White & Case hires 10-partner team from HSF for Australia launch

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White & Case has hired a team of 10 partners from Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) to launch a new Australia practice.

The HSF team includes eight partners in Australia and two in Asia, with the Australia team including lawyers in Sydney and Melbourne.

Melbourne-based Asia finance head Brendan Quinn is part of the eight-strong Australia team, which also includes projects partners Josh Sgro, Andrew Clark, Alan Rosengarten, Joanne Draper and Jared Muller, regulatory partner Tim Power in Melbourne, and projects partner Joel Rennie in Sydney.

In Asia, White & Case has recruited Hong Kong finance partner Fergus Smith and Singapore projects partner Matthew Osborne.

Legal Week understands the group resigned from HSF last night (1 September) and it is not yet clear when they will join White & Case. It is also unclear whether any associates will be moving with the group.

Commenting on the exits, HSF said in a statement: “We can confirm the resignation of 10 partners from our Australian and Asian offices yesterday.  We are disappointed at this decision.

“We continue to have a strong 100-partner infrastructure and projects practice globally.  This is an exceptionally talented team of partners and lawyers, in Australia, Asia and around the world. Their focus is on our clients and delivering the top quality work that those clients expect. When it comes to big-ticket, complex projects, project finance and infrastructure work, we remain the firm to beat in this market and globally.”

White & Case chairman Hugh Verrier said: “This move will cement our position as the leading law firm in project finance globally.”

The firm’s Asia head Eric Berg added: “Asia-Pacific is an important region for White & Case, where our strategy is to build on the firm’s global strengths and continue developing our client offering.”

The long-touted move comes shortly after White & Case opened in Cairo through a tie-up with a newly created local firm, MHR & Partners.

The Cairo base will be led by White & Case partner Philip Stopford, who will divide his time between London and Cairo.

Interest from international firms in Australia has cooled slightly in recent years, however Hogan Lovells and Pinsent Masons are among newer entrants to the market.

In May this year, Allen & Overy picked up a three-lawyer US securities team from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, after the US firm opted to close its small Australia offering.

Late last year, White & Case chairman Hugh Verrier said the firm was putting London and New York at the centre of its five-year strategy, setting out plans to significantly ramp up the proportion of its lawyers based in the two key financial centres by 2020.

Earlier this year, White & Case announced a marginal increase in revenue and partner profits. The firm inched up about 1% to $1.52bn (£1.06bn) in revenue and $2.02m (£1.41m) in profits per partner, while revenue per lawyer ticked down from $800,000 (£558,000) to $795,000 (£555,000).