Quinn Emanuel sets out ambitions to grow Australia practice

The founding partner of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s Australia office, Michael Mills, is aiming to more than double the size of the base from two partners to up to 12 partners.

The Sydney office was opened in early September, several months after the firm initially announced its Australia launch (10 May 2013). Quinn Emanuel now has two partners in the city, Michael Mills and Michelle Fox, who announced their intention to join the firm from Herbert Smith Freehills’ Sydney office in May.

Mills, a veteran commercial litigator and co-managing partner of the new office, said the Sydney office is expected to have in place between eight and 12 partners, depending on client demand.

“It’s both reassuring and interesting that many leading commercial litigation lawyers have told us that they consider the Australian market is ripe and long over due to have a specialist international business litigation practice,” said Mills. “As Australia’s legal market continues to mature, Australian companies are looking to specialists for the world’s best practice. This is not just for transaction matters such as M&A, financing and infrastructure projects, but also for litigation.”

In addition to direct instructions by corporate clients, Mills hopes to build connections with domestic firms to capture referrals. “Law firms are one of the key ports of calls for us,” he explained. ”Given our lack of transaction practice, we have a real ability to have good relationship with local firms. We’re in a position to refer transactional work to them and if they have conflicts of interest they can refer the clients to us. It’s reassuring to know that we won’t poach their clients.”

According to a recent industry report by King & Wood Mallesons on class actions in Australia, 2012 was a remarkable year for the quantum of securities class action settlements reached, which totaled at A$480m. The report also stated that the total value of such settlements over the past 20 years was more than A$1bn.

“Australia is not that different from the US in terms of litigation pattern. The litigation market is comparable to the size of its economy. Although the volume and the frequency of top-end, big-ticket litigation matters are not the same as in the US, there are significant cases,” said Mills.

He continued: “We are starting with a blank sheet paper. Part of the joy of what we do is that we get to tailor Quinn Emanuel’s Australia practice to the market demand.”