Clifford Chance doesn’t share in Oz’s common wealth

Clifford Chance partners Down Under are walking along Bondi Beach screaming “strewth” this morning after hearing the worst news to hit the island (look, it’s Jubilee weekend so we’ll call it what we like) since Harold Bishop went missing.

The magic circle giant has emerged as the only UK firm with an Australia presence not to be listed on the government’s slashed legal panel, which has given coveted places to the likes of Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Norton Rose, DLA Piper and a splash of local firms.

We’re all sick of the old quip about didgeri-due diligence, but surely Clifford Chance should have spent a little more time on tender pitches and less on cricket pitches when it launched in Oz last year. After all, the Aussie government spent £425.8m on legal expenses in 2010-11, including around £180m to law firms. Ten firms earned 89 per cent of these fees, with DLA snatching around £20m and Norton Rose (formerly Deacons) roughly £8m.

There is a slight reprieve: the Australian government will assess new applications twice a year, with the next deadline set for this September. Given that the panel covers work for all government agencies and, with 68 members, basically includes the great and the good of the Australian legal market, Clifford Chance will surely want to try again next time.