Australia’s HWL Ebsworth mourns death of long-serving managing partner

Juan Martinez, who led the firm for almost four decades, passed away unexpectedly, aged 64

Juan Martinez

One of Australia’s largest law firms, HWL Ebsworth, is mourning the death of its long-time leader Juan Martinez, who passed away suddenly on Monday night. He was 64 years old.

In a statement, the firm hailed Martinez as “a dynamic leader” who, having led the firm for almost four decades, “did business in a vastly different way to our big brothers in the industry”.

Martinez became the managing partner of Melbourne-based Home Wilkinson Lowry in 1998, leading it through a sequence of mergers, acquisitions and lateral hires to become a 285-partner firm with offices across Australia.

Hailing him as “a giant of the Australian legal profession”, HWL Ebsworth chief strategy officer Russell Mailler said Martinez was “an inestimable leader” of the firm, having been reappointed as managing partner for a further three years earlier this year.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with Juan’s family, friends and colleagues as they process this devastating news,” Mailler said, adding Martinez was “a great father to his three children”.

Martinez’s post will be filled by Ross Williams, the chair of the firm, who, together with Mailler and chief operating officer Kris Hopkins, will “work together to ensure HWL Ebsworth continues to meet client needs and support their team members through this difficult time”, he added.

The firm said the trio presented “a strong and stable leadership team” who had been planning for Martinez’s eventual retirement, adding that his death occurred as a result of a “medical incident”, reported online as a suspected heart attack.

“We are devastated by the loss of Juan, but there is no crisis, and we will honour Juan’s legacy by ensuring that the firm continues its extraordinary success into the future,” Mailler concluded.

In its February promotions round, 56 lawyers were promoted, with eight lawyers promoted to partner across the firm’s Australia offices.

The firm had previously been affected by a data breach by Russian hackers, reported in May 2023. Australian media reported that the breach had affected Australia’s four largest banks and 65 state and federal government clients, including Australia’s privacy regulator, and the firm had refused to pay a ransom.

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