Australia

Reviews

Practice area

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

Solicitors governing body: The Law Council of Australia

Competition authority: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

Financial regulator: Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)

IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:

Banking; Capital markets : Debt; Capital markets: Equity; Capital markets: Structured finance and securitisation; Competition; M&A; Project development; Project financeRestructuring and insolvency

Jurisdiction overview

The Australian legal system is complicated, and this is not helped by the fact that it operates a federal system of government. Its jurisprudence is based on the English common law, but it has eight legal systems; one federal system and eight state and territory legal systems, each having its own court and parliament. So each of these nine legal systems has a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary. 

The country's mining boom fueled by strong Chinese demand had attracted a number of international firms to the market. For the magic and silver circle firms of the UK, this was a relatively easy move as the two countries have a legal system based on common law, and a shared culture and language. International firms entered the market in their own right or partnered with domestic brands in a variety of ways, including mergers and alliances. A number of medium sized Australian firms flourished and became substantial players on the national and even international stage. 

In the period between 2009 and 2012, there was a lot of movement as Ashurst tied up with Blake Dawson, Herbert Smith combined with Freehills, Norton Rose Fulbright merged with Sydney’s Deacons, and Linklaters allied with Allens Arthur Robinson. Mallesons Stephen Jaques went down an unprecedented route as it combined with China’s King & Wood to create the world’s first Sino-Australian law firm. Out of Australia’s ‘Big Six’—the informal moniker given to Australia’s most prestigious firms—only Clayton Utz and Minter Ellison remained independent. Global firms like Clifford Chance entered with a ‘wait and see’ approach, starting small and building up. Rather than teaming up with a large Australian firm, it merged with boutiques Chang Pistilli & Simmons in Sydney and Cochrane Lishman Carson Luscombe in Perth. Bird & Bird took a similar approach and tied up with Sydney’s Truman Hoyle focusing on technology and intellectual property. 

These developments have fragmented the market and made it more competitive and fluid. For the internationals, there has been a pivot towards Asia with an increasing number of cases of Australian talent being transferred to the money-centres in Hong Kong and Singapore. Market factors have also encouraged mid-tier national firms to consolidate to stay competitive.  

IFLR1000 2019: Australasia market trends and developments

Financial and corporate
Allen & Overy

Allen & Overy is one of the few international firms that has successfully integrated itself into the Australian legal market. Finance is traditionally the firm’s strength, and attracts high-end banking work, and aviation-focused structured and asset, leveraged, and project finance work. It is active across Asia-Pacific from its Australian base.

The firm’s finance team has been busy in the research period, often acting for borrowers in loan work and refinancing mandates.

The capital markets team acted for underwriters and issuers in US law governed issuances, European issuances and covered bonds.

On the equity side, the firm acted for the issuer in the largest ASX IPO since the privatisation of Medibank in 2014. It also acted for the joint lead managers in the third largest secondary raising in Australian corporate history.

The firm’s projects practice has been active in wind and solar mandates and confidential PPPs and outbound projects. It bolstered its team during the research period with the hire of partner Simon Huxley from DLA Piper.  

Recent Deal Data highlights

•                      EG Group A$1.7 billion acquisition of WOW Petrol

•                      Granville Harbour 112MW wind power plant

•                      ING Bank A$1 billion covered bond issue

•                      Link Group / CBA / Morgan Stanley A$1.6 billion acquisition of Property Exchange Australia

•                      Port of Melbourne A$1.75 billion refinancing

•                      Sydney Airport €500 million 1.75% bond issue

•                      Transurban A$4.2 billion secondary raising

•                      Viva Energy ASX IPO

Ashurst

Ashurst in Australia excels in project development, structured finance and securitisation, and restructuring and insolvency work. The firm has broad national coverage spanning the east and west coast of Australia.

In recent capital markets work, the firm’s structured finance and securitisation team acted in a multi series master trust securitisation of vehicle fleet leases, which was a novel structure to the Australian market; and advised on one of the market’s largest Kangaroo bond issuances and the largest-ever social bond issued in Australia.

The firm has a market leading projects team and has secured a tier one berth this year for its transport infrastructure expertise. It has been working on a spate of landmark transport mandates including as the main legal advisor on the Sydney metro project, which is Australia's largest ever public transport project; acting for the developer in Western Sydney Airport, another among Australia's most significant infrastructure projects; and advising on the largest integrated transport and urban revitalisation project in Australia. The firm is also utilising its expertise in outbound mandates such as in the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project.

