Golf days are over: Entertaining law firm clients is back in post-COVID Australia, but it’s different

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It’s been at least a decade since Australian law firm Wooton + Kearney hosted a day of golf for its clients.

“We don’t do it anymore because it just doesn’t fit our heterogeneous clients,” said David Kearney, managing partner at the Australian insurance law firm.

In-person customer entertainment is back in Australia after two years of severe COVID-19 lockdowns. But the days of meeting clients on the golf course or at a sporting event are over.

Wooton + Kearney customers are more likely to be invited to a cooking class, a visit to the theater or a game of pétanque, where customers enjoy a day in the sun and compete to roll balls of unequal weight closest to a smaller ball known as a “jack.”

Wooton + Kearney’s shift from what Kearney calls “blokey” activities to activities that appeal to both sexes is reflected in law firms across the country as the legal profession becomes less male-dominated. In fact, corporate lawyers and government lawyers – the purchasers of legal services – are more likely to be women than men.

“We make sure to find activities that appeal to the widest range of customers we deal with,” Kearney said.

Companies generally interact with their customers in different ways. They organize lunches and seminars around legal or commercial subjects of interest to their clients. And for many companies, this is the most important part of customer engagement.

But companies also organize more social and informal events.

“It’s about building relationships and bringing people together. We find it’s a much nicer work experience for everyone when we know our customers and they know us, and often a social setting provides a better opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal level,” said Amber Matthews, the Australian managing partner of global firm DLA Piper.

Matthews said customer entertainment has changed over the years and the company aims to host events that are both inclusive and enjoyable. “Not all customers are the same and people naturally have different interests, so we try to offer a range of different entertainment depending on the customer,” she said.

In Melbourne, the firm recently hosted more than 40 clients at a “Hamilton”-themed cocktail party and took them to a performance of the hit musical, while in Sydney the company takes customers to private viewings of the popular Archibald Prize for Portraiture, arguably Australia’s most prestigious portraiture prize.

That’s not to say the company doesn’t host sports-themed events, but even then they reflect its more diverse customer base. In Western Australia, customers attend football matches featuring the company-sponsored Perth Glory women’s A-League team.

After two years of COVID-19 lockdowns, including some of the world’s longest lockdowns in Melbourne, Matthews said customers wanted to reconnect in person, usually in smaller groups than before.

In-person customer entertainment is also back at Clyde & Co, but there has been a change since COVID, according to the company.

The structural shift to working from home part of the week means partners need to be more mindful of when clients are in the office and able to accept invitations, said Michael Tooma, Australian managing partner of Clyde & Co, adding that many are home on Mondays. or Fridays.

“Clients have to really want to do something to get by. And we consider it a privilege that they come and hang out with us,” he said.

In the decade the company has been in Australia, Clyde & Co has ensured that its customer hospitality offerings are not centered around sporting events that appeal more to men, Tooma says, noting that this reflects a change in the profession.

“You see more engagement with our customers about what they want, what they prefer, rather than having a cricket day, a rugby day or a golf day and assuming our customers will love it because part of our partnership benefits. ,” he said

The firm usually presents options to clients after talking with them and lets the client choose. A customer liked to make gingerbread houses around Christmas, which the company combined with a barbecue. The company also hosts an annual art exhibition and cocktail party featuring work from Sydney’s leading art schools.

Clifford Chance presented a documentary called ‘Past Continuous’, which tells the story of Sydney couple Oscar Shub and Ilan Buchman, who in 2018 became Australia’s first same-sex couple to legally marry in a religious ceremony. Shub is a consultant for the firm. It was the company’s most popular event.

Arts-themed events play a prominent role in many companies’ customer entertainment programs.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth Australia’s most recent event was a 250-person dinner at the National Gallery of Victoria and a private viewing of this year’s Winter Masterpieces exhibition, Picasso’s centurywhich retraces the career of Pablo Picasso.

Australian entrepreneurial company Gilbert + Tobin bases its hospitality on Grand Slam tennis, Opera Australia, Bell Shakespeare, outdoor cinema and art gallery exhibitions. It aims to partner with organizations that have strong local, Indigenous and educational programs, said COO Sam Nickless.

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