Clayton Utz, Australia


$A391m (£155.29m)
Total number of lawyers: 775
Total number of partners: 211
Main practice areas: Construction and major projects, corporate, litigation, real estate, banking and financial services, government services
Clients: Macquarie Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Toll Holdings, Origin Energy, AMP, Ironbridge Capital, Multiplex, Merck & Co, Commonwealth Department of Defence
Number of offices: Six
Locations: Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney

In the tight Australian legal market Clayton Utz has set its stall out as a national firm, turning its back on opening international offices and instead preferring to link up with referral firms.

The policy, while unusual among Australian firms, which increasingly see South East Asia and China as sources of profit and investment opportunities, has not seen Clayton Utz lose standing as one of the country’s top-tier firms.

The firm operates a single partnership and profit pool for its offices, unlike some competitors, which choose to keep the smaller cities separate from the key financial centres of Melbourne and Sydney. Partners are remunerated through a lockstep model.

Chief executive partner David Fagan says the firm keeps its Australian-only footprint under review, but adds: “We’re yet to see a compelling economic business case to [open an international office].”

Fagan claims an international view requires a longer timeline to show success than Clayton Utz is prepared to suffer. “We generate significant work by wearing out the shoe leather, and that works for us,” he says.

The firm keeps a close relationship with top New Zealand firm Simpson Grierson, but has no plans to advance the trans-Tasman relationship beyond referral status. “We track all our international referrals, and there are a significant number of them,” says Fagan. “But there’s no substitute for growing your own generated work.”

The firm’s 2005-06 turnover of A$391m (£155.29m) was 8 per cent up on the previous year’s A$361m (£143.37m) and the firm has been a consistent performer over the years.

“We’re looking at another year of growth – around the 10 per cent mark for 2006-07,” says Fagan. “We continue to operate in a very challenging and compact market; there’s not much growth room for any of the larger firms.”

Clayton Utz has budgeted for a turnover near the A$420m (£166.8m) mark for the current financial year.

The firm has been making the most of a boom in PPP and PFI work in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. It has won roles on Brisbane City Council’s A$2bn (£794.31m) bypass and has an historic involvement in Taiwan’s $15bn (£7.7bn), 345km high-speed rail project.

In the corporate world, the firm won a role advising on Toll Holdings’ A$6bn (£2.38bn) takeover of stevedoring group Patrick Corporation, while its litigation practice has been advising Merck Sharp & Dohme Australia on the ongoing litigation over the Vioxx drug.

For all Australian firms private equity transactions have been a revelation in 2006-07, and Clayton Utz has been quick to land its fair share of mandates. The firm has been bolstered by its close relationship with Australian private equity house Ironbridge Capital, which it advised on its A$1.45bn (£575.87m) sale of a stake in Affinity Health, and its acquisition of the Barbeques Galore business, which was the first private equity house take-private of a Nasdaq-listed entity in Australia.