THE WORLD of media law was shaken last week with the announcement that Johnson Winter & Slattery (JWS) has lured across key litigation lawyers from Gilbert & Tobin.
The firm recruited five of G&T’s staff to its Sydney office, including new partners Mark O'Brien, Paul Reidy and Kate Fitzgerald. O’Brien and Reidy are currently partners in Gilbert & Tobin’s media and commercial wing, while Fitzgerald is being promoted from her present role of special counsel, where she specialises in commercial and public law. This brings the number of partners at JWS to 28.
“We were looking to further develop our general commercial dispute resolution capability in the firm to provide greater depth to our resourcing there,” managing partner Peter Slattery said.
“We certainly saw that through the group we’ve attracted from G&T, that they would certainly enhance what we are able to offer clients in the commercial dispute resolution practice area.”
The move came after discussions over a matter of weeks, Slattery said. Any further expansion of the litigation practice will be done organically. “We’re not actively seeking any further lateral recruitment in that area,” he said.
Attracting key senior partners to the firm fits well with the JWS business model.
“Partners are very hands-on, client focussed, and we feel through structuring our teams in that way, we’re able to offer a competitive alternative than firms that rely on a higher level of leverage, so a higher ratio of junior lawyer to senior lawyer,” Slattery said.
“We’re not looking to attract work that can be, generally speaking, pushed down the line to much more junior lawyers and still managed efficiently.”
O’Brien described his time at G&T “as the most rewarding and satisfying 13 years of my career, without any doubt”.
But the lure of JWS was evidently too great to resist. “They’re very tightly controlled with their costs. It’s a very closely managed firm, by an extremely impressive managing partner,” O’Brien said.
Danny Gilbert acknowledged the contribution made by the outgoing lawyers, especially O’Brien, who “joined G&T in the early days of the firm almost 13 years ago and has been an important contributor to our brand and expertise”.
Gilbert also stressed the strength of the ongoing relationship between the firm and Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL). “We continue to achieve significant results across the firm, working on deals such as [PBL’s] recent recapitalisation led by our long established key PBL partner, Gina Cass-Gottlieb,” he said.
This was reinforced by PBL’s group general counsel, Guy Jalland, who said “we are very happy with the quality of all services provided by the firm”.
The media sector will wait with baited breath to see what impact the lateral move will have on the market.