Los Angeles-based litigation firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan announced Thursday that it will open an office in Sydney next month with the addition of Herbert Smith Freehills partners Michael Mills and Michelle Fox. Joining Mills and Fox in the Aussie outpost will be longtime Quinn Emanuel partner James Webster, a native Australian who is relocating from Los Angeles.
"[A]fter 20 years working in the [U.S.], I am really looking forward to coming home," Webster said in a statement issued by the firm. "Getting to practice with two of Australia’s best litigation lawyers makes it all the more attractive."
The Sydney office opening is the latest major move in recent weeks by 700-lawyer Quinn Emanuel, which according to The American Lawyer‘s annual Am Law 100 rankings had gross revenues of $852.5 million and profits per partner of $4.435 million in 2012. The firm’s profit figure placed it second behind Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in that category, while its revenue per lawyer figure of $1.225 million put it in seventh place on this year’s list.
Quinn Emanuel saw its nonequity partner ranks swell more than 34 percent to 47, while the number of equity partners rose 9 percent to 121, according to our previous reports. Based on recent developments, those numbers are almost certain to rise again this year.
The Am Law Daily reported last month on the firm’s high-profile lateral hires of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom products liability litigators Sheila Birnbaum and Mark Cheffo in New York, as well as its raid on Weil, Gotshal & Manges for trial lawyers Michael Lyle and Eric Lyttle in Washington, D.C. (Quinn Emanuel, which expects to bring on an additional 12 associates and counsel from Skadden, officially announced  Lyle and Lyttle’s addition to the firm last week.)
The Aussie-born Webster, a University of Melbourne graduate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Sydney launch. Nor did name partner William Urquhart, who, like Webster, is based in the firm’s hometown of Los Angeles.
Founded in 1986— Urquhart joined the firm in 1988—Quinn Emanuel has grown steadily from its L.A. roots into a national firm over the past decade. In 2010, it became the first Am Law 100 firm with a female name partner by adding national appellate practice chair Kathleen Sullivan to its shingle.
In setting its sights on the growth markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Quinn Emanuel is now following a path blazed by several Am Law 100 and Magic Circle firms that established themselves in Australia in recent years in an effort to capitalize on a booming economy.
The firm Mills and Fox are leaving, Herbert Smith Freehills, was formed last October with the completion of a tie-up between leading British firm Herbert Smith and Aussie legal giant Freehills, a combination that created a 2,800-lawyer powerhouse, according to our previous reports.
Mills and Fox, commercial litigation and dispute resolution experts who coheaded the Australian insurance solutions and products liability practices at Herbert Smith Freehills, will now serve as comanaging partners of Quinn Emanuel’s Sydney base. In a statement released by Quinn Emanuel, Webster said his firm sees an opportunity to cater to clients seeking redress from Oz courts.
"Because of the size of the market, the large Australian law firms are often faced with conflicts of interest," Webster said. "Quinn Emanuel does not undertake corporate transactional work. We will therefore provide these forms and their clients with an attractive alternative for conflicts work."
In a statement of its own released to The Australian, Herbert Smith Freehills wished its former colleagues well at their new firm.
"Whilst it is disappointing to see Michelle and Michael leave, they are seeking a new challenge at a U.S. trial law firm and both have made a significant contribution to the firm in their time as partners," the firm said in its statement.