DLA Piper moves to replenish Aussie offices after Phillips Fox merger fallout

DLA Piper has begun rebuilding its Brisbane office after it suffered ­departures in the run-up to the firm’s merger with DLA Phillips Fox, taking on two partners and their support teams from Australian firm Dibbs Barker.

Jim Holding has joined DLA Piper’s corporate team while David Richardson will bolster the IP and technology departments. Both were partners at Dibbs Barker.
The two bring with them a legal support team ­comprising three solicitors, one senior associate, a ­graduate and two legal ­secretaries. Special counsel Peter Burden, who is an experienced tax and corporate structuring lawyer, will join as part of Holding’s group.

Holding started at DLA Piper on 18 July, while Richards and the legal ­support team will join on 1 August.

This is not the first time Dibbs Barker has lost out to an international firm. In March 2010 the firm (then Dibbs Barker Gosling) lost Sydney-based restructuring partner Gerard Breen to Norton Rose.

The DLA Piper hires come weeks after the firm also scooped two special counsel in Brisbane. Mark Baker-Jones joined DLA Piper’s planning and environment team from P&E Law in Maroochydore, and Stephen Ross joined the finance and projects department from HWL Ebsworth.

DLA Piper has also announced that it is relocating Asia Pacific litigation and regulatory partner John Goulios from Melbourne to Singapore. Goulios focuses on insurance, reinsurance, alternative dispute ­resolution and commercial ­dispute resolution.

Before DLA Piper merged with DLA Phillips Fox on 1 May, a team of nine partners left the Phillips Fox Brisbane office to join Thomsons Lawyers (The Lawyer, 14 March). The move left the firm with no corporate partners in Brisbane, a gap that Holding’s hire should start to plug.

Weeks after the merger, a group of six Canberra ­partners specialising in pharmaceutical and life ­sciences work for government clients left to help establish an office for HWL Ebsworth in the Australian capital. Their departure left DLA Piper with two ­partners in the city. According to DLA Piper, the ­partners left due to concerns about client conflicts.

It has since emerged that Kathie Sadler, one of the lawyers who left DLA Phillips Fox for Thomsons, has filed a A$630,000 (£417,000) harassment claim in the country’s Supreme Court against the DLA Piper partnership.

Sadler, who was a special counsel and worked in DLA Phillips Fox’s corporate and financial business services unit from May 2006 until April this year, claims she was harassed by a partner and was the victim of ­constructive dismissal.

She also states that when she raised the issue of harassment with another partner at DLA Phillips Fox’s ­Brisbane office she was told to “make a nice ­morning tea and bring it in to build bridges”.

A spokesperson for DLA Piper said in statement: “This matter is before the court and therefore it’s ­inappropriate to make any comment.”