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HSF reaches settlement with eight White & Case-bound partners over exit terms

A court battle between Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and eight of the firm’s former partners who quit to join White & Case has ended, with HSF reaching a settlement with the departing group.

According to orders made in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the claimants, a group of 167 current HSF partners represented by Michael Pryse, came to agreement with the defendants, a group of eight former HSF partners including key project finance partner Brendan Quinn.

Under the terms of the settlement, the White & Case-bound partners will be restricted by a set of injunctions that were imposed at a previous hearing, including a condition that prohibits them from soliciting their former client bases. In addition, the group will be unable to join White & Case officially as partners until after 1 September 2017, but will still be able to practise in a general capacity. The injunctions had originally been interlocutory, but will now be made permanent until the end of 1 September 2017.

Aside from Quinn, the other defendants were Andrew Clark, Joanne Draper, Jared Muller, Tim Power, Joel Rennie, Alan Rosengarten and Josh Sgro.

A HSF spokesperson said: ‘We are pleased to announce we have reached a settlement in our proceedings. Under the settlement the current interlocutory injunctions will be made final. We are happy to bring this matter to a conclusion.’

A White & Case spokesperson added: ‘We are pleased that the parties have reached a settlement and that the matter has been resolved. All involved have agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. The current interlocutory injunctions have been made final by the court and will continue to 2 September 2017. We are extremely pleased that the eight lawyers were able to join the Firm as of 2 March 2017 and are making a significant contribution to the Firm and its clients. We are happy to bring this matter to conclusion.’

Earlier this year, court documents revealed that the decision to classify White & Case as a ‘specified competitor’ was taken by the HSF Australia board on 31 August 2016, one day before the eight partners resigned en masse, within half an hour of each other.

White & Case’s move last year to hire the project finance team from HSF was considered one of the largest legal moves ever in the Asian market.