Ashurst has also been engaged in some top renewable energy mandates. It kept busy advising the syndicate of lenders in one of the largest and highest performing wind farm projects in the southern hemisphere; advising the developer on Darlington Point solar farm that promises to be the largest solar power station in Australia; and advising the project company in Australia's first waste-to-energy plant.

In the past 12 months, the firm’s M&A and projects departments have been on a recruitment drive. M&A partners Greg Golding, Rob Hanley, Dan Yang, and Ratha Nabanidham have been hired from King & Wood Mallesons, Seyfarth Shaw, Collin Biggers & Paisley, and MinterEllison respectively. The projects team brought in Dan Brown and Alex Guy from DLA Piper, while restructuring and insolvency partner Jason Salman was hired from Corrs Chambers Westgarth. The firm also lost energy expert Adam Conway to Jones Day.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•                      AT&T A$1.3 billion kangaroo bond issue

•                      Darlington Point 275MW solar power plant

•                      Kwinana waste-to-energy facility

•                      Murra Warra 429MW wind farm

•                      National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation A$315 million 2.38% social bond issue

•                      Sydney metro

•                      WestConnex road

•                      Western Sydney airport

Atanaskovic Hartnell

Atanaskovic Hartnell is an independent law firm in Australia specialising in corporate M&A and commercial litigation. 

During the research period, the firm primarily worked on matters involving pharmaceutical licensing, corporate reorganisation, and settlement agreements between media companies. 

For example, Atanaskovic Hartnell assisted Parnell Pharmaceuticals Holdings on a licensing agreement with generic and specialist pharmaceuticals company, Mylan. In addition, the firm advised Bruce Gordon in the cash-settled share swap between ASX listed Prime Media Group and ASX 200 listed Nine Entertainment Holdings. 

A notable recent staffing change saw partner Jeremy Kriewaldt depart to set up his own firm, Jeremy Kriewaldt Lawyers. 

Key clients include Bruce Gordon, Antofagasta, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Boart Longyear, Bluescope, Coca-Cola, and JPMorgan Chase.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•Competitive Foods Australia corporate restructuring

•Kohler corporate restructuring

•The Agency acquisition of Top Level Real Estate

 

Clarendon Lawyers

Clarendon Lawyers is an independent corporate law firm that specialises in M&A, corporate and commercial law, and equity capital markets. Its legal team of 12 has advised foreign corporates on their acquisitions and divestments in Australia, family owned businesses on their strategic transactions, and Australian private equity firms on their domestic acquisitions and portfolio investments. 

This year, the firm mainly advised shareholders on the sale of assets and shares in both domestic and cross-border transactions. 

Key clients include Comdain Infrastructure, Telix Pharmaceuticals, Sterling Talent Solutions, The Sita Group, Escala Partners, Queens Lane Capital, Advent Partners, Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), and Healthcare Australia. 

Recent Deal Data highlights

•Commercial Real Estate Media A$17.2 million acquisition of commercialview.com.au

•Service Stream Holdings A$161 million acquisition of Comdain Infrastructure

•Symphony $44 million acquisition of Climate Technologies

Client feedback

"I found Clarendon Lawyers to be very knowledgeable, experienced and a great company to work with. Its advice and strong contract negotiating skills were very helpful. The firm was available at any time of the day or night and were terrific to work with. It was prompt and responsive and I was 100% satisfied with its service." – M&A

"Excellent legal support. Very experienced and competent team that is pragmatic and practical in negotiations. It is willing to expedite the process and is available at all times." – M&A

"Outstanding boutique with a high-touch approach and attention to detail. Partners are highly engaged but senior staff are also very capable and have a good technical understanding of our industry." – M&A

Alex Bean

"Good all-rounder. Very attentive to the firm, and really part of our team."

Rob Feiner

"Rob Feiner from Clarendon's is truly exceptional and without question my 'go to' legal advisor. The firm and Rob are always commercial, pragmatic and helpful. I would not hesitate but to recommend them to anybody."

"Rob is the best lawyer I have worked with. He is commercial, pragmatic and has a fantastic set of relationship skills, having worked with us for many years."

"He has excellent knowledge and experience, is responsive, patient with difficult personalities, humble, and easy to get along with." 

