Canberra law firm United Legal has Peter Glover as its most senior legal practitioner.
Pete graduated in law in approximately 1985 and has been practising for well over 30 years.
He first of all started his career with an old established firm, then known as Gallen’s. He stayed there for some period.
Pete then left and spent several months working for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs but couldn’t stand the idea of trying to cut people who’d fought for the country from their pensions. Pete then went to work for the Corporate Legal Office of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
He later spent some time with a private company and then joined the private sector law firm, Scott Campbell Sheils.
Whilst there were some very bright lawyers in the firm, in particular Michael Scott, he was largely tutored and mentored by Peter Sheils QC.
You may know most lawyers actually act as either a solicitor or a barrister. All of us in Canberra are admitted as both barristers and solicitors but will generally choose one path or the other to practice in.
Peter Sheils was a very successful and aggressive QC that for one reason or another had decided to stop working as a barrister and come back and work as a solicitor.
This was particularly fortunate for Pete. Most solicitors would be lucky to instruct a QC two or three times a year. Pete had one in the office next door to mentor him and tutor him for many years. This mentoring and tutoring has provided for the soul of the firm United Legal.
Peter Sheils QC was a man that would never taken a backwards step. He had unbinding loyalty to not only his lawyers, but also was a man who was fiercely devoted to workers. These included blue collar workers and small business people. He absolutely hated the way large corporations could treat them or hated seeing people treated unfairly.
Peter Sheils QC wanted to retire and the firm was subsequently largely sold off to another firm.
Pete however went on to engage in some other business ventures, only running a small practice of 20 clients or so.
It was his intention to remain small and only run cases for serious injury clients such as paraplegics, quadriplegics, brain injured clients, amputees and people who have had serious spinal or other surgery.
Along came a young man named Robert Montagnino. You will come to know him as Rob. One of the most friendly, considerate and kind lawyers you could ever find in your life. He’s also exceedingly bright.
He started to encourage Pete to take on a few more cases. The Canberra Law Firm subsequently grew. From then on, instead of just acting in large and serious claims (something we’ll return to later). We started to take on other not so large matters.
One of the things Peter Sheils had taught Peter Glover however was that it’s more important to do a really good job for your clients and get the absolute best results you can for the clients than make money.
When you look at law firms, they are businesses. It is important to understand that running a law firm is running a business. Law firms have extremely high overheads. Some of those big firms that advertise day in, day out, and you hear them just about every time you turn on a TV or radio or look at the internet. For some large legal firms, this advertising runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a week.
Now stop and pause to consider that.
In the Supreme Court for cases over $250,000, there’s only one judicial officer we call the appointed person, and an associate judge to conduct those cases not even full time. The other judges get together two or three times a year to have a bit of a blitz on them.
The reality is however that given there are well over 1000 claims filed in work and motor vehicle matters each year, there is a real shortage of judges to allow compensation and damages claims, that is accident claims, to be heard quickly.
In order to meet their overheads, those solicitors are forced to settle cases. There is simply not enough time in front of the judges to finish off the number of cases they need to finish to pay their overheads. If they had to wait for Court hearings for all of their clients, they would not be able to pay their rent, their wages, their electricity, their accountants, their insurances etc etc etc. They absolutely must settle cases to pay their overheads.Do you think the insurance companies don’t know that? Do you think the insurance companies haven’t done their research on that?
Now, we ask you, if you were an insurance company and you realised the law firm was forced to settle cases in order to pay its overheads, would you offer them top dollar? Would you offer the law firm, and that really means the client, exactly what the case was worth? Of course you wouldn’t.
Insurance companies are about maximising the amount of money they get in by what they call “premiums”. That is the money that everybody in this country and all businesses pay to them for insurance. It’s about minimising the payouts.
They are well aware that law firms have expensive overheads and when you’re in a big firm, you’re going to need to settle cases to pay your overheads.
The sad truth goes further. The reality is that law firms turning over those cases, sort of like high turnover from companies like Kmart and Bunnings and so on, make much much more money than small business people. They provide a cheaper product that is not as valuable and doesn’t last as long, but they make their money by high turnover.
Law firms are much the same. The big firms make their money by high turnover often with a product that is not as valuable. When we talk about valuable, we mean value to the client. We mean in cold hard terms, the amount of money that a client will recover from the compensation or damages claim.
Thus, the reality is you are much better off with a lawyer who takes on less cases, works hard on them and gets the best result. They might charge more for an individual case, but they get much much more for the client as the result of their efforts.
If you come and meet with us, we’ll give you many examples of cases where previous solicitors have offered to settle for a relatively small sum of money. Indeed, in one case Peter Glover and Rob both ran together, the previous solicitor made a written offer to settle for $1 million. We got over $10 million. That is one of many examples. We can regale you with them and even give you the clients to go and speak to.
In summary, there are many aspects of our law firm that are different to other firms and this is part of how we have evolved historically.
We believe in absolute service. That service really means, as we said at the outset, winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. That winning extends to making sure that we get you the absolute best result that can be obtained, no matter what the field of law that we practice in.