01 Apr 2022

HFW builds Perth disputes arm with team hire from Quinn Emanuel

Top 30 UK firm says Australia practice now accounts for 10% of its revenue

Headshot of Paul Evans

Paul Evans Image courtesy of HFW

UK law firm HFW has hired a team of three disputes lawyers in Perth from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan led by the office's founding partner, Paul Evans.

HFW said the hires continue a period of sustained investment in Australia, which is now its third-largest market globally after London and Hong Kong, revenue having increased by almost 80% over the past six years and now accounting for 10% of the firm's turnover.

Quinn, meanwhile, has experienced the second team loss from its Perth arm within a year following the departure of four disputes lawyers to Jones Day last July. The office, which launched in 2017, currently houses two associates and one partner, according to the firm's website.

Evans brings 35 years of experience handling complex commercial litigation to his new firm and focuses on disputes relating to corporate governance, transactions and takeovers, and competition and economic law. 

Before joining Quinn he spent five years as state solicitor for Western Australia, where he led a team of more than 200 and was responsible for civil and regulatory matters including key aspects of the Bell proceedings, the longest case in Australian insolvency litigation history. The proceedings saw the liquidators finally secure a $1.75bn settlement in 2013, 26 years after the Bell Group’s collapse. 

HFW’s Australia managing partner, Gavin Vallely, said the development of its Perth office and disputes offering were key elements of the firm’s growth strategy in Australia. 

“Paul is widely recognised as being one of Australia's leading litigators and brings a wealth of experience in commercial disputes, as well as in energy and resources and construction, which are a core industry sectors for HFW globally,” he said, adding the firm has “expanded significantly in Australia over the last 12 months and will continue to pursue opportunities across our industry sectors to implement our growth plans".

Evans said: "There's a real buzz around HFW in Australia at the moment – the firm is clearly in growth mode and has several outstanding lawyers who are recognised leaders in their areas.”

Moving across alongside Evans is special counsel Peter Sadler and senior associate Monika Mečević. Dr Elise Bant, a professor of private law and commercial regulation at The University of Western Australia who previously worked alongside Evans at legacy firm Freehills, will also join HFW, as a consultant. 

Sadler specialises in international arbitration and also has experience litigating in the mining, energy and industrial industries, while Mečević advises clients on complex commercial litigation and insolvency disputes with a focus on the energy and resources, and banking and finance sectors.

HFW has added eight new partners in Australia since 2020, including construction partner Michael Debney in Melbourne from Herbert Smith Freehills last December and construction disputes partner Jo Delaney in Sydney in July from Baker McKenzie, and now has more than 100 lawyers – including 23 partners – in its Melbourne, Perth and Sydney offices.

Jeremy Shebson, HFW managing partner, said Australia was a key market for the firm globally as a major centre for clients across its core sectors of aviation, construction, commodities, energy and resources, insurance and shipping. 

“We've been in the country for a long time, but now we're really seeking to accelerate our growth and take our Australia business to the next level. Bringing in such an experienced practitioner as Paul is another important step on that journey," he added. 

Last July HFW reported a 30% increase in profit per equity partner for the 2020/21 financial year as revenue edged up 2.6% to hit the £200m mark for the first time. 

Last month the firm announced it had taken over the British Virgin Islands office of Bahamas litigation firm Lennox Paton, in a rare instance of an onshore law firm securing an offshore base. A week later the firm also launched in Denmark with the hire of leading Danish shipping lawyer Jens Mathiasen, a move it said makes it the only global shipping practice with a base in the Scandinavian country.

A Quinn spokesperson wished the departing team well. The specialist litigation firm launched in Australia in 2013, when it opened in Sydney after hiring Michael Mills and Michelle Fox from Herbert Smith Freehills. They remain at the helm of the firm's Australia practice. 

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