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‘We’ve done our homework’: Pinsents finally secures Australia launch for renewed infra push

It has been a long time in the offing but Pinsent Masons today (6 March) announced the launch of an infrastructure sector-focused practice in Melbourne and Sydney.

The Australian operation will be headed by David Rennick, who joined Pinsents in March 2014 and before that was chief executive of Australian law firm Maddocks. Two partners of Maddocks – Greg Campbell and Simela Karasavidis – will also join Rennick as founding partners in the new practice when it launches later this year.

They will be joined by Michael Battye, a former Pinsents lawyer currently in private practice in Adelaide, and Adam Perl, who joins from an in-house legal position at Australian infrastructure company Leighton. Andrew Denton, a construction disputes partner at Pinsents in London, will relocate also from the firm’s headquarters.

The five-partner Australian practice will initially focus on the top-20 UK firm’s existing international client base in the area of infrastructure and projects – particularly those in Asia Pacific currently served by the firm’s offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai.

Pinsents senior partner Richard Foley (pictured) said: ‘Our vision is to be an international leader in the sectors in which the firm operates. Infrastructure is one of those sectors and this development is an important step towards that objective. We have done our homework and taken the time to recruit a top quality team. We are confident that, through a keen focus on the infrastructure sector initially we will have a compelling proposition.’

Rennick, who conducted the review of the Australian market for Pinsents, said: ‘It is clear that there is significant opportunity and appetite for the firm here. The firm’s 30-year heritage in Asia is a particular distinguishing factor, as is the depth of its specialism in particular sectors. We have an opportunity to bring a new kind of law firm to the Australian market.’

The investment in the 1,500-lawyer firm’s infra and projects group underlines its increasingly heavy focus on the sector, a focus further reinforced by its 2012 takeover of Scots leader McGrigors.

While some have argued that the firm has drifted too far from its full-service roots, its management has maintained that a tightly defined industry model has given its practice more coherence and ability to compete for premium work. If nothing else, the Australia launch shows the firm is willing to play out its strategy.

Australia’s legal market has seen a well-publicised invasion by foreign law firms since the 2009 entry of Norton Rose with a tie-up with Deacons, with Ashurst and Herbert Smith going on to secure high-stakes mergers. As recently as last month, international private client firm Withers announced a move into Australia through a strategic alliance with two domestic firms. However, many have questioned whether the heavily-lawyered jurisdiction is genuinely core to international advisers, particularly since the turning of the commodity cycle hit the Australian economy.

For more on Pinsent Masons’ strategic challenges, see More outward-facing but does new leadership have a message for Pinsents?