The case being led by Michael Pryse based in Melbourne sees the 167-partner firm suing eight out of the 10 partners who resigned in the autumn to open Australian offices for New York-based firm White & Case.
The defendants are Melbourne partners Andrew Clark, Brendan Quinn, Alan Rosengarten, Josh Sgro, Tim Power, Jared Muller and Joanne Draper and Sydney partner Joel Rennie.
Two other partners, who also left to join White & Case - Hong Kong partner Fergus Smith and Singapore partner Matthew Osborne - are not named as defendants and neither are Herbert Smith Freehills Melbourne-based associates Adeline Pang and Ged Cochrane and Special Counsel Michelle Keen, who recently became partners at White & Case.
Enforced notice period
Herbert Smith Freehills partners in Australia are subject to a six-month notice period after they resign and then an additional six-month period which curtails them from practicing at a competing firm as a partner. Therefore, the lawsuit could mean the resigning partners are thwarted from starting work at their new firm until September.
Firm to lose £20m in combined revenues
It is understood that the 10 partners account for some £20 million in combined revenue. Therefore the mass departure potentially exposes the firm to a much more significant financial loss than with individual exits - the core reason why Herbert Smith Freehills wants to extend the six-month restraint period for the departing partners and hence the suit.
The case will continue this Friday, February 17, when a judge will be assigned. The first hearing is set for February 27 before Supreme Court of New South Wales justice Robert McDougall.