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2017: Leading Firms

We are pleased to present our newest country special report: Who’s Who Legal: Australia. Although we have covered the leading Australian practitioners in our international practice area publications for two decades, we have never before brought together this research in one publication.

The breadth, depth and quality of legal practice in Australia is extremely strong, and this is reflected in our research. In total, 720 lawyers and experts from 167 firms combine to produce 825 listings across our 31 chapters. The top five firms in our research – Clayton Utz, King & Wood Mallesons, Herbert Smith Freehills, Allens and Ashurst – together make up 40 per cent of these listings. Others, such as MinterEllison, Corrs Chambers Westgarth and Gilbert + Tobin also perform well, gaining over 30 listings each.

Below, we profile the 10 firms who secured the most listings in this year’s research, while the individual chapters that follow identify the leading names in each practice area.

Allens

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Arbitration 1
Banking 6
Business Crime, Investigations & Asset Recovery 1
Capital Markets 4
Competition 3
Construction 2
Corporate 3
Corporate Tax 3
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 5
Environment 2
Franchise 2
Government Contracts 1
Labour & Employment 2
Life Sciences 4
Litigation 3
Native Title Law 1
Patents 3
Product Liability Defence 2
Restructuring & Insolvency 1
Sports & Entertainment 2
TMT 5
Trademarks 5
Transport - Aviation 1

Full service international law firm ALLENS is a force to be reckoned with in the Australian market, achieving 62 listings in this year’s research. Founded in 1822 by George Allen in Sydney, the firm has continuously expanded over the past 190 years. Its global reach was strengthened further in 2012 through its integrated alliance with Linklaters, which expanded its offerings to 28 countries around the world. The firm demonstrates prowess across a wide range of practice areas and its impressive client portfolio includes over three quarters of the top 100 Australian companies.

Our research identifies Allens as one of the most dominant players in the TMT and energy spheres. Igor Bogdanich is one of our most highly nominated individuals, recognised for his outstanding work in the energy and mining industries. The firm’s IP group is also particularly well regarded and achieves eight listings. Eminent practitioners include Sarah Matheson for her work in patents and Tim Golder for his excellent trademarks practice. Other areas of strength include banking and life sciences.


Ashurst LLP

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Arbitration 1
Banking 8
Capital Markets 2
Competition 3
Construction 2
Corporate 3
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 3
Environment 4
Government Contracts 1
Insurance & Reinsurance 1
Labour & Employment 6
Life Sciences 4
Native Title Law 3
Patents 4
Product Liability Defence 1
Restructuring & Insolvency 5
TMT 1
Trademarks 4
Transport - Aviation 2

Founded in 1822 as Ashurst Morris Crisp, ASHURST now has 27 offices around the world and offers a global capability for clients, launching in Asia with its Tokyo office in 1990 and in the US with a New York offering in 2000. Significant to the firm’s Australia operations was its 2012 tie-up with Blake Dawson and that firm’s subsequent rebranding as Ashurst Australia.
It sees 58 lawyers listed this year and is recognised for its expertise in corporate law, labour and employment, patents and environmental law. Roger Davies is an eminent securities and transactions lawyer, while John Field is recognised as a leader in the firm’s banking practice. He has assisted clients in closing transactions worth over A$35 billion.
Leading lawyers in our listings include Peter Chalk, Grant Fisher and Mary Padbury, all of whom focus on intellectual property, patents and trademarks. Chalk and Padbury have experience in both contentious and non-contentious cases, while Fisher specialises in litigation.


Baker McKenzie

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Banking 1
Capital Markets 2
Construction 2
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 1
Environment 2
Franchise 1
Government Contracts 2
Labour & Employment 1
Litigation 1
Restructuring & Insolvency 1
TMT 1
Trademarks 1

BAKER MCKENZIE is well known for the broad range of expertise on offer at the firm, achieving an impressive double listing across four different chapters: capital markets, construction, environment and government contracts. The firm has over 50 years of experience operating in the local market and its team of 300 lawyers is involved in some of the most substantial transactions in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, it represented the New South Wales government in the country’s largest privatisation involving the energy sector, and it frequently counsels leading Australian companies, multinationals and financial institutions on a range of complex national and international matters.  

The firm is home to numerous preeminent practitioners, including Geoff Wood, who is recognised for his broad experience in the construction and government contracts chapters, and Penny Ward, who is a longstanding name in the Australian franchise community. 


