John Nerurker, CEO (Management), Mills Oakley

In my previous post, I addressed the issue of whether law firms should be managed by lawyers or by business experts – and noted that while many lawyers resist the notion of having non-lawyers direct the operation of their firms, the basic principles of business management are essential to law firm success.

This week I would like to introduce you to John Nerurker, who for fourteen years has brought his background in accounting and business to the job of CEO (Management) of Mills Oakley, a commercial practice firm with offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth.

Mills Oakley, which was established in 1864, today has more than 90 partners and 670 staff, and “a client base of ASX-200 listed companies, mid-sized corporations, the public sector and not-for-profit organisations.” The firm was recently named “Australia’s Fastest Growing Law Firm” by the Australasian Lawyer.

Nerurker works closely with Mills Oakley’s partners to lead the firm’s overall direction and strategy, but of course has no direct input on legal matters. In an article that appeared in the Australiasian Lawyer in 2010, Nerurker explained that Mills Oakley originally hired him because it wanted to break from its traditional approach to management, bringing “new skills and a more business-oriented approach to the table.”

Nerurker believes that “remaining relevant in the delivery of value to clients” is a major issue facing law firms today, and says that “in practical terms, this means prioritising innovation, because the business models in our sector are now evolving so rapidly. The most astute firms will always be looking for ways to refresh service delivery.”

In 2017, Mills Oakley received the prestigious GlobalX Australian Law Firm of the Year Award (101-500 lawyers). With its successes, accolades, and record of growth, the firm has clearly demonstrated that, in its case, choosing a non-lawyer to manage the team has been a wise decision.

In the spirit of disclosure, I have had the honour of serving the firm.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.