Freehills appoints new Australia chief ahead of Herbert Smith merger

Freehills has named its Perth head Jason Ricketts as its new Australia managing partner, with incumbent Gavin Bell preparing to take on global responsibilities at the merged firm Herbert Smith Freehills as joint CEO.

Ricketts’ appointment comes following last month’s confirmation that Freehills and Herbert Smith are set to merge on 1 October 2012 (28 June 2012). David Willis and Gavin Bell, the current managing partners of Herbert Smith and Freehills respectively, will lead the merged firm as joint CEOs.

Ricketts will serve as the Australia managing partner of the enlarged firm. He joined Freehills in 1990 and became a partner in 1996. His practice focuses on major infrastructure projects, including water and waste management, mining, and transport infrastructure projects.

In a statement, Bell said he believed the tie-up represents a merger of equals, something that is reflected in the make-up of the management team.

“The choice of Jason as Australia managing partner not only reflects his strong performance and leadership, but also the importance of Perth as a growing business hub for Asia Pacific and its strength in natural resources,” Bell commented.

The Lawyer reported earlier this month that the merged firm will be organised around global practice groups and that several new management appointments have been made (9 July 2012).

As part of the restructuring, Herbert Smith’s current real estate head Ian Cox has been appointed to the new role of London managing partner while the firm’s CIS managing partner Allen Hanen will become EMEA managing partner.

In light of the global practice groups, the merged firm’s global corporate practice will be jointly led by Herbert Smith mananging partner Partrick Mitchell and Freehills corproate head Mike Ferraro, while its global litigation practice will be headed by Herbert Smith litigation head Sonya Leydecker. The new firm will have a combined global real estate and finance department, which will be led by an as-yet unidentified partner on the Freehills side of the business.