Clayton Utz

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Banking 6
Business Crime, Investigations & Asset Recovery 2
Capital Markets 2
Competition 4
Construction 9
Corporate 9
Corporate Tax 3
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 4
Environment 2
Government Contracts 7
Insurance & Reinsurance 1
Labour & Employment 3
Life Sciences 7
Litigation 3
Mediation 1
Patents 1
Product Liability Defence 5
Real Estate 3
Restructuring & Insolvency 2
Trademarks 3

CLAYTON UTZ stands out in our research achieving one of the highest numbers of listings in the edition, with 77 individuals recognised. In particular the firm performs well in our corporate, construction, government contracts and life sciences chapters, with these comprising over 40 per cent of the firm’s listings. Clayton Utz boasts an impressive client base, including various top 100 Australian companies as well as over 250 federal and state government departments, agencies, and organisations. The firm has experience advising on some of the most significant infrastructure and construction projects across the Asia-Pacific region, including advising on the A$37 billion National Broadband Network project. In addition, it also represented Biostime International Holdings in its purchase of Swisse Wellness for A$1.6 billion, as well as Macquarie Bank in relation to its acquisition of the Esanda dealer finance portfolio from ANZ in a deal worth A$8.2 billion. A number of the firm’s lawyers receive further recognition for their high-level work in areas such as product liability and energy, natural resources and mining.

Several individual practitioners have a notable reputation for the high standard of their practice, including Colin Loveday who achieves a triple listing across litigation and life sciences as well as product liability, where he is the top practitioner overall in our research. An impressive eight individuals also receive a double listing in the edition, reflecting the broad level of expertise on offer of the firm.


Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Arbitration 2
Competition 1
Construction 6
Corporate 1
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 2
Environment 2
Government Contracts 3
Insurance & Reinsurance 1
Labour & Employment 5
Life Sciences 1
Mediation 1
Patents 2
Product Liability Defence 3
TMT 3
Trademarks 3

Leading law firm CORRS CHAMBERS WESTGARTH garners a total of 36 listings in this year’s research. Founded in 1841, the firm today boasts uncontested abilities across a wide range of practice areas. It is home to over 600 lawyers and its resolute commercial focus makes it a firm favourite with top ASX and Global 500 companies.

The prestigious construction and labour and employment groups are among the most dominant in their respective markets. Outstanding practitioners include Andrew Stephenson who is well known and well regarded in the construction space and John Tuck, who is held in high esteem for his impeccable employment practice. The firm also performs well in the areas of product liability defence, TMT and government contracts.


Herbert Smith Freehills

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Arbitration 1
Banking 9
Business Crime Defence, Investigations & Asset Recovery 2
Capital Markets 6
Competition 3
Construction 2
Corporate 7
Corporate Tax 1
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 4
Environment 3
Government Contracts 2
Labour & Employment 6
Life Sciences 1
Litigation 2
Patents 2
Real Estate 2
Restructuring & Insolvency 1
TMT 1
Trademarks 5
Transport -  Aviation 2

International heavyweight HERBERT SMITH FREEHILLS boasts an excellent reputation, both in Australia and on the world stage. Formed in 2012 by the merger between Big Six law firm Freehills and UK-based Silver Circle member Herbert Smith, the firm now boasts over 2,000 lawyers operating across 26 offices worldwide. The firm is well known for its corporate, banking and finance expertise and clients readily take advantage of the firm’s insight and comprehensive global offering when pursuing landmark deals in the domestic and international spheres. It achieves listings in 20 chapters in this guide, highlighting the incredible strength in depth of its Australian offering. The firm performs particularly well when it comes to banking, corporate, labour and employment, competition and trademarks law.

National head of finance John Angus is singled out as a leader in our banking and transport aviation chapters, while John Cooper impresses in our labour and employment research. Tony Damian is also highlighted for his extensive expertise handling corporate transactions while John Taberner stands out as a thought leader in environment law.  


Gilbert + Tobin

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Banking 4
Capital Markets 3
Competition 7
Corporate 6
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 3
Native Title Law 1
Restructuring & Insolvency 2
Sports & Entertainment 1
TMT 6
Trademarks 2

Independent domestic full-service firm GILBERT + TOBIN is a key player in the Australian market with an excellent international reputation, particularly across Asia-Pacific. Founded in 1988, the firm now boasts offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and counts a number of high-profile domestic and international corporates as well as government entities among its client base. It performs particularly well in our competition, corporate and TMT chapters and achieves a total of 35 listings across 10 chapters in this guide, highlighting the breadth of expertise on offer at the firm.