Tony Symons

"He was excellent. I found him to be very knowledgeable and experienced with a great team to work with. Their advice and strong contract negotiating skills were very helpful. They were available at any time of the day or night and were terrific to work with. They were prompt and responsive and I was 100% satisfied with their service." 

"Tony is a highly capable lawyer particularly in M&A. He has very strong commercial sense and technical knowledge."  

Clayton Utz

Clayton Utz is a strong independent Australian firm that exhibits particular strength in capital markets, project development and restructuring and insolvency. The firm is accustomed to acting on the best IPO mandates available to the market, while its debt capital markets practice is broad enough to act profitably on vanilla and high-end mandates, and it is among a handful of firms that dominate the securitisation space.

Clayton Utz’s equity capital markets practice was active recently advising the largest German company to list on the ASX, and acting for the issuer on the first allied health listing in Australia.

The firm has moved up the rankings this year to secure a top tier berth in structured finance and securitisation. It had a strong year and acted on an RMBS programme that contained a green tranche that was the first in an Australian non-bank RMBS and the first green securitisation to include foreign-currency notes. The practice also acted in the first Australian RMBS deal to list notes on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

In M&A, the firm completed the largest energy sector transaction in recent history.

The firm’s projects team was busy acting on transformational infrastructure projects such as Sydney Metro Northwest and the first transport PPP to be delivered in the Australian Capital Territory.

There have been some partner level lateral movements affecting the firm over the research period with the firm’s projects team bringing in Graeme Tucker from Ashurst and Graham Read from Norton Rose Fulbright, but losing Marko Misko to HWL Ebsworth and Nicholas Tsirogiannis to PwC Legal. Paul Gribble and Geoff Geha both retired from practice and finance partner Francesca Rush left for QSuper Group.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•                      Australian Technology Innovators $500 million incremental first and second lien term loan B

•                      EG Group A$1.7 billion acquisition of WOW Petrol

•                      Healthia ASX IPO

•                      Marley Spoon ASX IPO

•                      Pepper A$1.25 billion PRS 22 RMBS

•                      Santos $2.15 billion acquisition of Quadrant Energy

•                      Star of the South 2GW offshore wind power plant

•                      Westpac Banking Corporation A$3 billion RMBS

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance in Australia is a corporate and financial law firm best known for its work in projects and capital markets. Its offices in Sydney and Perth are among the newer additions to its Asia-Pacific network. 

This year, the firm mainly handled cross-border transactions and advised on the development and financing of energy and infrastructure projects. Indicative of the tightening focus toward renewable energy, Clifford Chance acted for Macquarie, Ørsted, and Swancor Renewable Energy on the development of the Formosa Offshore Windfarm, the first offshore wind farm project in Asia. Other project highlights include advising the lenders on the financing of Tailem Bend Solar Farm in South Australia, which is projected to provide power for 41,600 homes and save 102,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year. 

Key clients include Quadrant Energy, Arrow Energy, Cbus Super, Partners Group, PVH, ProTen, Carlyle Group, China Jianyin Investment, Royal Dutch Shell, and Deutsche Bank.

A notable recent staffing change saw partner Paul Lingard and counsel Jessica Davies move to Norton Rose.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•Accor Hotels A$1.2 billion acquisition of Mantra Group 

•Carlyle Group A$1 billion million acquisition of Accolade Wines Group

•China Jianyin Investment, JIC Huawen Investment and Tamar Alliance Capital A$800 million acquisition of Nature’s Care

•Noble Group $3.5 billion restructuring

Client feedback

"Highly competent and responsive to needs with a focus on finding solutions. Strong support at partner level and below." – Banking

"Very knowledgable, proactive and pragmatic lawyers." – Banking

"The service is responsive, efficient, and satisfactory." - Banking

"Senior focus with attention to detail. Pragmatic approach and solutions focused. Worked quickly through critical issues and a tight timeline." – Capital markets: Debt

"Overall it's excellent. We stopped using anyone else and used Clifford Chance for all of our significant Australia M&A transactions. Compared to others, it was far more flexible and far more similar to US firms in executing the work. That meant that the firm worked hard and also crafted novel solutions to the M&A transactions we were exploring." – M&A

"Clifford Chance has been extremely flexible for a very demanding client. Unforuntately it does not appear to be supporting its corporate team in Perth which has been impacted to the point where the matter will be moving to a different firm." – M&A

"Excellent legal advice. It also played an important advisory role for me." – M&A

