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26 November 2020

Leading Australian class action law firm opens in London

Firm promises to 'hold the powerful to account' as it sets out to recruit 'a vibrant and diverse team of brilliant lawyers'

By Ben Rigby

The City of London Shutterstock

Leading Australian class action firm Phi Finney McDonald (PFM) is to open a London office.  

The office will be led by Chris Haan, formerly of Leigh Day, working alongside name directors Odette McDonald and Tim Finney.

Haan, who is dual-qualified in both Victoria and London, has more than 15 years’ experience in collective actions, ranging from credit-crunch era misselling claims, product liability work, follow-on competition damages actions, and other group actions, including environmental and employment ones. 

Prior to joining PFM earlier this year, Haan spent six years as a partner at Leigh Day, and nearly four years at legacy firm Russell Jones & Walker in London, which later merged with Australian law firm Slater + Gordon, for whom Haan had worked in Australia for five years. 

Haan said: “We will distinguish ourselves in London through our use of technology and innovative litigation funding structures, offering clients higher quality, more efficient and cost-effective legal services.” 

He added that its claims would “hold the powerful to account”.

The firm will actively recruit associates, with McDonald saying it would hire “a vibrant and diverse team of brilliant lawyers who have business acumen, but who are also committed to making the world a better place”. 

“Our values and our culture are at the heart of our success,” she added, “that means a fun and dynamic working environment that encourages autonomy and creativity, one unshackled by billable hour targets.” 

Founded in 2017, PFM was set up by former lawyers at Slater + Gordon. It has offices in Sydney and Melbourne and is well known in Australia. Working closely with litigation funders, such as Therium, with whom it is active in ongoing litigation, it has a highly commercial outlook. 

The firm acts for institutional investors from Australia and overseas, including private equity funds, pensions schemes and shareholder groups. Those corporate clients, said Haan, who had “experienced our strong track record will see the strengths we will bring to the London market”.

PFM also acts for large-scale consumer groups, such as institutional abuse claims, product liability claims, and data privacy breach matters, in keeping with what PFM called a “strong social conscience that influences every aspect of the practice”. 

Andrew Saker, CEO of litigation funder Omni Bridgeway said it was “great news to see another Australian legal service provider on the international stage”.

The move comes as both class actions and litigation funding continue to remain under much parliamentary scrutiny in Australia, with a report by federal legislators due to be published in December.  

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