Its lawyers are regularly called upon to handle a number of key mandates in Australia. Recently, for example, the firm’s competition and regulation team were enlisted to act for AB InBev on the Australian competition aspects of its proposed merger with SABMiller. Meanwhile, members of the firm’s TMT practice count major names such as Google, Time Warner and Sony Universal as clients.

Standout names at the firm include John Schembri and Simon Lynch (banking); Elizabeth Avery, Luke Woodward and Gina Cass-Gottlieb (competition); Peter Cook (corporate); Dominic Emmett (restructuring and insolvency); and Peter Waters (TMT).


King & Wood Mallesons

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Arbitration 2
Banking 12
Capital Markets 12
Competition 4
Construction 1
Corporate 7
Corporate Tax 4
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 8
Insurance & Reinsurance 1
Labour & Employment 2
Product Liability Defence 1
Life Sciences 2
Litigation 1
Native Title Law 1
Patents 3
Real Estate 3
Restructuring & Insolvency 2
TMT 3
Trademarks 2
Transport - Aviation 2

With its origins rooted in the country it is unsurprising that full-service global firm KING & WOOD MALLESONS boasts a dominant presence in the Australian market. The firm demonstrates this throughout our research, achieving an exceptional 73 listings across 20 practice areas, thus showcasing the sheer breadth and depth of its expertise. It performs well when it comes to financial matters, particularly in relation to banking and capital markets work for which it receives 12 listings apiece. Members are well versed in assisting major clients in all aspects of banking and finance law, from managing funds and financings through to litigation. The firm also impresses with its expertise in the regulated industries and boasts the foremost energy practice in the country. Renewables, oil and gas, mining and project finance are just some of the areas in which the team excels.

The firm is home to several standout names in the domestic market including thought leaders Yuen-Yee Cho and Peter Doyle who are internationally recognised for their world-class banking and finance practices. Stuart Dixon-Smith is highlighted as a leading name in the real estate sector, while Matthew Swinn impresses with listings across three chapters – life sciences, patents and trademarks. 


MinterEllison

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Banking 5
Capital Markets 2
Competition 5
Construction 3
Corporate 1
Corporate Tax 2
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 2
Environment 2
Government Contracts 1
Labour & Employment 3
Life Sciences 3
Litigation 1
Patents 1
Real Estate 1
Restructuring & Insolvency 3
TMT 3
Transport - Aviation 3

MINTERELLISON is a home-grown Australian law firm that now boasts an international reach. Founded in New South Wales in 1827, the firm as it is known today opened its first international office in London in 1974 and has offices in every Australian capital city alongside offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Ulaanbaatar.
Formerly part of the “Big Six” prior to the series of international mergers that altered the legal landscape in Australia, it sees 41 of its lawyers listed. The firm performs highly in the areas of corporate, competition and energy, natural resources and mining law. Russell Miller AM is recognised as one of the country’s pre-eminent lawyers in competition law and handles complex merger clearance and cartel cases. He has authored leading texts on competition and consumer law in Australia.
Lawyers who perform particularly well in our research include Bart Oude-Vrielink who advises international companies on corporate issues and capital markets, and Stewart Nankervis, who is recommended for his expertise in construction, particularly relating to government contracts.


 Norton Rose Fulbright

Listings in WWL: Australia 2017
Banking 3
Construction 5
Corporate 1
Energy, Natural Resources & Mining 2
Environment 3
Franchise 2
Insurance & Reinsurance 1
Labour & Employment 1
Life Sciences 1
Restructuring & Insolvency 1
Trademarks 2
Transport - Shipping 1

Global outfit NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT performs well in this edition, achieving 23 listings across 12 areas of business law, making it one of the top 10 firms in the country. The firm boasts the leading franchise team in the country with members well versed in advising clients, including franchisors, suppliers and manufacturers, on a wide array of related matters. The firm is also known for its strong industry focus, and excels particularly in our research when it comes to construction work. With five listings, the team illustrates its expertise handling related transactional matters, disputes and projects. Banking, environment and energy law are further areas in which the firm impresses demonstrating the depth and breadth of its offering.

Thought leader Stephen Giles is the standout name at the firm and impresses with his exceptional expertise in franchise law. 

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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