"Exceptional. Smart and strategic advisors." – M&A

"The firm is very strong on the technical and commercial side, and is well respected with lenders in the market. The downside is that it has a smaller bench to others and picks up a high market share of deals so it can be stretched." – Project finance

"Clifford Chance are typically pro-active when dealing with a large bank group. Its legal advice is strong and supported by recent and relevant experience. It also provides commercial alternatives which I believe banks appreciate." – Project finance

"We were very happy with Clifford Chance's work and had good access to the partners and senior counsel involved in the transaction. It managed the process well to a tight timetable including seeking feedback and reaching agreement across a large bank group." – Project finance

"Clifford Chance were easy to work with, very commercial in seeking outcomes and very timely in its responsiveness." – Restructuring and insolvency

 

Gilbert + Tobin

Gilbert + Tobin (G+T) is one of Australia’s premier independent M&A and private equity firms with an attendant high-end acquisition finance practice. It is also strong in the equity capital markets and picks up top restructuring and insolvency mandates.

The firm has developed strong expertise in leveraged financing and brings innovative structures to the legal market with the most recent being the unitranche loan structure. The firm carried out the first three unitranche deals in Australia, swiftly becoming the go-to firm for such work. 

The equity capital markets practice advised the issuers of the largest non-government IPO in Australian corporate history, and then the first dual primary listing of a company on the Australian Stock Exchange and Hong Kong stock exchange. 

The firm’s M&A and private equity practice has had a busy year acting on leading mandates.  

It’s restructuring and insolvency practice acted for the liquidators in the Toys R Us insolvency, which was the largest in Australia in 2018. 

The projects team have been busy with wind and solar farm mandates while acting for the operator in Australia's first ever waste-to-energy plant. 

The firm’s M&A team took a hit this year with the departures of partners Nirangjan Nagarajah and Charles Bogle to White & Case and Hogan Lovells respectively.  

Recent Deal Data highlights 

•BGH Consortium A$2.3 billion acquisition of Navitas 

•Dundonnell 336MW wind power plant 

•Kwinana waste-to-energy power plant 

•Link Group / CBA / Morgan Stanley A$1.6 billion acquisition of Property Exchange Australia 

•Oxford Properties A$3.4 billion acquisition of Investa Office Fund 

•Toys R Us insolvency 

•Viva Energy ASX IPO 

•Yancoal HKSE IPO 

Client feedback

"G&T were very good and understood our business and the objectives we were trying to achieve." – Banking

"G&T is an outstanding law firm. The lawyers we have worked with have been knowledgable, focused and most unusually commercially savvy. Its attention to client service is excellent, and its teams work incredibly hard and are always available...even when perhaps it shouldnt be." - Banking

"Gail Christopher is excellent - pragmatic, responsive, very focused on her clients, and an excellent lawyer. Her team works efficiently with us and makes what could be difficult processes as seamless and as easy as possible to implement." – Banking

"Overall G + T provided high quality and proactive legal work which consistently met expectations including timeframes and commercial objectives. Our partner Simon Lynch and his team were responsive to our needs and able to effectively coordinate the various parties involved." – Capital markets: Debt

"The firm is high quality and provides us immediate attention with highly innovative solutions. It navigated complex issues in tight timelines." - Capital markets: Debt

"It is very capable of advising on complex legal matters, willing to provide robust advice and has courage of its convictions. The firm has a strong and broad bench of experienced partners, and is highly responsive to clients' needs." – Capital markets: Equity 

"Highly rated, commercially focused with excellent legal skills." – M&A

"Excellent project management skills with a high degree of technical excellence across all complex issues.  Broad spread of subject matter experts, with all advice well packaged and communicated through a central conduit." – M&A

"The transactions were on an extremely tight schedule and the firm was very responsive and overall did a very good job coordinating very complex transactions. I thought the team was staffed well from senior partner to junior associates." – M&A

"High quality advice, with commercial acumen provided by a highly engaged and responsive team." – M&A

"Great firm with excellent private equity relationships." – Private equity

"G+T provides comprehensive and commercial advice and looks at issues through the lens of the law as well as with its knowledge of the industry." – Project development

Rachael Bassil

"She's very responsive, provides innovative and thoughtful analysis, is a strong and considered negotiator and able to think on her feet."

"She provides high quality advice with commercial acumen. Rachael is highly engaged and responsive while being supported by a strong team."

