Melbourne, Australia.
Melbourne, Australia. (Photo: Greg Brave/Shutterstock.com)

White & Case has confirmed plans to set up shop in Melbourne on Dec. 1 and in Sydney by early 2017 after adding three more lawyers from Herbert Smith Freehills. In September, White & Case hired 10 partners from the rival global legal giant.

The new White & Case additions are former Herbert Smith Freehills senior associates Adeline Pang and Ged Cochrane, as well as ex-special counsel Michelle Keen. All three will join White & Case as partners in Melbourne.

“The arrival of our new partners represents the launch of our practice in Australia, which aligns with our Asia Pacific strategy to build on the firm’s global strengths and supports the growth of our leading global energy, infrastructure and project finance practice,” said a statement by White & Case partner and global head of banking Eric Berg, who also heads the firm’s Asia practice. “It’s another important strategic milestone as we continue to grow our role advising clients across the Asia Pacific region on their most complex, cross-border matters.”

White & Case’s interest in expanding into Australia has unnerved some leading local independent firms, with the head of Gilbert + Tobin telling the Australian Financial Review last month that there was no truth to rumors that several top partners were preparing to decamp for the 1,914-lawyer firm. Herbert Smith Freehills joint global CEO Mark Rigotti, who was recently appointed sole leader, told the Australian business press in September that his firm was unfazed by the departures. He even hinted at potentially long notice periods for those seeking to join White & Case.

Asked when those prospective hires will be freed to join the firm, a White & Case spokesman said it is in the process of finalizing start dates for its other Herbert Smith Freehills recruits. Among those that gave their notice were Herbert Smith Freehills’ Asia-based finance head Brendan Quinn in Melbourne and projects partner Joel Rennie in Sydney. The hires, as noted at the time by sibling publication The Asian Lawyer, are thought to have some $22.65 million in annual business. The expansion effort in Oz is a bold move by White & Case, coming at a time when some big firms have shuttered offices in the country to coincide with the end of the commodities boom.

White & Case’s latest hires are energy and infrastructure project development expert Pang, acquisition and project finance specialist Cochrane and environmental planning pro Keen. Asked about the three new hires, Herbert Smith Freehills once again said its business in the region would remain strong.

“We are well prepared, with a strong succession plan in place; work has commenced to transition current matters to other lawyers,” said a statement from a Herbert Smith Freehills spokeswoman. “The team in [the Asia Pacific region] and globally remains strong, and these departures provide opportunities for other talented lawyers in the team to step up.”

White & Case saw gross revenue increase slightly in 2015, to roughly $1.52 billion, according to the firm’s most recent Am Law 100 financial data. Profits per partner remained mostly flat at $2.02 million.