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Mills Oakley hires 4 more partners and a consultant as it aims to be Australia’s ‘leading national law firm’

BigLaw player Mills Oakley has continued a year of significant growth, adding another five senior professionals, including four partners, from various national and SME rivals (some of whom have brought team members with them). The firm, its CEO says, is playing the “longer game”.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 06 December 2023 Big Law
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Mills Oakley has added five new partners – Dalvin Chien, Johann Spies, Mark North, Kate Bishop, and Jeremy Culshaw – who will operate out of three of its national offices.

The hires mean that the national firm has appointed a total of 25 new partners in 2023 to date, bringing its partnership ranks to over 150 – a first in the firm’s 160-year history.

Mr Chien – who recently appeared on an episode of LawTech Talks to discuss the implications of artificial intelligence – joins from Sparke Helmore (where he spent nearly three years), bringing more than two decades of experience in technology contracting, privacy, cyber security, security of critical infrastructure, data sharing, e-commerce and emerging technology.


He joined as a partner and commenced with the firm earlier this week on 4 December.

Mr Spies arrived at Mills Oakley from Clyde & Co, where he served as a special counsel for four and a half years. He joins the firm as a partner.

He brings, the firm detailed, 16 years of experience as a senior commercial lawyer and focus on acting for reinsurers, insurers, MGAs and brokers, and other insurance value chain participants across the Australian, south-east Asian, and African markets.

Mr North joins from Chamberlains, where he headed up its national corporate and commercial team and has also brought associate Elvira Limpid with him to Mills Oakley.

He brings “significant experience” in corporate, commercial, and regulatory advisory practice areas, Mills Oakley detailed, and his practice comprises private small and medium enterprises (national and multinational), investment funds and family offices, public not-for-profits and industry associations, public companies (listed and unlisted), and Commonwealth service providers.

Both he and Mr Spies commenced with the firm last month and will be based in the Sydney and Canberra offices, respectively.

Elsewhere, Kate Bishop and Jeremy Culshaw will establish a family law team in Mills Oakley’s Adelaide office, with both set to come across from Culshaw Bishop in South Australia.

Ms Bishop joins as a partner, while Mr Culshaw will serve as a consultant. They are bringing three team members –Jeremy Gitsham, Arianna Van de Water and Lyndal Hunwick – with them to the BigLaw practice.

The pair will start at Mills Oakley on 18 December.

Ms Bishop has spent a decade at Culshaw Bishop Lawyers, where she practised solely in family law, while Mr Culshaw (over the course of a 36-year career) has managed the Perth office of Culshaw Miller Lawyers and been head of its family law team, established Culshaw Bishop Lawyers in Adelaide, and co-established Culshaw Miller Badenoch Lawyers in Melbourne (both family law boutiques).

The news continues what has been a period of substantial growth for Mills Oakley.

As reported by Lawyers Weekly, it nabbed senior lawyers from MinterEllison in late September, four partners from rivals and a Sydney-based boutique practice in October and two additional partners in the same month, another five partners from BigLaw firms in September, and three new partners in March.

The firm also promoted 55 lawyers to more senior roles in mid-June and spoke to Lawyers Weekly about its growth strategy in October of last year following the acquisition of a number of boutique practices to enhance its litigation, corporate, and insurance capabilities.

Speaking about the firm’s newest partners – as well as its string of recent lateral hires – Mills Oakley chief executive John Nerurker said: “We are well on track to become Australia’s leading national law firm.

“In combination with internal promotions, the appointments of Mark, Dalvin, Johann, Kate and Jeremy reflect our ability to attract excellent people from across the legal field.

“Our strategy is very deliberate. We play the longer game.”

Mills Oakley has six national offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney.

Mr Chien said: “The Mills Oakley model will allow me to offer my clients excellent value while assisting them navigate an increasingly complex technology landscape brought on by a changed economy, AI and cyber security regulatory reform.”

Mr Spies noted that the BigLaw firm has “outstanding expertise in the insurance industry, both within the insurance team as well as embedded within the broader offering that the firm provides”.

“The value proposition for my clients is undeniable, and the collaborative and supportive culture in the firm ensures that clients will receive top excellent service in all their legal needs,” he posited.

Mr North noted that he is “delighted” to be joining Mills Oakley as a partner and is “pleased that my team has come across with me to ensure we can continue to deliver the exceptional levels of service we have become known for”.

“By joining forces with a leading national law firm, we are excited to be able to offer our clients a wide range of complementary services that only a large firm like Mills Oakley can provide,” he said.

Ms Bishop said: “Combining national resources with a local identity will ensure the best possible outcomes for our clients.”

Mr Culshaw reflected: “I look forward to the transition of Kate Bishop and our amazing staff to Mills Oakley and the continuation of the delivery of cost-effective, robust and client-focused advice to those in the South Australian community experiencing relationship breakdown.”

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