THE YEAR 2006 will go down as another of great success for law firm Freehills, which scooped up six awards at the Fuji Xerox Australian Law Awards in Sydney on Friday night.
Held at the striking Doltone House in Sydney’s Pyrmont, the sixth annual awards night recognised the superb achievements of law firms and individual practitioners across Australia. Nine major practice areas received special acknowledgment, with awards also going to best individual firm, best managing partner and a young gun, among other prestigious categories.
After Freehills had been announced as winners of several of the first awards, MC Simon Tupman, coach and author of Why Lawyers Should Eat Bananas, noted to the room of Australia’s top legal professionals that Freehills should grab itself a trolley to carry away its increasing collection of trophies.
Freehills was the proud recipient of the Harriss Wagner Australian Law Firm of the Year Award, for firms with more than 500 practising certificates. The firm also bagged awards in four of the nine practice area categories, including Banking & Finance, Energy & Resources, and Mergers & Acquisitions, with boutique tax firm Greenwoods & Freehills winning the Taxation Award.
Capping off a great year for the firm, chief executive officer and managing partner Gavin Bell was presented with the Telstra Managing Partner of the Year award.
Bell was modest in reacting to an individual acknowledgment of his contribution to the firm’s success.
“I’m proud about having won, but really see it as just an acknowledgment of what the firm has done, rather than what I’ve done individually,” he said.
Considering the great team working beneath him, Bell said that much of the credit he receives personally should be shared with the firm as a whole.
“Obviously because the firm is doing so well, it puts me in a good light, which makes it easier for me to win that sort of award,” he said.
Freehills’ recent financial performance was hard for the judging panel to ignore.
“The firm’s substantial growth, in a mature and over serviced market, is one of the most significant and measurable outcomes achieved in this period,” the firm said.
“[Freehills] has increased net revenue by $48 million — from $417 million to $465 million — representing growth of over 11 per cent from the previous corresponding period.”
During this same period, Freehills appointed 14 new lawyers to the partnership, the firm said. Also persuasive was Freehill’s launch of its Commerciality Program during the last financial year.
“This program is about offering exceptional commercial client service and developing commerciality as a core competency amongst all staff and is an integral part of the firm’s strategic direction,” the firm said.
Bell said the firm’s impressive results in the practice group categories were indicative of how well Freehills was performing in the market. “If you dig beneath, for example, what we’ve done in the M&A space, we’ve acted in most of the major transactions, which reflect how well those groups have done,” he said.
By way of example, Freehills’ banking and finance division completed many influential transactions, which helped to carry them over the line.
The firm acted for Commonwealth Bank of Australia in the $750 million fully underwritten revolving operating lease facility for Leighton Holdings, and for Newbridge-TPG and the Myer Family Consortium in the $1.4 billion leveraged financing of the Myer retail store business and the Myer Melbourne freehold store.
Freehills was also integral to the SGD$435 million ($363 million)total return equity and credit derivative swaps for the acquisition by Macquarie International Infrastructure Fund Limited of a number of portfolios of listed Australian securities and an indirect investment in the long-term care retirement home business known as Leisureworld in Ontario, Canada, the firm said.