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Minter Ellison has fought off the the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) to win a contract with the Australian government.
The firm and the AGS pitched to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australia (AFFA), which is outsourcing all its in-house legal capability.
The AGS will continue working for the department as an external legal adviser, but Minter Ellison has picked up the lucrative three-year contract to run the corporate legal unit.
The contract is understood to be worth A$1m (£387,000) a year and will see a team of five lawyers and two support staff take up residency in the department.
It is the first big win for Minter Ellison's Canberra office since it took over the bulk of Deacons' capital city operation last November.
The raid left Minter Ellison with the largest non-government practice in Canberra after 10 Deacons partners voted to join the firm (The Lawyer, 3 November).
It is one of the first contracts awarded to private practice since the Judiciary Amendment Act, which became law in September 1999. The act allows governmental departments and agencies to chose whether they continue using the AGS or instruct external firms.
London partner Robert Hanley says: "This was part of the reason we acquired Deacons' Canberra office. The government has been in the process of putting all their legal work out to tender for the last year."
The bid was led by Canberra partner Denis O'Brien, who specialises in finance and commercial disputes as well as governmental law. Before joining the 240-partner firm in 1989, O'Brien worked as a senior government lawyer in a variety of departments.
It is understood that the AFFA chose Minter Ellison, which has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, Perth and Canberra, because it wanted legal expertise with national support.