Gail Christopher

"Gail is an excellent banking lawyer - thorough, incredibly responsive, very knowledgeable of our business and the financing market. She's also genuine and a fun person to work with, which makes her a standout."

"Gail has exceptional attention to detail and a senior team across all aspects of a transaction recommending bespoke solutions to navigate complex matters."

Costas Condolean

"He's very good at project management and in organising his team and responsibilities."

Adam D’Andreti

"Adam has a strong and broad skill set across all corporate law work streams. He also has sound non-legal market knowledge and is a strong communicator and decisive practitioner."

Alex Danne

"Alex is smart, practical and knowledgable with a great team supporting him.  He is personable and easy to work with."

Simon Lynch

"Simon is a top class experienced banking and finance lawyer. He is responsive, considered and commercial in his approach."  

Peter Reeves

"Peter is everything and more we could have asked for in a lawyer. We are a start-up bank and have needed a very wide range of legal and business advice. He has gone out of his way to not only provide that, but introduce us to his network of non-legal professionals, many of which we have used, and some of which joined our business."

 

King & Wood Mallesons

Sino-Australian firm King & Wood Mallesons is a unique international venture with global aspirations. Its corporate, finance and projects practices in Australia dominate the market. The firm also has a market leading securitisation, kangaroo bond and hybrid debt capital markets practice, while increasingly taking key market share in the green and social impact bond markets.

The firm has had a steady research period with its finance practice tending to lenders and borrowers’ needs, while being active in aviation and real estate finance.

In capital markets, the firm has acted in a string of small IPOs amid challenging conditions and has been active in the green and social impact bond and securitisation space, including acting in the world’s first RMBS with an underlying pool of green and non-green residential mortgage securities. Another notable mandate saw it acting for the issuer in the third largest secondary capital raising in Australian corporate history.

In M&A the firm has been working on some large M&A deals including the merger of Fairfax and Nine, which was one of the largest recent media M&A transactions, and representing the target in the largest public company takeover ever in Australia.

The projects practice has been attendant to important transport infrastructure mandates and renewable energy and social infrastructure work.

Recent staffing changes saw the firm hire finance partner Dale Rayner from Norton Rose Fulbright, and restructuring and insolvency expert Sam Dundas from HWL Ebsworth. The firm lost M&A partners Shannon Finch to Jones Day and Greg Golding to Ashurst.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•                      Brookfield Business Partners A$5.7 billion acquisition of Healthscope

•                      Nine Entertainment $4.2 billion merger with Fairfax Media

•                      Parramatta light rail project

•                      Pepper A$1.25 billion PRS 22 RMBS securitisation

•                      Sydney Airport €500 million 1.75% bond issue

•                      Transurban A$4.2 billion secondary raising

•                      Unibail-Rodamco A$32.76 billion acquisition of Westfield Corporation

•                      WestConnex road project

MinterEllison

MinterEllison is best known in the Australian legal market for its market leading restructuring and insolvency practice, but it is also a solid choice of counsel for M&A, capital markets and banking and project finance matters.

In the research period the firm’s finance team has been busy with asset finance, real estate and acquisition financing mandates.

In capital markets the firm has been acting in a spate of mid-sized IPOs and a good volume of securitisation mandates.

The firm has also been very active in private equity and M&A matters in the healthcare, energy and food and beverage space.

The projects team has been occupied with social infrastructure and transport transactions including acting for the roads authority in the suburban roads upgrade programme that includes some landmark PPP features.

There has been some lateral movement for the firm over the research period with it hiring M&A partners Shaun McRobert and Chris Allen from King & Wood Mallesons and Gilbert + Tobin respectively. The firm was hit by the departures of Sophie Chen to Gilbert + Tobin, Sheena Jackson to BAE Systems, and Elizabeth Ellis who joined a Sydney-based family law boutique.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•                      AMP Capital and Macquarie Capital A$200 million acquisition of University of Melbourne student accommodation portfolio

•                      Brookfield Asset Management A$385 million acquisition of DCI Data Centres

•                      CDH Investments and China Grand Pharmaceutical A$1.9 billion acquisition of Sirtex Medical

•                      Evans Dixon ASX IPO

•                      H.I.G Capital $625 million acquisition of Recochem Group

•                      Schwartz Hotel Group A$530 million financing

•                      SPH REIT and Moelis A$206 million acquisition of Figtree Grove Shopping Centre

•                      Suburban road upgrade PPP