, launched Cooper Grace Ward as a new firm with a fresh approach.

Forty years of growth

In the 1980s, Brisbane was starting to step up on the world stage, hosting the Commonwealth Games in 1982 and the World Expo in 1988.

“We witnessed a real surge of government and business investment coupled with increased tourism, and suddenly monumental change was happening in Queensland and the Australian economy. Cooper Grace Ward was positioned well to benefit from that, and we began to grow exponentially,” Ward said.

During this period, the firm grew quickly with many new lawyers joining from other firms.

This growth slowed in the 1990s when the Australian recession kicked in and slowed the economy.

“When the ‘recession we had to have’ kicked in, it put the brakes on our growth for a while. It was a challenging time for us and our clients, but we adapted and made it through while many of our competitors did not,” he added.

During the 40 years of growth, the firm saw several major firms and partners merge into the Cooper Grace Ward fold including Power & Power, Thompson King & Connolly and Bain Gasteen. The firm also had an association with Hunt & Hunt Lawyers.

Retaining and nurturing team members

One of CGW’s defining principles has been to increase the emphasis on looking after team members who, with a greater level of support behind them, go the extra mile to look after the firm’s clients.

The results speak for themselves. The firm has been named a finalist in the Financial Review Client Choice Awards in eight out of the past 11 years, and a winner in three of those years.

Over the past decade, the firm has dedicated significant resources to ensuring they remain at the forefront of the diversity and inclusion spectrum, including forming a diversity committee who drive a range of initiatives around gender, age, impairment and cultural diversity.

The firm proudly totes a generous parental leave policy, diversity team and wellness committee. In addition, the firm was one of the first law firms in Queensland to have a domestic violence policy and to provide paid domestic violence leave.

Cooper Grace Ward has been recognised for its achievements in these areas, most recently being named as Human Resources Director – Employer of Choice 2020 and one of only four Australian law firms to be recognised as an Inclusive Employer by the Diversity Council of Australia.

Maintaining independence

Cooper Grace Ward has been an independent firm for four decades and its strategy going forward is to maintain that independence.

“Throughout our 40 years, it’s been important for us to keep an eye on the trends and continuously assess whether our strategy is right for us, and in strategic planning over the last two to three years our partners and team have reinforced the desire to remain independent, as it differentiates us in the market for clients and talent, and gives our partners control of our destiny.”

“In addition, our membership of ADVOC, compliments our strategy and gives us access to international clients and connections.”

Chris Ward is the current president of ADVOC Asia and Chair of ADVOC Global.

Moving forward

December 2020 will mark Cooper Grace Ward’s 40th year of practice, but the firm is still fresh-faced and growing.

The firm continues to invest heavily in knowledge, training and technology to better support clients and team members, and to underpin ongoing organic growth.

Chris Ward, the firm’s current managing partner and a founding partner of CGW, will complete his fourth term in December 2021, after 16 years in the role.

In October this year, the firm announced the appointment of Charles Sweeney as deputy managing partner.

Ward will work closely with Sweeney through a period of transition and Sweeney will then take on the role of managing partner from 1 January 2022.

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This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please let us know.

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Key contacts

Charles-Sweeney-web
Charles Sweeney
Managing Partner
Chris-Ward-web
Chris Ward
General Counsel

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