No sooner had Michael Lundberg become a partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques in January this year than he was thrust into the action, representing Kumba Resources Ltd against Gina Rinehart’s private companies in negotiating a settlement in relation to the
No sooner had Michael Lundberg become a partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques in January this year than he was thrust into the action, representing Kumba Resources Ltd against Gina Rinehart’s private companies in negotiating a settlement in relation to the Hope Downs Iron Ore project.
And, Mr Lundberg said, after the Hope Downs matter settled he thought he might have his first quiet month since joining Mallesons in 2000. But things aren’t shaping up that way.
“I have been flat out since joining Mallesons and there is just so much work around in litigation,” he said.
No doubt other commercial litigation practitioners named atop the Legal Elite list in WA are equally busy – Stephen Penglis and Paul Evans from Freehills, and Julian Sher from Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
Mr Penglis’ clients include Janet Holmes à Court, the Heytesbury Group of Companies, Peters & Brownes Group of Companies, Western Power and KPMG.
Mr Evans was the principal solicitor to: the Woodside joint venture in relation to the recovery of losses flowing from the collapse of the Goodwyn A platform, a $320 million insurance/construction claim; the Apache/Santos joint venture in relation to potential claims relating to the Stag Rig; Multiplex Constructions Pty Ltd in a number of claims relating to major construction projects, including the Old Swan Brewery Development; and in a number of substantial professional liability claims arising out of the collapses of the late 1980s.
Mr Sher previously practiced as a barrister and now heads up Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s commercial litigation practice. His clients include Woolworths Limited, two of Australia’s big four banks, the Bank of Western Australia, AMP Limited, Brambles Limited, Robe River Associates, the Minister for Local Government, the Minister for Fair Trading, Nissan Australia, Australia Leisure Holdings Ltd, and Southern Cross Broadcasting.
Mr Lundberg was highlighted as the ‘new young blood’ in commercial litigation, and specialises in energy and resources and intellectual property.
Seeking early exposure to counsel work, Mr Lundberg began his career at the Crown Solicitors Office, where he stayed for seven years before joining Mallesons.
Mr Lundberg said the Kumba Resources settlement kept his team busy for months and, while extremely hard work, it was also good fun.
“We specialise in big complex litigation matters and the reality is that no-one enjoys litigation, but once you make the decision to do it, you need to go hard,” he said.
The Hope Downs project arbitration was settled early in the morning of the day that a two-day trial was supposed to begin in the WA Court of Appeal in which Kumba was seeking to overturn a ruling that left the Hope Downs project in Gina Rinehart’s control.
Clearing the legal dispute removes one of the barriers for Ms Rinehart to develop her $2 billion iron ore project.
“I enjoy finding the answers to legal problems, and there is no hiding the right legal answer in front of a judge – the Crown certainly taught me that there is no substitute for good legal research,” Mr Lundberg told WA Business News.
Mr Lundberg also acted for Grain Pool in recent years concerning a dispute about the patenting of a new strain of barley.
Proceedings in this case involved a range of commercial IP and constitutional claims.
“Although patent litigation isn’t very big in Perth, it is beginning to grow. We are acting for QPSX, a West Perth-based company who have a business model of protecting IP rights, and they are suing Ericsson in the local Federal Court.”
Mr Lundberg has also acted in relation to takeover schemes of arrangement for: HBOS in relation to BankWest; Glencore International AG in relation to creditors’ schemes of arrangement involving Glencore Nickel Pty Ltd and Homemaker Retail Management; and Wesfi Ltd in relation to members’ schemes of arrangement.
He also represents Len Buckeridge on defamation matters.
“The highlight of my time at the Crown was being junior counsel for the state government for the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) conspiracy claims in 1998-99. It was the Victorian waterfront dispute spilling into WA and the trial ran for several weeks,” Mr Lundberg said.
Another highlight of his career so far was working with Robert Lilburne on industrial award hearings brought by five unions against BHP Billiton in 2000-01 in relation to its Pilbara operations.
Mr Lundberg said becoming a partner was a starting point for another stage in his legal career.
“It is great to still work with guys who have been doing this for 20 years – they are a great support and I have the ability to tap into another resource or level of experience,” he said.”