MALLESONS STEPHEN JAQUES has taken out top spot in the Chambers Global 2007 list of the cream of leading lawyers per practice group in Australia, while Blake Dawson Waldron was named firm of the year.
Clients were asked to assess their lawyers over 15 practice divisions, assessing qualities such as professional conduct, technical ability and client services, Chambers said. The very best lawyers made it into band one.
Mallesons had 20 partners chosen in the top category, spreading across 13 of the 15 divisions. The next best firm was Blakes, with 16 leading lawyers in band one, followed by Allens Arthur Robinson at 13 and Freehills at 12.
There was a big jump down to the next position, with Clayton Utz securing six names. Gilbert & Tobin and Minter Ellison each had four partners mentioned; Corrs Chambers Westgarth three and Henry Davis York two.
But it was an instrumental role in the BHP Billiton deal, 75 overall leading lawyer results, and progressive policies for flexible work that saw Blakes win the Australian Law Firm of the Year award for 2006.
“This year we’ve had a fantastic run of work, managing partner John Atkin said, citing advice given to Alinta on the AGL matter, Qantas and the Sydney Futures Exchange on the ASX merger.
The headline deal, however, was the work the firm did for BHP Billiton on the Western Mining acquisition in mid-2005, Atkin said.
Although Blakes’ corporate team performed strongly, Atkin said the firm had succeeded in boosting its intellectual property practice, with some major clients coming on board.
“We’ve picked up management of the IP portfolios for Qantas — we won that off Minters,” he said. “[And] we’ve picked up the IP portfolio for the National Foods.”
Blakes’ sixth straight citation as an employer of choice for women, from the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, was part of the firm’s “deliberate focus on trying to create a working environment that supports our female employees,” Atkin said.
“We just concluded a major review of our flexible working arrangements, which are important for all staff, but particularly important for women with family considerations. That’s something we’ve had policies on for many years.”
In one instance, a female lawyer, who had only just become partner, needed to go on immediate maternity leave.
“[She] thought she wanted to work full-time when she came back, but in fact realised that she only wanted to come back part-time. So us being flexible for her, and equally her being very committed to making it work, was important. You can’t put people in straightjackets,” he said.
Missing out on the award for best firm were other nominees Allens, Clayton Utz, Freehills, Minter Ellison and Mallesons, despite the last firm’s superior performance in the best of the leading lawyers.
The top firms in each of the 15 Chambers Global practice divisions were shared by only six Australian firms. Allens and Mallesons tied first in banking and finance, and capital markets (debt); while Allens, Freehills and Mallesons all shared top billing for corporate and M&A, dispute resolution, and projects.
Gilbert & Tobin and Mallesons were equally good in competition and antitrust, and TMT (technology, media and telecommunications), Chambers said.
The best in capital markets (equity) was Freehills and Mallesons, while employment went to Freehills and Blakes, and energy and natural resources to Freehills and Allens. A three-way split saw Allens, Blakes and Clayton Utz come first in environment and native title.
Standing out from the crowd as best in the division were Allens (intellectual property), Blakes (restructuring and insolvency) and Mallesons (real estate), Chambers said.