THE new year has heralded a new optimism in which Australian law firms are showcasing partner and senior lawyer appointments as a sign of things to come.
While last year saw salary freezes, hiring halts and, in some cases, mass redundancies within firms, 2010 began with some senior hires in mid- and top-tier firms.
Following this week's news of hires at Minter Ellison, Clayton Utz and smaller Hall & Wilcox, among others, Corrs Chambers Westgarth has announced the promotion of a lawyer to the partnership in the firm's intellectual property, technology and competition group in Melbourne.
As well, the firm has recruited a senior overseas legal adviser, Daniel Plane, to the same practice.
Plane comes across from the Asia IP practice of French firm Gide Loyrette Nouel in Hong Kong. And he previously managed the Asia-Pacific anti-counterfeiting program of LVMH Fashion Group (which includes the Louis Vuitton brand) from Hong Kong and Nokia's Europe, Middle East and Africa Program from Helsinki.
In addition to handling intellectual property matters in Australia, Plane will be advising Corrs’ clients on Asia-Pacific IP Strategy, particularly focusing on IP protection and enforcement in the People’s Republic of China, where he has extensive in-house and private practice experience.
The new appointments come as firms expect a bumper 2010. Corrs managing partner, John Denton, told The New Lawyer the firm's position in China is growing, due in part to the work it has been doing there for 10 years.
"We are no new coming. We are the long-term players in the market ... We don't see it just as bricks and mortar. We see it about long, hard yards being built around developing relationships in the right places with the right people."
With deals like the $285.6 million Baosteel Group investment in Aquila and clients like China Iron and Steel Association, China Metallurgical Group Corporation, and SinoSteel Mining under its wing, the appointment of Plane fits into the strategy of bolstering this practice.
Meanwhile, Mark McCowan, who also moves into the firm's IP, technology and competition partnership, is a competition and trade practices law specialist.
Firms have in recent weeks been quick to replace partner losses that have coincided with the traditional new year lawyer reshuffle. As lawyers depart to the market competition, firms are making new appointments or internal promotions to fill those gaps. This current trend is a u-turn from last year, when firms would leave positions vacant for months to help their balance sheets.