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11 March 2021

MinterEllison appoints interim head as CEO exits over leaked email

Virginia Briggs replaces Annette Kimmitt who questioned firm's decision to represent attorney general in rape case

By Ben Edwards

Virginia Briggs

MinterEllison has appointed senior Sydney partner Virginia Briggs as its interim head after parting company with CEO Annette Kimmitt following a disagreement about the firm representing the country’s Attorney-General, Christian Porter, as a client.

The controversy flared up last week when the Financial Review revealed that Kimmitt had sent an email to staff expressing disappointment about the firm accepting Porter as a client. The AG last week held a media conference to deny raping a 16-year-old girl when he was a student in 1988.

According to Australian news site ABC, Kimmitt wrote: “The nature of the matter is clearly causing hurt to some of you and it has certainly triggered hurt for me.”

In an email sent to staff yesterday, MinterEllison chair David O’Brien and the firm’s board confirmed that Kimmitt had left the firm by mutual agreement, adding that Briggs will step up to serve as acting CEO while the board searches for a long-term replacement.

O’Brien said: “We have thanked Annette for her years of service and dedication and wished her well for the future. During her time at MinterEllison, among her many achievements, Annette led our firm successfully through the pandemic for which we are most grateful.”

Kimmitt had been CEO and managing partner of MinterEllison since 2018, joining from Big Four firm EY where she was global growth markets leader and managing partner of its Asia Pacific accounts, having previously been managing partner of its Melbourne office.

She remains a rare example of a non-lawyer being hired in to lead a top law firm and was recognised in the 2020 FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers Awards, winning praise for building technology consulting, risk and regulatory and infrastructure consulting practices.

Briggs, meantime, has been a partner at the firm in Sydney since 2007, most recently as leader of its infrastructure, construction and property practice. She joined from DLA Piper, where she worked for almost 18 years.

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