04/07/2006 - 22:00

Top legal eagles take flight

04/07/2006 - 22:00

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The new financial year has triggered a series of changes at the top of Perth’s big law firms with senior partners leaving MinterEllison, Clayton Utz and Freehills.

Top legal eagles take flight

The new financial year has triggered a series of changes at the top of Perth’s big law firms, with senior partners leaving MinterEllison, Clayton Utz and Freehills.

Clayton Utz insolvency partner Rob McKenzie left at the end of last week to establish a new firm with several other senior lawyers who are yet to announce their departures.

His departure will be offset by the recruitment of Freehills corporate partner Kevin O’Sullivan, who will join Clayton Utz in September.

Minter Ellison managing partner Sean Larkan is another person leaving a big firm to start a new business, in his case as an independent consultant.

Mr Larkan, who has been managing partner for seven years, will be replaced in that role by experienced finance partner John Poulsen.

Mr Larkan will cease active involvement in the partnership from September 1 and will formally retire from the firm at the end of March next year.

He told WA Business News he was ready for a new challenge and now had an opportunity to work as an independent consultant.

Among other changes at Minter, commercial litigation partner Peter Doherty retired on June 30 to practice as a barrister, while insurance partner Bruce Goetze is retiring after being appointed a judge of the District Court of Western Australia.

The departures follow the recruitment earlier this year of Darwin lawyer Duncan Maclean, who practices in energy and resources.

Clayton Utz chief executive David Fagan said his firm was delighted to have recruited Mr O’Sullivan, who would bring valuable skills to the firm.

Mr O’Sullivan runs a general corporate practice with a resource focus.

It is understood his move reflects Freehills’ strategy of having highly specialised partners operating in areas such as mergers and acquisitions, construction, and oil and gas.

At Clayton Utz, insolvency specialist Mr McKenzie left last Friday after 22 years with the firm.

Mr McKenzie is planning to establish a new firm that will offer its staff more opportunity for outside commercial activities.

Clayton Utz, like other national law firms, in most cases does not allow its staff to accept public company board positions or pursue commercial ventures.

Mr McKenzie said he still wanted to practice law but also had other interests.

“I wanted a bit more flexibility to do those other things,” he said.

His commercial activities include a “reasonably substantial” property development in joint venture with a listed Perth company.

Mr McKenzie has also accepted a board position with Mundo Minerals, an emerging gold producer that is planning a stock market float (see article below).

“People who want to go into company director positions are not able to do that in a national structure,” he said.

Mr McKenzie said that after being an insolvency specialist for many years, the new firm would allow him to operate in other corporate and commercial practice areas.

Other moves among Perth law firm partners include Jackson McDonald recruiting industrial relations and employment lawyer Stephen Kemp, who had run his own practice since 1999.

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