Allen & Overy announced Thursday the addition of a three-member securities team to its Australia practice from the soon-to-be-shuttered Sydney office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
The group, which is led by partner Mark Leemen and includes counsel Cécile Baume and associate Matthew Lim, are leaving Skadden after the high-powered Wall Street firm decided to close its five-lawyer outpost, which opened in 1989, and pull out of Australia. Skadden’s other Sydney-based partner, Adrian Deitz, also a securities expert, is now working out of the firm’s offices in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Leemen regularly acts for investment banks operating in Australia, while his other clients include Scentre Group Ltd., Transurban Holdings Ltd., Westpac Banking Corp. and the Commonwealth Department of Finance, which he represented on the Medibank privatization and initial public offering, A&O said in a statement. The team have acted on six of the 10 largest IPOs in Australia and New Zealand since 2013, the Magic Circle firm added.
Jason Denisenko, A&O’s Sydney managing partner, described the hires as “a fantastic opportunity,” while the firm’s Perth managing partner Geoff Simpson said it “signifies our continued commitment to grow and invest in the region.”
The London-based legal giant arrived down under in 2010, establishing offices in both Sydney and Perth following the surprise hire of 15 partners from elite Australian firm Clayton Utz. The next two years saw a flurry of activity in the country, with several other international firms setting up shop—many through mergers with local Australian practices. Just two of Australia’s “Big Six” remain independent: Clayton Utz and Minter Ellison.
By the end of 2012, Blake Dawson had combined with London-based Ashurst, Freehills had merged with Herbert Smith, Mallesons Stephen Jaques had joined forces with Chinese legal giant King & Wood and Allens had inked an association deal with Linklaters.
But the Australian legal market has seen a significant slowdown over the past two years thanks to an extended slump in the country’s core mining industry, plunging commodities prices and increasing economic turbulence stemming from China’s economic contraction.
Other elite firms, such as Clifford Chance, have also recently moved to downsize their Australia practices. But Skadden is the first major U.S. firm to contract entirely Down Under since 2013, when Dorsey & Whitney closed its Sydney office and relocated its sole partner in the country to Hong Kong.