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The New York giant was one of the first US firms to open an office in Australia and has had a base in Melbourne since 1983. But it has now decided to increase its coverage with the Sydney expansion.
Chairman Rodgin Cohen says the reason for the decision is simple: "There are two financial centres in Australia - we're in one but not in the other."
Although none of the top 20 UK firms have offices in Australia, there are a handful of leading US practices in the country. They include Coudert Brothers, which practises Australian as well as US law, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and Baker & McKenzie.
A senior Australian lawyer calls Sullivan & Cromwell's decision to open in Sydney "sensible". "They went to Melbourne when it was the centre of the old economy, but Sydney has superseded that," he says.
Cohen says that although no final date has been set, the firm intends to open the office by the end of this year. Staff levels and seniority are still being discussed.
He adds that the future of the Melbourne office "depends to a large measure on what happens in Australia", and whether the economy remains capable of supporting two offices.
Australia, though, remains an important market for a range of US firms. At the end of last year, the Sydney office of fellow US giant Jones Day Reavis & Pogue recruited London-based Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US securities partner John Chrisman (The Lawyer, 18 December 2000).