Stirling left Blakes (now Ashurst) in early November 2011. Stirling was a partner at Blakes for eight years and was head of the firm’s corporate team in Melbourne at the time of his departure. He officially joined King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) on 1 May.
“From a personal perspective, the client base I worked with had a slightly better alignment to China and Asia than perhaps a broader European network,” said Stirling when asked why he left one firm that merged with an overseas firm to join another that also aligned itself with an overseas firm on the same date on 1 March this year.
“My client base, through coincidence, dovetailed nicely into the existing KWM client base. I had a really high level of optimism that I could maintain and grow my practice here.”
Two of Stirling’s biggest clients are the Australian-based TRUenergy and the American multinational conglomerate General Electric (GE).
GE was a major client for Mallesons Stephen Jaques and King & Wood prior to the merger. TRUenergy was also a client of Mallesons prior to the merger.
Tug of War
The question of when Stirling could start at KWM was the subject of much conjecture earlier in the year.
In January Mallesons announced its partnership additions for 2012, with Stirling listed as starting at the firm by the end of January.
However, sources within Blakes contacted Lawyers Weekly to say that he was still officially with that firm at the time.
Blake Dawson managing partner John Carrington was resolute when speaking to Lawyers Weekly in January in stating that Stirling would be forced to wait until May before joining his new firm.
“Peter will be with us until the end of April,” said Carrington in January. “My understanding is that Peter’s period of notice expires around the end of April and that he will be a partner at the firm until that time.”
Stirling was one of a number of partners that left Blakes in the wake of its announcement last year that it was being acquired by Ashurst.
KWM also announced this week that it had poached the Melbourne-based Ashurst IP and competition partner Stephen Ridgeway, who will join the firm in October. Ashurst also lured across the noted Gilbert + Tobin corporate partners Garry Besson and Gary Lawler.
Mallesons lost a number of its Chinese-based partners in the wake of its merger announcement with King & Wood last year.
Stirling said that he doesn’t believe the recent partner defections at Ashurst is representative of disquiet at the acquisition of Blake Dawson by the UK-based global firm.
“The people I know of [who left] had their own personal reasons [for going],” he said. “Certainly my decision to leave was not due to disaffection with Blakes or the tie-up with Ashurst. It was more that I saw greater opportunities for me with what Mallesons was proposing.”