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BHP Billiton swaps Ashurst for Herbert Smith Freehills with new legal chief

BHP Billiton senior executive David Williamson is set to rejoin Ashurst in Australia, where he was a lawyer at legacy firm Blake Dawson for 28 years. It is understood that he will return in June as a partner after spending three years at the mining giant.

Williamson joined the company as head of group legal in 2010 and for almost the last two years also served as chief compliance officer.

Ashurst Australia chairwoman Mary Padbury said: ‘We are delighted that someone of David’s calibre and experience in the Australian legal profession is re-joining the firm. David’s role has placed him in a unique position to understand the impact of the globalisation of legal services and best practice among top-tier firms seeking to address the needs of multinational clients.’

Williamson’s replacement at BHP is Geoff Healy, a litigation partner at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), who was the firm’s client relationship partner for BHP and had previously advised the company’s board on corporate governance and disputes.

Joint CEO of HSF, Gavin Bell, said: ‘Geoff is the second Herbert Smith Freehills alumni to hold the top legal counsel role at BHP, the first being Mike Ferraro who is now joint global head of the firm’s corporate practice group.’

The moves follow a significant management shake up at BHP Billiton, instigated by new chief executive Andrew Mackenzie.