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What’s going on at Hogan Lovells Australia?

News of Hogan Lovells’ Perth office closure begs the question: Does Sydney have what it takes to survive?

user iconEmma Musgrave 28 October 2022 Big Law
What’s going on at Hogan Lovells Australia?
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The multinational law firm has been making headlines this month, following confirmation that it would be closing up on its Western Australia shopfront.

The confirmation came after it was revealed that Perth-based partner Matthew Johnson was defecting to rival law firm Allen & Overy, where he will co-lead its global mining sector. Mr Johnson’s official start date at A&O is yet to be confirmed.

The impact of the closure on Perth staff, including associate Raphael Parvin, is unknown at this stage. Hogan Lovells told Lawyers Weekly it is currently in discussions with its team members and that several have confirmed they will remain at the firm.


It is understood that Perth and Sydney-based Lloyd Parker, regional Asia-Pacific managing partner, is one of these.

That leaves Hogan Lovells’ Sydney office to absorb the work off the back of the shutdown, which, the firm hinted, may have been in the works for some time.

“We have been reviewing our Australia operations in recent months and have determined that our clients and the sectors that we support in the region will be better served from a consolidated base in Sydney,” the firm’s statement said.

“We will be winding down our Perth office in the coming months and supporting our people through this transition.

“We are proud of our work and achievements throughout the country, and we remain committed to serving our clients through our Sydney office and the wider Hogan Lovells global network.”

There are approximately 30 professionals that operate out of Hogan Lovells’ Sydney practice. In addition to Australian managing partner Scott Harris, these include George Hanna, a senior associate who is now based in London; Angell Zhang, a fellow senior associate; and Adam Aarons, Patrick Dunn, Zachary Forrai and Evy Wiggins — all associates.

“Clients should be largely unaffected by the office closure, and we remain committed to servicing our clients from the consolidated Sydney office under the leadership of Australian managing partner Scott Harris,” Hogan Lovells told Lawyers Weekly.

“In addition to our Sydney office, clients have access to our network of more than 45 offices around the world in the US, Latin America, continental Europe, the UK, Middle East and Asia-Pacific [region].”

A telling tale?

While Hogan Lovells said it had been reviewing its Australian operations and ultimately determined it’d be better off consolidating its local offering through its Sydney office, such wasn’t the case when it listed a job ad for an associate position in Perth some time ago. 

The job ad, which homed in on the successful applicant being able to work alongside Matthew Johnson, was clearly posted prior to the mining head planning to leave Hogan Lovells, but it offers up interesting insight into what the BigLaw firm was focused on at one point.

Hogan Lovells first hit Australian shores in 2015 under the leadership of Tim and Nicky Lester, who were formerly of Allens at the time.

Back then, Patrick Sherrington (who was regional managing partner for Asia and the Middle East) said the firm had no intention of becoming a full-service domestic law firm but instead would use the offices in Sydney and Perth as a way to “deepen [its] connectivity” with the APAC market.

“We did not think the Australian market was underserved,” Mr Sherrington said at the time.

“Quite the contrary; we’ve long recognised the legal market is extremely well-served, so whilst we see the importance of it from a global perspective, we did not see it as imperative or even desirable to become a major domestic law firm in Australia.

“… We’ll be using our presence in Australia to develop our practice, particularly around our cross-border trade flows.

“We’ll be seeking to grow our energy, natural resources and infrastructure sector and looking for opportunities for Australian entities looking to invest not only in Asia but Africa, as well as our US clients investing in Australia.”

Then, in 2018, Scott Harris took over the helm as the managing partner for Hogan Lovells Australia — a role he has held since.

“Our practice in Australia is strong and has grown tremendously quickly,” Mr Harris said when news of his upcoming appointment broke in late 2017.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to help with the further growth of our presence in the market and build on all that we have achieved to date.”

While the firm has kept to its initial stance of not growing for growth’s sake, it is interesting to see the ultimate demise of the Perth practice — an office it first kicked off here with and one with obvious geographical benefits, given its proximity to key locations Hogan Lovells is keen on.

When asked whether the firm has plans to eventually reopen in Perth or in any other Australian state, Hogan Lovells responded: “Our plans are to focus on operating our Australia business from a consolidated base in Sydney.”

It didn’t rule out future growth, noting: “We will continue to grow our Sydney operations, including headcount, in line with future client demand.

“Our focus continues to be on supporting corporations, financial institutions and governments on corporate and finance transactions, including corporate/M&A, banking and finance, funding, capital markets, private equity and venture capital.”

This, of course, isn’t the first time we’ve seen a firm having to pull the pin on an office or two — including those with a global presence.

Most recently it was DWF who conducted an “orderly closure” of its Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle offices last year. Brisbane’s office was retained.

The impact was felt tremendously, seeing 85 employees and 14 principal lawyers having to leave the business.

“Management has continued to review operations and performance levels to ensure all locations align with the Group strategy,” DWF’s statement noted, adding that the closures would “enable a leaner Australian business to focus on institutional clients and core sectors”.

On the opposite end of the scale, we’ve got globals that are accelerating their headcount efforts.

HFW’s managing partner Gavin Vallely told Lawyers Weekly back in April that the firm is aiming to increase partner headcount from 23 to “mid-30s” over the next two years.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the firm grow by 50 per cent over the next two years,” he said.

Clyde & Co is also keen on growing numbers off the back of it exceeding annual revenue targets this year.

Looking ahead, the firm said Clyde & Co Australia would continue to actively pursue further expansion in its chosen sectors, both through important partner hiring and organic growth.

So while Hogan Lovells closing down its Perth office is still early days, with the knock-on effect yet to be determined, one question on everyone’s minds will be: Will this move see them sink or swim?

Can the firm get by with just the one Sydney shopfront, consolidating its offering as planned, or does this mark the beginning of trouble at Hogan Lovells Australia?