JOHN Mullins is set to stand down as managing partner of Mullins Lawyers, saying the change of leadership with new ideas, new energy and new purpose can only be a good thing for the law firm. 

Mullins (pictured left) will step down from the role at the end of the month and talks to Brisbane Legal about some of the highlights and challenges he has faced during his time as managing partner along with what the future holds for the firm.

Mullins' resignation comes the same year the firm celebrated 35 years in operation - Mullins' time as managing partner extended over this entire period.

"In this time, I've seen the firm grow from very small to a well-respected mid-tier commercial firm - I am extremely proud of this," says Mullins.

"Doing this job for a long time does take its toll and I believe now is the right time to stand down."  

Mullins will take over as chairman of the firm - a newly created position, and will remain a senior partner while practising full time as a commercial and sports lawyer.

Mullins' successor as managing partner will be Curt Schatz (pictured right) who has been with the firm for more than 20 years.

"Curt was elected unanimously by the partners to take the role earlier this year. He is a natural leader and has my full support," says Mullins.

"I know that Curt will do an excellent job - he is a very driven and competitive person as he has shown by the growth and success of our property and hospitality group which he leads."

Schatz says it was an "honour" to accept the role of managing partner and follow in the footsteps of Mullins who "has been an exceptional leader".

"I'm excited to take on this role at a time when the legal profession is evolving," says Schatz.

"The changing face of the legal industry means we need to be truly innovative, efficient and adaptable. I look forward to leading the firm into the future with innovation and vision."

Mullins adds that the firm has always sought to define its own destiny and has resisted a number of merger opportunities in the past.

"Defining our own future means we can control the character and the nature of the firm and ensure we maintain the high ethical standards that were so important to my father, my brother Pat, myself and all of our partners," says Mullins.

"We know Curt shares these views and that the firm is in good hands.

"Mullins Lawyers has a proud and successful history and the next chapter is about to be written."

Q&A with John Mullins

What prompted you to stand down as managing partner?

Apart from management, what managing partners also do is provide leadership. For our firm, succession and managing succession successfully is part of our business plan, and it is something very necessary for our ongoing success. At some point there needed to be succession of the managing partner's role and I've been conscious of this for a number of years. I believe that the time is now right. These sort of decisions are not black and white but they are a judgement call and, after considering this carefully, my judgement was that now was the right time. On a more personal note, it was the firms 35th anniversary this year and I also turn 57, which coincidently was the same age dad was when he started the firm, so this seemed nice symmetry.

What have been some of the biggest highlights during your career in your role as managing partner at Mullins Lawyers? 

I think it is important for managing partners not to have a score board. There are big issues and small issues which you deal with every day and it's how you deal with all of these things which produces the results for the firm. I think that the things that I look at most are maintaining a good culture, good values and our integrity over a long period of time, and through very different stages and sizes. I think that is what I'm most proud of. The funny thing about our culture is that because it is really the only culture I have ever known, I don't think there is anything remarkable about it. So when people join us from other firms and tell me what a great culture we have, it is a very good feeling.

What have been some of the biggest challenges?

There are two things. One is the external factor that you cannot control - the economy and secondly, the complex issue of dealing with people. There are times when the economy is strong, there are times when there is recession, global financial crisis and an economy lacking confidence as we see now. These business conditions require a calm but determined response. You have to remain confident, positive and you must persevere. When it comes to people, we all know that the people make the organisation. Engaging people, dealing with their ambitions, motivating them and, at times, managing them is the most difficult thing that you can do. I have learnt a lot over my 35 years in relation to people and I recognise that I haven't always got it right but the one thing that I have always strived to do above anything else is to be fair.

What do you aim to achieve in your new role as chairman?

The role of chairman is to chair the newly created executive committee. The executive committee is made up of the managing partner, practice group leaders and the CFO/COO. My role is there to have a structured way for the firm to retain the corporate knowledge and experience that I have gained over the last 35 years. The leadership and management of the firm will be the responsibility of the new managing partner, Curt Schatz. The creation of a chairman's role is to assist in the transition but Curt will be the one leading the firm and driving it forward, and that is the way it should be and how I want it to be. My primary function is to continue to contribute to the business services group and in particular through experience as a commercial lawyer particularly in my specialty in sports law.

What does the future hold for Mullins Lawyers?

The future for our firm is bright. We have very talented and capable lawyers and highly skilled and committed support staff. We practice across a wide range of specialty areas. I've always believed that it's not how big you are but it is how good you are that determines your future. We are a very good law firm. Leadership is very important but the firm's future success depends on everyone playing their part. The change of leadership with new ideas, new energy and new purpose can only be a good thing. Curt has both the experience and the passion to lead the firm and I see it only going from strength to strength. I am very confident that Curt will do an excellent job of leading the firm forward.

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